When customer demand suddenly surged and hiring top talent fast was imperative, Qwick turned to OpenComp Market Pulse to win and keep top talent.
Qwick is a Series B startup that connects businesses like restaurants, hotels, catering companies, event venues, and more with freelance talent including front and back-of-house positions such as bartenders, food runners, cooks and dishwashers. Founded in 2017, Qwick grew steadily to over 50 full-time employees by the start of 2020. And then the pandemic hit.
As restaurants struggled or shuttered, Qwick cut its team by over 50%, joining the hospitality industry in a lull through the rest of the year. But as people began frequenting restaurants again in 2021, demand suddenly surged.
“It was like a light switch went on and we had more demand than we could handle,” says Chief of Staff Rachael Kratz. “With a team of just 19 full-time employees, our revenue doubled.”
To meet the moment, Qwick needed to rebuild its full-time team fast. Kratz, whose role primarily focuses on strategically supporting Qwick’s CEO, stepped in to lead hiring. “When there’s a hole in the business and they don’t have anyone to solve it, that’s where I come in,” she says.
With no previous experience in HR, Kratz admits that one of her biggest challenges remains “not knowing what I don’t know.” To fill the gaps, she’s invested a lot of time researching best practices and the business implications of different compensation plans.
“As a growth stage company, we believe in figuring it out and moving fast. But with hiring, Google can only take you so far. We needed a plan and structure to help us grow quickly and responsibly.”
During Qwick’s post-pandemic swell in hiring, it didn’t yet have a people team to support Kratz. Every manager reviewed applications, interviewed candidates, and made offers. “The only plan for compensation was based on research and what candidates asked for,” says Kratz.
With this freewheeling approach, Qwick rebuilt to 40-50 employees by the summer of 2021. But Kratz knew the lack of structure was unsustainable.
To support Qwick’s vision and keep the employees it worked so hard to hire, Kratz and team needed a tool to fill their experience gap and help them make smarter, faster, and economy-conscious decisions that were right for their stage of growth and funding.
“OpenComp just resonated with us,” says Kratz. “The comp data from other options felt so stagnant or low. They didn’t feel fair or helpful to me.” OpenComp would allow Qwick to ensure it’s paying competitively compared to its peers. Although it’s inspired by a tech giant, it doesn’t operate like one.
“We couldn’t compete with a company like Amazon. We could, however, pay similarly to other Series A companies. With OpenComp, we could easily see data from companies like ours and what it would look like to pay at different percentiles. With that insight, we figured out what works best for Qwick.”
The OpenComp Difference
Qwick worked within OpenComp’s compensation software platform and with its Compensation Advocacy team to build a data-driven structure not just for hiring, but for career progression, promotions, and commissions. This includes benchmarking compensation, and creating its first compensation philosophy, the formal statement that guides the company’s pay-related decisions.
From rapid-fire hiring to a fair and consistent framework
Burn wasn’t the only risk associated with Qwick’s former approach to hiring. It also paved a sure path to pay gaps and inequities.
Today, Kratz and team rely on comp data, not candidates, to set compensation. With OpenComp’s Market Pulse, they can now benchmark roles with comp data relevant to their company’s stage and industry.
They then use OpenComp’s built-in job leveling matrix to compare a candidate’s abilities and competencies with those required for the open role. And because Qwick set a custom geographic strategy within the platform, remote pay is automatically adjusted for every employee based on their location, without a single manual calculation.
All of this allows the company to keep moving fast, but now with confidence that it’s paying fairly and consistently.
“If someone has been historically underpaid, we don’t want to continue that inequity. We bring everyone in at market rate, regardless of what they ask to make during the hiring process. We’re only able to do this because of OpenComp.”
Supporting retention through clear career pathways
With OpenComp’s job leveling matrix, Qwick runs more focused employee reviews based on documented competencies rather than subjective criteria. During these reviews, which are conducted every January and July, managers assess whether an employee is performing at their current level or has progressed to the next one. Even if the employee stays at the same level, if the market rate for that level has increased, the employee receives the pay bump.
“We don’t just give a 3% increase across the board,” says Kratz. “We want to make sure you’re consistently paid at market.”
To further ensure parity, the entire executive team, including Kratz, evaluates managers’ ratings using the framework developed with OpenComp. After a calibration session, necessary adjustments are made, and managers share matrices with employees.
Understanding that employees may have their own interpretation of this information, Qwick pairs this transparency with a communication strategy that helps managers explain the strategy behind its decisions. With the leveling framework, managers can show employees concrete examples of why they’ve been placed at their level and the skills they must develop to progress to the next. Armed with this information, employees can set more focused goals and envision what a long-term career at the company looks like.
“Sharing job levels and being transparent about pay decisions takes a lot of explaining. With OpenComp, we can build trust with employees by showing we have a strategy and aren’t making random decisions.”
Qwick isn’t slowing down hiring and plans to onboard 100 more FTEs in 2023. Although the company is actively recruiting a chief people officer, Kratz expects it will take some time to find the right fit and is prepared to continue in that role well into the next year. During that time, Kratz says she plans to incorporate more OpenComp tools into Qwick’s processes, particularly the new Merit Cycle tool.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how it overlaps with our competency review process and how it will make everything easier,” she says. That includes eliminating spreadsheets and manual updates for each employee after every review and change to their compensation. And with information secure in the OpenComp platform, Qwick will finally have historical data it needs for a full picture of compensation for individuals and roles.
Also on tap are OpenComp’s Headcount Plan and Scenario Modeling to help Qwick better plan for growth, especially during times of disruption or uncertainty.
“Going into 2022, we thought we would grow a certain way and then tech stocks started dropping. Everything we planned shifted. For next year, we’ve mapped out where we want to hire. That, along with Headcount Plan and Scenarios, will set us up to grow our team responsibly in the best way."