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Salary, transparency and the crowd

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I remember over a decade ago now, reading Maverick by Ricardo Semler, in which he tells the story of his transformation of Semco, the company he inherited from his father.  Central to the story was his attempt to make the workplace at the company a much more engaging place.  A number of initiatives were deployed, with many subsequently finding their way into the corporate mainstream, as the company became a popular subject of MBA classes throughout the world.

One initiative that hasn’t taken on so much is around salary transparency.  Semler instigated a policy whereby employees could set their own salaries, under the proviso that those salaries were made publicly available to all other employees.  It was a strategy that relied very much on public scrutiny to ensure it worked effectively, in much the same way as a similar project at Swiss pharma company Roche in their bid to reduce fraudulent expense claims.

Suffice to say however, that kind of thing has never really spread over to the mainstream.  Probably the nearest we’ve come are the various job sites that attempt to provide an aggregated estimate of salaries in particular fields and/or locations.  Despite their best efforts however, there’s a feeling that these sites still fall short of providing an accurate picture of the marketplace.  A new site has recently launched in an attempt to rectify the situation.

The site, called Salary Fairy, aims to crowdsource the whole process.

“We both worked corporate jobs and witnessed how non-transparent salaries are,” the founders said. “We wanted our users to be more informed about making any job moves or asking for salary raises.”

The process is a simple one.  Users log on via their LinkedIn profile.  The site will then harvest the professional information from your profile, having stripped out your name for privacy purposes (you can also hide your current employer should you wish).

The crowd are then invited to estimate how much that person should be earning.  The site removes the outliers from the equation to hopefully provide an accurate sense of what people think you should bring home.  There is also a gamification element to the site to encourage participation, with a kind of virtual currency included that goes up or down depending on the accuracy of your estimates.

Once 20 people have guessed your worth, the site will send you a report detailing how much the crowd think you’re worth, with the user then invited to feedback to the site the accuracy of the prediction.

Suffice to say, it is still very early days for the site, and the more (active) members, the more accurate many of the predictions will be.  There are also plans to monetize the process once the community grows large enough with a service that allows employers to message a user with a recruitment offer, with the only proviso being that they at least match the offer suggested by the crowd.  Should the offer be satisfactory, then Salary Fairy will connect the two up and leave them to it.

Of course, this is still some way from encouraging internal transparency over salary, but it might perhaps go some way to making the issue less of a sensitive one for employees and employers alike.

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