The Alberta government plans on increasing the minimum wage to $15 from $10.20 by 2018.  This has created a significant debate on what the minimum wage should be.  Paying employees minimum wage is different than paying employees a living wage.  Minimum wage is a government mandated hourly wage across an entire province, regardless of amount of hours worked and does not take into account perks from the employer.  A living wage is calculated on a community basis with actual costs for basic needs, and based on a 40 hour week.  The employer has a moral and social responsibility to provide an adequate living wage.  To learn more about the difference between a living wage and minimum wage please read the chart to the left from CAPRA (Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance).  The living wage for a family of four in Edmonton, AB is $17.36 according to the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

Are you paying your employees a living wage?  Through paying your employees a living wage you will see positive outcomes for your business.  As an employer you will benefit from less employee turnover, productivity will increase and the quality of your customer service will improve.

Costco learnt that it can compete while still paying their employees a living wage.  The company actually became more profitable because they paid their employees more. They looked at their employees as revenue generators instead of costs.  Costco implemented a number of strategies (efficiency within the checkout process and cross training employees) and at the core had a mentality of asking what is good for employees.  The employee turnover at Costco decreased and is now less than 6%, which is very low for the retail industry.

Employees are more productive if they are paid a living wage.  Through a study of American high wage companies, it was found that increased productivity can offset more than half of the cost of a higher wage.  When the San Francisco Airport paid their workers a living wage, reported improvements in work performance increased by 35%.  When your employee base is not worried about basic needs they are able to then focus on their work and become more productive.

Improving the quality of customer service from your employees is another benefit of providing living wages.  At the San Francisco Airport, it was also reported that customer services had improved by 45%.  Employers with the mindset that employees are an asset to be maximized will see sales increase due to better customer service.  Paying a living wage motivates your employees to learn about your industry, products and services which makes them a more knowledgeable customer service representative.

A living wage is a long term strategy that will benefit your business.  Employees become assets and not a cost.  Through the benefits of lower employee turnover, increased productivity and improved customer service it makes good business sense to pay employees a living wage.

Human Edge Global is a quality-first, relationship centered retained search firm with locations across Canada.  We help clients recruit the very best candidates for their executive, professional and technical teams.  To find out more about how we can help you compete for and attract the best talent in your industry, please visit us at