This post is part of an interview series on headcount planning and compensation strategies used by thriving companies during economic downturns.
The following is from an interview with Krystal Shields, Global Sr. Director of People Operations and Talent Management at Harness. Krystal began her career in finance and administration, serving as the Director of Finance at Common Sense Media, and later Credit.com. She eventually transitioned to the HR space as Head of People Operations at LendUp. Krystal went on to work similar roles at Mesosphere and StartupExeperts before joining Harness.
Are you paying attention to developing pay legislation?
Pay ranges (now required by pay legislation in many states and cities) are key to avoid pay disparity because compensation is not always perfect. You want to make sure that people doing the same type of work are being compensated fairly amongst their peers. That doesn't mean everyone gets paid the same. There will be differences, but someone shouldn't be paid 30% less than their peers, unless there’s valid justification for that.
For instance, we're a global company, distributed across the United States. There are always slight differences across geographies and pay legislation, but we still pay based on the market and our company’s compensation philosophy. Pay ranges allow us to keep everybody in the same space paid fairly, in compliance with pay legislation.
“You want to make sure that people doing the same type of work are being compensated fairly amongst their peers.”
How do you approach pay equity?
When I started at Harness three years ago, we had no pay ranges and no real compensation process, so I put that into place. Since then, we’ve also established our first major total rewards team. This enables us to do more holistic, consistent and ongoing checks for pay equity.
The other important piece to achieving pay equity is leadership: If your leadership doesn't care about diversity, equity, and inclusion nor pay equity, it doesn't matter what you do. They have to put the action behind the words. Our department heads have been great about bringing in female leaders and making diversity a priority for their own organizations — acting on pay equity.
Our recruiting team also aims to recruit diverse talent, but those goals differ around the globe because diversity means something different in different countries. DEI has always been a top priority for us, not only when it comes to bringing in diverse talent and paying people equitably, but ensuring that everyone in the company feels like they can belong.
“The other important piece to achieving pay equity is leadership: If your leadership doesn't care about diversity, equity, and inclusion, it doesn't matter what you do. They have to put the action behind the words.”
How are you increasing retention among your team right now?
We’ve started doing stay interviews with our team in India, and I’m looking to expand that to other teams. We also run an annual engagement survey and have targeted action items from that. Culture Amp helps us see how our employees are engaging with the Harness community, and whether they understand the impact of their work. We then break down the results by department and location to take targeted action toward improving employee experience and engagement.
I also brought on a learning and development director earlier this year. Building out the learning and development programs for the company is key to retention.
“Building out the learning and development programs for the company is going to be key to retention. ”
If you had a magic wand, what would compensation look like?
In my ideal world, compensation would be a transparent process where people feel like they're taken care of. People feel fear and anxiety when they think they are not paid fairly, and rightly so! I never want people to have to worry about whether or not we're paying them fairly.
How can other People leaders create that fairness and openness?
It’s important to have structure for your compensation practices. We go through our career pathing and leveling exercises to establish the competencies expected for each role. Managers should be able to drive confident, performance-based compensation conversations with their teams.
Transparency doesn't look the same everywhere in the world. Managing transparency across a global workforce is particularly interesting for us because there are some countries and cultures where it isn’t very acceptable to talk about pay. On the other hand, some cultures are very open and everyone talks about their compensation. You have to balance those cultural differences if you’re going global.
In general, if people feel like their performance is being measured fairly and there's opportunity for learning, development, and promotion, then they're going to be happy.
“We go through our career pathing and leveling exercises to establish the competencies expected for each role. Managers should be able to drive confident, performance-based compensation conversations with their teams.”
How has headcount planning been affected, if at all?
There's a lot of fear in the market right now around layoffs or rescinding offers, and that's not the approach we want to take. Instead, we're taking a more measured approach. We’re focusing on R&D so we’re continuing to hire engineers, but we ask ourselves: Do we really need 20 engineers? Could the job be done with 10? Similar to our spending approach, our hiring strategy is more of a delay in headcount versus a hiring freeze or rescinding offers.
Where do you acquire data and analysis to support headcount and compensation planning? (Note: Harness is not an OpenComp customer at the time of this interview.)
We’ve historically used compensation surveys, but our total rewards team is looking into some other options. Another key source of data is our recruiters. They're talking to candidates about their expectations and do an amazing job of keeping track of that self-reported data. If someone is making X number of dollars in Y role at Z company, they keep track of that in real time. That intel is particularly helpful because we often recruit from specific companies in our industry.
“Another key source of data is our recruiters. They're talking to candidates about their expectations and do an amazing job of keeping track of that self-reported data.”
What is Harness currently doing to optimize margins?
The main tactic is delaying spend. If something is not immediately critical, we push it out to a future date. When we have contract renewals, we negotiate a lower price. We also cut back on expenses like travel, negotiate lower prices during contract renewals, and at the same time, continue to invest in programs and benefits that are important to employees.
What strategies are you implementing to extend revenue?
We're a B2B business that creates software to make the software development process more efficient and cost effective. We walk the walk by continuously assessing our offerings and expanding our product suite to ensure value for our customers. That enables us to continue to build on our revenue stream.
“We walk the walk by continuously assessing our offerings and expanding our product suite to ensure value for our customers. That enables us to continue to build on our revenue stream.”