Open Salaries at Populate

As you know, we’re in the business of people. Helping companies manage and plan their people growth by providing an easy to use platform for People Ops, Finance & Managers to use together is our jam. Ultimately we’re all about making People Data more accessible and actionable for our users.

A common practice for software companies is dogfooding. If you didn’t click on that link, this means a company actively uses the same product that is sold to their customers.

At Populate we do exactly this and we do it with our own employee data. What makes this interesting is that this data in Populate includes personal information like date of birth and compensation. Populate also tracks every change made to a job or employee so that too would be completely open to our employees.

Early on we needed to make a decision, restrict access to those who need it, or give everyone access. We (as founders) were comfortable being open, but how would the rest of the team feel?

There are a few companies that have open salaries, Buffer is one of these except not only are their salaries shared internally they also make them completely open to the public.

There were so many things we had to factor in here. We knew that by doing this early we’d be forcing ourselves to be very disciplined about how we approach pay (which in a startup is pretty rare) and we knew that we’d need to have very clear formulas for different levels of different role types. We wanted everyone on the team to know that our pay is fair and thoughtful and that there’s room for them to grow. 
We also believed that paying market rates would be essential (also very rare in a startup). We wanted to make sure our people felt valued and supported financially. Our early employees were already taking a big risk to join us so we didn’t want to make that risk any greater by making them worse off financially.

Another thing that open salaries would highlight in our organization is our Founder salaries (or lack of :D) which I feel could have both positive and negative impacts on the team. On one hand they could appreciate that the transparency goes all the way up but on the other hand would it make them worry? Or would they find it motivating? With all that in mind we knew we had to tread carefully.

We talked with each employee individually about having open salaries, outlining what it would mean long term and making sure they were completely comfortable with it. Interestingly we got an instant yes from everyone. No hesitation at all.

Will this always be the case though? We’re not sure and we’re prepared for that. The good thing is that if we need to we can now change the permission levels in Populate so we can still have access to everything, minus salary information (unless you’re someones manager). This will just need to be something we’re constantly addressing with the existing team and new starts.

I think overall it’s a really interesting opportunity for us, the jury is out about whether we can scale it but at least we’ve made a start and we’re trying it out.

Are your salaries open? Would you like them to be? We would love to start a conversation on this so comment below!