This post is part of an interview series featuring operators’ top tactics for thriving during economic shifts.
Today’s interview features Erin Hannaford, the Growth Marketing Director at OpenComp. Erin started her career as a marketing analyst, before moving on to senior marketing leadership roles at companies such as Silverpop, Ariba, and SAP. Erin was the VP of Marketing at ClickDimensions before joining OpenComp.
You can hear the full discussion on our webinar, “Front-line Tips to Conserve Cash and Speed Revenue."
The following has been lightly edited.
How do you steer teams through times of economic uncertainty?
Having been through economic downturns as an employee and as a manager has shaped my perspective on it. My #1 takeaway: transparency is the most important thing. (This applies to pay transparency, but includes many other factors.) It’s critical for executives to be out in front of the messaging because people will form their own perceptions when left without information.
Transparency builds trust and a sense of team culture, and it’s important to be able to work well together, especially in a growth environment. I believe in having open conversations with team members to understand what they’re feeling – positive or negative, where they see themselves going, and what their growth path looks like. Again, this concept applies to pay transparency but is broader than just pay transparency.
“It’s critical for executives to be out in front of the messaging because people will form their own perceptions when left without information.”
How have you been thinking about employee retention and compensation recently?
One of the secrets to retention actually happens much earlier in the relationship – from the first conversation, to be exact. We share our compensation philosophy during the initial interaction with a potential employee. We share what we pay and the rationale behind it so there are no surprises. Then, when we get to the point of making an offer, they know the full range of the role and where there’s potential for growth within the role.
A year ago, I thought about how to keep my top talent. I was worried about having to replace them in a super competitive job market. If I lose any of my top talent today, I also need to consider that I might also lose the budget for that headcount.
We operationalize this regularly through casual weekly check-ins with direct line managers, in addition to more structured quarterly and bi-annually reviews. Our executive team also makes themselves incredibly available and wants to be connected with the team.
Our team members know they’re always being paid fairly, which is a major motivator to stay.
“We share our compensation philosophy during the initial interaction with a potential employee. We share what we pay and the rationale behind it so there are no surprises. Then, when we get to the point of making an offer, they know the full pay range of the role and where there’s potential for growth within the role. ”
How do pay ranges fit into those early conversations?
When I start the initial conversation with any candidate, I always share the number that is directly in line with our compensation plan: we pay at the midpoint of our pay range.
I don’t share the full pay range until I'm confident this is the candidate I want to move forward with. At that point, I'm sharing a range mostly to demonstrate growth potential. It's human nature to hear a low number and a high number, and want (if not expect) to receive the high number. I’ve found that starting with a specific number, rather than a pay range, has been more successful. I care a lot about pay ranges because of their connection to pay transparency, however.
What does headcount planning look like for you right now?
Our overall headcount plan hasn't changed much. We’ve been prudent about making a case for the hires we ask for, showing how they will contribute to our overall growth plan.
It’s also important to have a current plan that prepares you for best and worst case scenarios. Your plan needs to address how each scenario impacts hiring and spending. We've stuck pretty close to our plan.
What KPIs are top of mind for OpenComp’s leadership team right now?
We’re making a shift as a growth company. Early on we were focused on building our user base versus hitting a dollar value as a bottom line.
We’ve shifted toward revenue generation. We make decisions about what spend is and isn’t working from an ROI standpoint. OpenComp has been a data-driven company from the start, and that has only intensified as the economy has shifted. We look at metrics, assess change over time, and tie those results back to strategy. The metrics that matter most in a growth company are oftentimes changing, so the more we keep an eye on, the better.
What is the most critical change you’re going to implement in the next three to six months?
We’re going to implement more comprehensive reporting that shows where our spend is working and where it isn't. This deeper dive into the data will enable us to make better decisions about spend and productivity, and enable us to successfully forecast for 2023.
If you had a magic wand, what would compensation look like?
I’d like to see smarter, more equitable compensation practices in general. A number of states have begun enforcing pay legislation around it, but I want to see companies move toward compensation best practices on their own, without being forced to. Businesses will see the benefits of pay transparency. They just have to commit.
“A number of states have begun enforcing pay legislation around it, but I want to see companies move toward compensation best practices on their own, without being forced to.”