Monday, July 23, 2012

Compensating Wages versus Recognition and Appreciation

Preview Questions
What motivates controllers? How can wage inequalities be addressed? Why do we need to be informed about the psychoeconomic perspectives of Atc?

Oh how I have missed you all, dear readers! I am helping with an econometric analysis in Turkish national labor economics but you have been in my thoughts all the time. To help us get back on track, let us start by this simple question: Which one of the following emoticons describes your state of being or your general mood at work? Which one describes the atmosphere in the TWR, or the ACC, or the simulator or even the classroom? The first choice of emoticon is an indication of your well-being. Is it the same as the second choice of emoticon? What is one thing that will really increase your motivation to do Atc and will have you looking forward to going to work this evening, or tonight or even tomorrow? 

Which one describes your well-being and which one describes the work atmosphere?

Recalling the findings of a recent study on job satisfaction for Atcos, equitable wages are the most important motivators according to a scale constructed via a simple scoring method.

The issue of inequality of wages in Atc units has been discussed in the former blog post. Recall that wage inequalities act more as deterrents to well-being for middle to senior controllers while acting as disincentives for future lifetime expectations of junior controllers. Managers of Atc units should not take the remonstrances of senior atcos lightly. Wage inequalities produce disgruntled, senior atcos who exert the most influence on a disengaging work atmosphere. Whether we are aware or unaware,  our well-being at the work-place is inevitably affected by the work atmosphere like the heavy notes of  classic perfume that interact with our body odour to produce a unique scent. 

The collective well-being of our work colleagues exerts pressure on the work atmosphere and in turn automatically affects our  individual well-being  like the effect of classic perfume   
How then can this persistent problem of wage inequality be dealt with? Talk with the senior Atcos - first. They will most likely ask for their salaries to be reviewed. We can even rephrase the question in another manner: How many Atc units are willing to pay their senior atcos a salary that is equitable to their valuable years of experience acquired through dedicated service? If you are a manager reading this, you may throw your hands in the air or on your hips in protest. But take a look again at the question. The keyword there is equitable.  If the wage differentials show that for senior atcos, salaries increased only by a minimal percentage over the past 10 years, then their remuneration is very far from equitable. If you have any doubts, construct a graph of wages over time and observe the marginal trends. Economists love the term "marginal" which simply refer to the changes between the quantities of a commodity or good; in this case - wages; over time. 
Did you notice another term - wage differentials? Let us add another word to that term: compensating. We can rephrase the question in bold in this way: What are the compensating wage differentials for the senior Atcos in your Atc unit? 

Managers should not misperceive the worth of senior Atcos, they have decades of valuable experience that justify equitable compensation; they can also exert the most influence on the type of work atmosphere
Do you think that it is reasonable to use the word compensating? Do not forget the uniqueness of this 24-hour service of Atc;  the continuous specialization and refreshing of cognitive skills. Controllers do not go to work to sleep contrary to media propaganda. They take Atc very seriously, imbibing copious amounts of coffee if they have to and finding innovative ways to deal with fatigue (which is another story). Atcos are justified in receiving due compensation or equitable remuneration for the execution of Air traffic control. 

 However, Atcos recognise the role and even the limits of monetary rewards in the spectrum of well-being.  They therefore have other suggestions for compensation. Remember Easterlin's paradox from a previous post; that as GDP increases, happiness of a nation does not increase even diminishing in some odd cases. From the preliminary study of Atcos and well-being, recognition and appreciation are also important motivators according to a reconstruction of the same job satisfaction scale using applied Bayesian principles. 
Consider the implication in this way, no matter how much a controller is compensated in terms of a salary, if the conditions at work are detractors to well-being, the atco will not be happy, will not be engaged and will not produce. Yes, atcos can produce. They will increase their production iff - and that is a valid word in microeconomics and risk theory; they will increase their production iff the work atmosphere is engaging according to Kahn's Engagement Model of work (1990)*. 

Can Atcos produce?

What are some detractors or evidences that well-being at the Atc unit is not in the green zone? What makes an engaging work atmosphere? How can Atcos produce when their job is service-oriented? This  I will answer in the next post.

Evidence of globalization - departure cue at  a  popular Indian airport
There are several psychoeconomic issues that interact and impact upon Atc that we are simply unaware or ignorant of. Unfortunately, there are very few economic psychologists and fewer of these exist in Atc without the baptism of going  through the system to fully appreciate the idiosyncrasies of this unique profession. Let us keep in mind that the objective is to improve the well-being of the atco to keep pace with the unprecedented changes and challenges brought about by globalization. 
Further evidence of globalization - newly built airport, China; 11 more under construction  since 2011

* -  Kahn, William A. (1990). Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work; Academy of Management Journal; Vol. 33 (4), 692-724 Reddit Digg Share on Tumblr Delicious StumbleUpon Follow Me on Pinterest Print Friendly and PDF

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