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Simplesense builds a consistent and equitable compensation framework from the ground up with OpenComp

12/9/22 6:00 AM | By

With a fresh, data-driven approach powered by OpenComp, Simplesense designed an equitable and scalable compensation program that wins HR a seat at the executive table.

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The Opportunity

Simplesense is a startup that builds technology solutions to help first responders and emergency operators respond to emergencies faster. As a seed-stage company, Simplesense needed to focus on developing a compensation plan that could support growth, while also attracting and hiring the right talent. But to do so, it needed to find a compensation technology partner that could provide data specific to its market and current stage of growth, and also manage Simplesense’s unique remote pay policy. 

Joanne Simon-Walters joined Simplesense  as the Chief People Officer, in part due to the founders strong vision of baking diversity, equity, and inclusion into the company’s DNA. Simon-Walters had a clear vision for how she wanted to help the company meet this vision, starting with figuring out how to pay appropriately for their market and stage. 

“With OpenComp, we're actually dealing with data that is similar to companies like ours,” said Simon-Walters. “So we're comparing more apples to apples than we were when we were fighting for Google talent. Data has replaced educated guesses or emotion.”

To make all of that happen, she needed to find the right compensation structure in a rapidly changing market. That starts with reliable salary data. “I wanted data I can rely on that is keeping pace with what's actually going on in the market,” she said.

“I need a compensation planning tool because I don't like making decisions about money that's not data driven. Period.”

 

The Activation

Joanne is no stranger to compensation technology, having used a number of different tools in her previous roles. But the salary data sources that Joanne used before couldn’t give Simplesense what it needed at its size and early funding stage. In search of options, she asked members of her female executive leadership group, Chief, for recommendations and found OpenComp, something she now refers to as “a happy pairing.” 

Joanne used OpenComp to create a framework for all of Simplesense’s pay decisions. Through OpenComp’s Compensation Intelligence Platform, she used Market Pulse to find salary data from companies that were similar in size, funding, and industry as Simplesense. Joanne then used Range Builder — a feature of OpenComp’s Design Studio — to quickly construct salary bands that simplify pay-related decisions and create consistency that supports pay equity. 

“I’m looking for all of the ways in which I can automate and feel confident in my decisions based on the tools that I'm already using. I love that OpenComp is an end-to-end solution, not a collection of one-off tools.”

 

The OpenComp Difference

Simplesense worked within OpenComp’s Compensation Intelligence Platform and with its Compensation Advocacy team to build a reliable compensation system that helped it attract and hire the very best engineers, while improving executive alignment, and building trust with employees. 

Pay ranges and a new two-tier pay structure
According to Simon-Walters, as Simplesense hires for more junior roles, it must be more thoughtful and strategic about compensation than it was when it was hiring more career seasoned employees.

“We need to be competitive, especially with tech talent being so hard to find. But that also doesn’t mean we can deviate from a plan. If we do, we’d be setting ourselves up for overspending and all kinds of pay inequity,” she says. But Simplesense couldn’t build the strategy it wanted on its own.

Enter OpenComp Range Builder. 

With OpenComp’s Range Builder and its Location Strategies feature, Simplesense could finally create pay ranges that incorporated its ideal remote pay strategy: a two-tier pay structure that targets Simplesense’s selected market percentile in either Colorado or New York, depending on where an employee is located. “We were only able to get to that level of complexity because of OpenComp,” says Simon-Walters. 

Before OpenComp, she used self-reported public data sources, but knew she needed better data and more structure as Simplesense grew. “I never feel a great deal of confidence in anything that’s self-reported,” said Simon-Walters. “And since we’re early stage, it’s essential that we use only data from similar companies in our industry, not from tech giants. Otherwise, we’re at risk of underpaying or overpaying.”

The new pay structure also makes conversations with candidates easier. “When you’re dealing with engineers, data and accuracy matter,” says Simon-Walters. “Range Builder has helped me to have conversations in a way where there's little lost in the communication.”

“OpenComp really allows Simplesense to make the case that we’re not interested in what you've made before. We’re interested in paying what is fair and equitable to the market.”

Improved, data-driven internal conversations
With data and compensation intelligence, HR is elevated from a department that offers recommendations to a strategic partner at the executive table. 

“Prior to using OpenComp, compensation conversations could become emotionally charged because there was a lack of relevant data,” said Simon-Walters. “When decision-makers thought a person was critical to the business’ success, they would advocate for pay at the level of what someone made at Google or some other larger tech company.’ But Google wasn't the right comparison for a company our size.”

With OpenComp Market Pulse, Simon-Walters used Simplesense’s firmographic data to select a dataset that matched their state of maturity. Now she has data from Simplesense’s peers to back up her recommendations. 

“With OpenComp the emotion gets removed because we're actually dealing with data that is similar to companies like ours. So we're comparing more apples to apples than we were when we were fighting for Google Talent.”

More disciplined hiring 
As Simplesense adds to its team, it’s using OpenComp’s built-in job leveling framework to focus on the level of experience they actually need from candidates. 

“In OpenComp, the job level descriptions have been grounding. They bring our conversations back from emotion and ground us in specific job descriptions,” said Simon-Walters. 

This removes the temptation to take the path of least resistance by hiring the applicant with the most experience, even if they’re overqualified. This increased focus also translates to a more motivated and productive team over the long term.

“We align positions that we really envision — such as a person with two years experience — to the applicants that apply. There are always going to be applicants who outpace what we need for a role, but those candidates — if hired — become disengaged pretty quickly. They're just not challenged enough.”

Now, the company focuses on a job level, the criteria for that job level, and its range to ensure they’re hiring appropriately. 

“Internally, it has made so much of a difference with the conversations I've had and it makes me look credible.”

Building a foundation of pay equity
Before using OpenComp, Simplesense also used word-of-mouth input to inform compensation. Simon-Walters understood that this kind of information can perpetuate pay gaps.

“We certainly have employees who have contacts at other companies who are honest about what they make. But that continues to replicate inequities,” said Simon-Walters. “If everyone at a company is white male, what are the chances that they’re missing critical data from people who simply don't run in their circles?”

Today, by having a data-driven compensation framework, role descriptions, and pay ranges, Simplesense is better positioned to make consistent and equitable offers and compensation decisions. Data also helps it break through any biases that may cloud decision-making.

“I like to think my team respects me and respects my experience, but data is important and some areas of HR are subjective. Compensation is not one of those areas where we should ever be subjective.”

The Future

With a foundation in place, Simplesense is preparing for another year of growth by using OpenComp Scenarios to create hiring plans in the OpenComp platform. This exercise allows the company to quickly see the effects of certain hiring decisions on runway, so it can budget appropriately. And once it’s ready to make offers, Simon-Walters is excited about running the entire process within OpenComp’s Intelligent Offers, to close more candidates faster. 

In the new year, the company plans to draft a new compensation philosophy and ensure internal equity. According to Simon-Walters, if it spots any gaps or inequities, it plans to make salary adjustments using OpenComp’s upcoming Merit Cycles tool. 

“Every single person is critical to our success because we're that small,” she says. “We have to make sure that we're keeping everybody positive, happy, and focused on the mission.”

“At Simplesense, employees trust us. That is huge. And being able to say we've identified a tool — OpenComp — that gives us better intelligence about the market increases their confidence that, ‘Oh yeah, they're definitely taking compensation seriously.’”

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