4 common mistakes startups make when setting pay for hybrid workers

Leaders and senior management everywhere are grappling with how (or not) to bring employees back to the office. It’s a high-stakes decision: Fifty-eight percent of workers said they will look for new jobs if they can’t work remotely, according to a FlexJobs survey.

An often overlooked and/or cobbled-together piece of this puzzle is compensation. And inside the transition to hybrid work, compensation planning encapsulates a cacophony of nuances for founders, people leaders and compensation experts.

Here are just a few new questions this group needs to answer:

  • Do we adjust salaries for people who have moved to different regions?
  • Do we alter pay for employees performing the same role, with the same title, when one is remote and the other is in-office?
  • How can we educate geographies that aren’t as familiar with the value of equity as is, say, Silicon Valley?

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, the answers to these questions are different for us all. Google employees who work from home may experience a pay cut. Adobe workers can self-select what days they work remotely, up to 50% of the time, with no salary impact. Meanwhile, LinkedIn just loosened its policy, allowing employees to work from home permanently.

The first step in developing a compensation plan — regardless of your company’s stance on distributed work — is determining how your team’s pay compares with the market.

Regardless of your startup’s stance on the topic, having a consistent compensation philosophy that you apply to your evolving workplace has a unicorn-sized influence on important growth metrics: attracting and keeping top talent, as well as creating a culture of trust and performance.

As the CEO of a compensation intelligence company, I see four common mistakes that startups commit when compensation planning that hinder successful remote or hybrid workforces. Here are the ways to sidestep them.

1. Using subpar data for competitive analysis

The first step in developing a compensation plan — regardless of your company’s stance on distributed work — is determining how your team’s pay compares with the market. To understand market rates, you need one thing: data.

If you’re moving from a strictly office-based environment to a hybrid model, 2019 data won’t work. While it’s tempting to search for free data online or use survey data that your company has purchased in the past, both approaches have risks. Traditional compensation survey information is stale, limited and often not verified. And spreadsheets are hyperprone to error and security risks because they involve manual, and often super laborious, work.

In a world that’s still reacting to a pandemic, only fresh, real-time, accurate benchmarks and pay ranges are sufficient. Both must reflect aggregated information about what others in your segment are paying employees — by experience level, role, department, geography, industry and company size.

For example, technology startups need different data sources than global financial services organizations. Both need information geared toward companies of a similar size and stage. Software engineer salaries need to reflect those of similar roles, with nuances for those that specialize in machine learning, data science, etc.

You’d be shocked how often self-reported data on free websites is inaccurate and unverified. As you seek a credible intelligence source for your compensation data, a data source must: