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The CXO Perspective: Balancing Profitability & Pay Transparency

, | Jan 24, 2023 2:15:00 AM | By

How can people leaders work with their founders and executives to prioritize pay equity and transparency — something employees, candidates, governments, and boards increasingly demand? In the most recent episode of High Growth Matters, we spoke with Brian Kaiser, Co-founder and CTO of Series D company Hudl, which is backed by impressive VCs like Accel and Bain. Brian shares experiences and lessons learned from Hudl’s journey toward pay transparency.

This blog has been adapted from that conversation and covers:

  • Starting the journey toward pay transparency
  • Developing an affordable compensation philosophy as a company
  • The critical, multi-faceted role of communication

To hear the full episode, visit this page, or subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Don’t miss the full episode: The Founder Perspective: Balancing Profitability & Pay Transparency

The first steps to pay transparency

Hudl can trace its roots back 16 years to when it began as the dream of three recent college graduates who had yet to gain significant work expertise. Now, the company has 15 offices spanning the globe and over 3,200 employees operating across 24 countries.

Hudl's founders have always been committed to the company's growth and success, and as the company scaled globally, they recognized the importance of fostering transparency in all areas of the business, including pay transparency. Now, Hudl is actively on a journey toward greater pay transparency.

“We're early-to-mid journey, and it's not due to lack of caring. These things take time,” Brian says. “It would be a mistake to rush it — you've got to have the right things in place.”

According to Brian, a few steps must be taken to establish the right foundation for progress toward equity and transparency.

1. Find your Northstar

Establishing your company’s definition of pay transparency and its associated goals must occur before all else.

“Visualize where you want to be — that’s your Northstar,” Brian says. “It's really easy to want to pay more or be tighter on money. But really ask where you want to be and how you need to operate as a company to get there.”

2. Step back and create an outline

Pay transparency doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t have a single-step solution. Achieving transparency and equity can take years.

Once you have a strong grasp on where you want your business to be, it’s time to take a step back and look at the big picture to create a step-by-step plan with milestones.

3. Dive into the details 

Once you’ve established a Northstar and the action steps to get there, you can dive into the details. For Hudl, unlocks to achieving transparency involve creating pay ranges for job levels and manager training.

“With so many experts across different disciplines around the world, it can be pretty complicated,” Brian says. “It’s going to take a couple of years, and that’s okay.”

If you find yourself stuck in a situation like the one Hudl faced, with a gap in compensation knowledge for a wide variety of experts in your company, check out OpenComp’s Compensation Software, an intelligence platform with the most comprehensive benchmarking, design, and compensation tools.


An affordable compensation philosophy in a conservative company

Pay transparency can often spark hesitancy. Inequities can often be costly to address and fix, even over time. But, it is possible to build a compensation philosophy that meets your needs and provides equity, says Brian — even if you are a conservative company.

“We’re a Midwest company at our core. We're honestly pretty fiscally conservative,” Brian says. “While we’re competing for top talent, our current compensation philosophy reflects our conservative values.”

From pay to process, alignment cannot be achieved between employees and leaders without transparency and communication.

“Be honest with the company, and people will give you a lot more grace,” Brian says. “We set expectations early on in the hiring process. Some people will be outside our bands, but we can make a compelling offer for others.”

While the job market can be very competitive — and retention can be particularly challenging, especially in a remote setting — establishing clear communications around your compensation philosophy can help build loyalty and understanding across every level of the employee lifecycle.


The critical, multi-faceted role of communication

Clear, frequent communication is the key to staying accountable to goals in a realistic way and helps align employees towards the same objective. Brian suggests standardizing communication so that each organization sector is informed on organizational happenings.

“We have a weekly internal newsletter,” he says. “It has all our financials, revenue, revenue by division, expenses, hiring, everything — and it goes to the whole company weekly.”

While providing a newsletter isn’t a necessity for progression, the clear and consistent communication it facilitates absolutely is. Once communications are honed, similar practices can be used to roll out all company announcements and changes, including pay bands.

“We've done more regimented and standardized communication rollouts. We start on the VP level, who then communicate to the directors who report to them,” Brian says. “Then we roll out to managers, and we’ve found proof in the positive quantitative feedback.”


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