I love determining the source of technical problems and administering solutions, and my ability to do it in computing was fostered by my experience as an automotive technician. I was introduced to the concepts of flat rate and clock time during automotive shop in high school. People who earn a wage are very accustomed to the concept of clock time. They earn money on the number of hours that they work. Salaried workers work under a flat rate. They earn a predetermined amount of money over a specified time period, which is usually a year. The manner that a technical person is compensated, flat rate, clock time, or a mixture of both, affects efficiency, and this relationship is worthwhile to explore.
Some automotive technicians opt to be paid an hourly flat rate. Chilton’s service manuals are a common reference for determining how much time a task requires. If a technician is paid $20 per hour and a complete brake job is specified to require one hour, for example, the technician will be paid $20 to complete the task. The technician will be paid only $20 even if he can complete the job in thirty minutes or in six hours. If the technician is highly proficient and a steady stream of customers is supplied, the technician may be able to complete three brake jobs in an hour. This would allow this technician to earn $60 per hour. If this technician was able to perform consistently, the technician will earn the hourly flat rate of $20 per hour for 120 hours in a 40 hour work week. This technician would be earning three times more money than a colleague who is paid on clock time and is earning $20 per hour.
In the event that business is slow, people who work at a flat rate receive some pay that may be less than a worker on clock time, but the amount they receive is usually enough to keep these workers from looking for another employer that can supply them with more work. Retaining a proficient worker with a good average job completion time is generally a good business practice.
In order for the flat rate to be beneficial for both the company and the technician, the technician must possess skills that are above average and the company must be capable of providing a satisfactory supply of work. The worker will be able to produce results faster, which allows the worker to earn more income and generates more revenue for the company. The model seems more effective with smaller task units, since bigger task units tend to overrun their respective estimated completion times. It should be easy to see that a worker will consider abandoning a bigger task when it becomes obvious that the overall compensation is not worth the additional time and effort that is required to complete the task. This results in incomplete or untimely work, unhappy customers, an unhappy company, and a less than happy worker.
The lack of a standard reference for the amount of time a computing task requires is a significant problem in implementing a flat rate compensation arrangement. Technicians are perhaps the most accurate people in measurement, including estimates in the amount of time a task takes. Professional technicians understand that their reputation is always at stake when they express their technical opinions. This includes opinions on subjects such as feasibility, utility, and costs. Buyers should beware. There are also technically inclined laypersons, who perform computing tasks as a side job and are not interested in forming long-term commitments. So-called “technicians” who are looking for a simple “hit-n-run” are the people to avoid.
Making adjustments to the flat rate or estimated completion times to more closely match a proficient technician is a common pitfall among businesses, which can only see short-term cost reduction. This approach encourages the technician to place less priority on these companies’ tasks and seek other companies that are willing to pay a better flat rate or recognize an estimated completion time that is closer to the average. Businesses that focus on the short-term expore themselves to the risk of having their tasks’ completion times extended, losing their proficient technicians, and exposing themselves to technicians that are more expensive or less adept.
Paying technicians on a flat rate with a minimum fee as a retainer is an option to getting more small to medium technical tasks done quickly and efficiently. If a company receives benefit that is greater or equal to the costs incurred, and the technicians are content, then there should not be any reason that this arrangement needs change. Technicians that inflate short-term costs by adjusting time estimates or their flat rate will encourage companies to search for alternatives. Businesses that deflate or underestimate costs by adjusting time estimates or the flat rate encourage technicians to consider servicing other businesses, which are quite possibly competitors. In the long-run, the interests of the technicians and the businesses that they serve will drive their service terms to equilibrium.