John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” And before the pandemic, workers often felt too busy actually to live. But since March of 2020, there has been a seismic shift in many people’s thinking about how they approach working and living, and many no longer want to be too busy to have a life.
While there are many ways employers can try to attract the best workers, in this article I’m going to focus on our decision to be location-agnostic both in our hiring and our salary offerings. The reason is simple: Though one piece of a larger compensation package, salary is definitely the most visible. For decades, companies have used narrow and outdated compensation models, often basing employee compensation on their geographic location. Employees living near tech hubs like San Francisco and New York commanded higher salaries while those in areas between the coasts, like Omaha, Birmingham, or Pittsburgh, were paid less, often for the same job.
But why? Well, the answer is that it saves companies money because it is based on cost-of-living indicators. While this model makes sense in theory, it also comes with cultural complications like “perceived quality of talent” in different geographies. But is that geographic disparity a good enough reason anymore when today’s employees demand equitable and transparent salary scales as well as the desire to freely move around?
Hire for the Role, Pay for the Role. Period.
At my company, we believe that no matter where workers live in the United States, the salary for similar roles should be consistent. As a remote-first company, we had to change outdated compensation models. And so, we recently announced a U.S.-wide salary band so no matter where talent lives, the compensation is based on the role, not the location. And while we have undergone the same initiative in our European entities as well, we are quickly moving toward what we call a “One Europe Pay Band.” We recognize that talent is now moving to the countryside in places like Spain and Italy while demanding a U.K.-based salary — and they’re getting it. Soon, all of our talent in Europe will have compensation in line with U.K. benchmarks regardless of their physical location.
By making a country-wide pay scale, we have increased our talent pool. That larger talent pool means we can also look at diversity in a whole new light. We can hire the best talent globally because we have a competitive pay scale no matter where they live, giving us a diverse, well-rounded team. Also, it’s better for our new hires. An expanded vision of diversity means we can hire candidates who don’t come from only the top schools. Candidates who weren’t able to take unpaid internships because they were lucky to have wealthy parents have a shot, and won’t under-earn relative to their more privileged peers.
Our Employees Are Happy, So We’re Happy
When we show our talent that we value them for their contribution to the company, regardless of where they live, that pays us dividends in the form of the most productive and happy versions of themselves. Our talent shows up to work with a renewed sense of mission and they are more engaged. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen increased levels of retention compared to the rest of the industry and we have exceeded our revenue goals.
How did we come to this decision? Simple: We asked our employees. This is a bit of what we heard.
Today’s employees want flexibility and options. Work is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor anymore. Different workers have different needs regarding where and when they can do their best work. So we made offering workplace flexibility — in the form of being a remote-first company — for our employees a top priority. We also understand that not everyone wants a fully remote work experience, however, so we have also provided global access to coworking spaces for all employees so they can work from any location of their choosing.
They want the freedom to be their authentic selves. By going fully remote and thus expanding our talent pool, we have access to more diverse candidates who can focus on performance and output by creating the lifestyle and structure that works for them. Studies have shown that when employees can be authentic and don’t have to “perform” for their colleagues, they are happier and more productive. By simply not doing the emotional work of “fitting in” at a workplace that maybe doesn’t value diversity as much, employees’ energy can be freed up to allow them to feel engaged with their work and colleagues. Those from historically marginalized groups can feel that they’re rated on their work rather than how well they “pass” at work. This inspires not only loyalty but also creativity and peak performance.
They want to work and want employers to enable that. That means removing barriers to allowing people to perform their best in their own inimitable way. By removing a geographic bias in our pay and hiring, we can recruit talent that might otherwise have been shut out by child or elder care demands or other inevitable bumps in the road called “life.” This allows us to increase our recruitment of women and minorities, which the tech industry still struggles with. Indeed, in our most recent DEI survey, women, caregivers, and those employees identifying as Black scored highest in terms of engagement.
A competitive paycheck is no longer enough. The old ways no longer work. Our fantastic network of employees isn’t a resource to be managed; they’re people who have hopes, dreams, and desires that we’re foolish to disregard. It’s important to note, too, that these policies also help the company reach its business goals by helping our employees be successful in all areas of life.
COVID has changed everything, including the relationship between workers and companies. “Adapt or die” is truer than ever. If you’re too busy to notice, your employees will make plans of their own for their own lives — which might include jumping to companies that show they value their needs.