This post is part of an interview series covering pay transparency and headcount planning during economic downturns.
Today’s blog features an interview with Eric Holmen, CEO at Splash, an event marketing platform that helps companies market, manage, and measure their live, virtual, and hybrid event programs. Eric has been involved in digital marketing since the field’s inception, transitioning Sears’ marketing online as the internet became popular. Since then, Eric has held many executive marketing roles at companies such as SmartReply, Silverpop, and Airship. Eric continues to utilize his expertise in digital marketing, marketing technology, and SaaS as CEO of Splash.
What about this market turn is most concerning to you and why?
To quote former president FDR, the only thing to fear is fear itself. We’re in this moment in the economy where the worst part is uncertainty. That lack of certainty is causing people to make poor decisions. It's smart to prepare for uncertainty, but also to study what's actually going on and what the realistic impact is to your business.
“It's smart to prepare for uncertainty, but also to study what's actually going on and what the realistic impact is to your business.”
What is the consequence of over cutting headcount?
One is company culture. There's survivor's guilt for those who weren't laid off, and that weighs on the culture. Also, the workload: one of the big mistakes companies make when they do layoffs is say they will reduce some projects or initiatives, but in practical terms they often don’t, or they don't reduce them enough relative to the reduction in headcount. And of course - recruiting teams are often the first to be cut which then makes it difficult to recruit when hiring is needed. This leads to the loss of institutional and cultural knowledge about what makes the ideal employee.
“One of the big mistakes companies make when they do layoffs is say they will reduce some projects or initiatives, but in practical terms they often don’t.”
What are some tactics that you’re using to reduce spending?
One is just reducing our hiring plan. The second is being very rigorous about backfills. When people exit the business, do we automatically backfill that role or do we want to fill a different role in the company that might be more productive toward our goals?
How are you currently working with your HR team to ensure headcount and compensation planning matches your needs from a leadership standpoint?
We have that conversation on a regular basis. We decided to be a fully, permanently remote company during the pandemic and opted to pay salaries at the New York wage, where most of our employees were located. For every position we hire, we consider what the equity balance looks like for New York employees and make sure that remains aligned. We made some corrections due to the craziness of the market last year, in addition to adjustments for all employees in response to the great resignation. We’ll continue to look at the market to ensure we’re matching compensation for all of the roles in the business.
In terms of retention, do you feel like you were able to keep more employees around during that time?
I think so. We were able to slow down the attrition that we were experiencing, some of which was based on macro trends in the market. The big win was to really focus hard on the values of the company, especially pay transparency and culture. I have to give my HR leader, Liz Hall, a ton of credit. She and a couple of folks on her team led this process of building out a culture book that goes through some of the rhythms and norms of our business. It covers each of our key values, what they mean, and examples of how they’re used. Often one of the top reasons employees say they chose Splash is our focus on values and our genuine involvement with those values.
How are you approaching pay transparency and new pay legislation?
Since Splash embraced a remote-first work environment at the beginning of COVID, we made the decision to pay all US-based employees New York salaries regardless of their location. We use compensation data to ensure we offer our employees fair and equitable salaries and are excited for pay transparency so job seekers know what they should be paid. This pay legislation is aligned with our compensation philosophy and value of pay transparency, and is the natural next step to ensure everyone is paid fairly.