Sometimes you have to pay to keep your “players”

shirley franklin

HR Roundtable panel member Michael Haberman had this to say about the City of Atlanta’s controversial move to give some employees hefty raises, while laying off others over the past year:

It has been no secret that the City of Atlanta is in a monetary crisis. Budgets have been slashed, fire stations closed, positions eliminated and lay-off notices given. Yet the city still gave some employees raises this past year. This caused a major brouhaha, with some members of the City Council asking the question “How can you give raises while you are in a budget crunch?”

Well the answer to that question is that it is necessary to give some employees increases during just that type of downturn. There are some employees who are critical to the city, or any organization, for being able to continue to function during the hard times. These are your “players”, the critical employees who provide the glue to the organization and the leadership needed to navigate these hard times. These are the talented people in the organization who might be wooed away by better offers of more money and better positions. These talented people are critical to the continued performance of the organization and you want to try to keep them. So you give them raises and you hope that the amount you give them will keep them from taking another offer and stripping your organization of badly needed talent.

The example provided by the actions of the City of Atlanta is a good lesson for all organizations. In tough times make sure you hold on to your talent, your “players”, to avoid making the tough times even tougher.

Do you think the City of Atlanta did the right thing by giving some city employees a hefty raise while laying off others? Does public perception of this move outweigh any positive outcomes the business move could make?

Photo credit: JOHN SPINK /

One comment Add your comment

Angela J

March 13th, 2009
10:30 am

I’m sorry, but I think this praise of the City of Atlanta is ridiculous. Some of those critical employees with that critical talent are the Police Officers of the City but not once have they been given their fair share of raises. One of the obvious ways for the city to save money is to give officers raises so they don’t leave. Instead, these officers aren’t given raises for nearly 6 years, they’ve just been furloughed so their pay has been CUT, which has caused many of them to leave the department for better opportunities in the surrounding areas. Wouldn’t it make much more sense to keep these officers happy rather than spending even more money on recruiting new officers who will then have to be trained for years to meet the level of the officers they’re replacing? As HR professionals we all know, and continuously preach, that its much cheaper to keep your current employees happy than to have to find and mold new ones!