How can you get quality remote salary data?
So, you're hiring remotely.
How do you determine how much each employee makes? How do salaries change when team members relocate?
Today, we're exploring why remote salary data is so hard to find.
Why Is Remote Salary Data Hard To Find?
Each remote company needs to decide whether they will pay per location or location-agnostic pay.
If you go with location-agnostic, you'll have an easier time. Here's an example another startup founder shared with me:
"Our HQ is in Edinburgh so we baseline salaries on this local market. We acknowledge areas of higher compensation (actually only London and Cambridge - we only hire in UK) and specify an uplift in people's contracts (e.g. +20% for London, +15% for Cambridge). If people move away from London/Cambridge, they take a cut accordingly."
If you're curious about how cost of living may change, check out the excellent data from Numbeo, helping you understand what cost of living looks like. Only caveat, Numbeo's salary data isn't particularly strong/reliable.
If you pay per location, it depends on where you hire. Getting data from major tech hubs, such as San Francisco, Boston, or London isn't a problem.
Now, when you pay per location and a candidate shows ups, say a "Senior Back-End Developer living in Lima, Peru", how do you quote them a salary?
That's tricky. It's also important for your employees to know how much they would make if they were to relocate.
How Do Remote Companies Solve This today?
Take Automattic, for instance, with 1,000+ employee globally distributed. Here's what their CEO, Matt Mullenweg, told TechCrunch in May 2020:
“[W]e aim to pay the same rates for the same roles, regardless of geography. (...) Long term, I think market forces and the mobility of talent will force employers to stop discriminating on the basis of geography for geographically agnostic roles. (...) For moral and competitive reasons, companies will move toward globally fair compensation over time with roles that can be done from anywhere.”
Automattic is a great example of a company trying to hand out great pay to all. Now, most companies have decided that pay per location would be more appropriate.
Some remote companies launched their own salary calculators:
- Stackoverflow (now deprecated)
- Codacy (only US or Portugal)
- Buffer, they share details on this blog post and this spreadsheet.
Historically, the remote people operations community used to rely heavily on GitLab's salary calculation. They've always been thoughtful on sharing data, it used to be essential benchmark for setting remote salaries:
Alas, GitLab removed their salary calculator. Here's why:
Gitlab: "We source some of the information the calculator is based upon, including (...) non-public sources. As a result, the full compensation calculator application itself cannot be made completely public."
That sucks. What now?
GitLab spent more time and money solving this problem than any company I know. One way to solve this is to start our journey with GitLab's original sources, then add a few more.
I'll classify finding in three categories:
1) Traditional/Legacy data providers: Your typical Enterprise company.
That's Radford by AON, Mercer Comptryx, AdvancedHR (Shareworks) & Payscale.
2) Crowdsourced data: Free/open data yet not always 100% accurate.
That's LevelsFYI, Glassdoor, ArcDev & Remotive.
3) New data providers: Startups trying to disrupt the compensation space.
That's Pave, OpenComp & Kamsa.
...Let's dive in:
1) Traditional/Legacy data providers
To access the Radford Network, you'll need to submit a complete data input that passes multiple rounds of quality assurance. Then you pay at least $8,000/year. The more countries you want access to, the more you pay...
They seem to be one of the largest data providers, boasting 9.4 Million Incumbents in 87 Countries with 3,300 jobs with reported results. I'm unsure how good their data is for remote jobs.
Mercer covers 106 countries and 4 Million Incumbents. Interested to see that data? Get ready to provide a typical survey data submission, for ALL employees. Starts at $6,500/year for 4 countries. They also let you access fancy trend analysis from the years prior. Same here, I'm unsure how good their data is for remote jobs.
I've been told that Mercer allows you to purchase data per role for $200 through their Job Library Matching Tool
Shareworks helps you think about compensation and equity, based on 3000 private companies. How does this work? "Option Impact is 100% free for participating private, venture-backed companies. Give us your data and get ours."
If you'd like to access The Venture Capital Executive Compensation Survey, you'll have to invest a cool $4,000. Most top tier US VCs seem to be Shareworks customers. It feels like most portfolio companies should be able to access data when their VC purchase access. The only catch: it seems to be highly US-centric.
Payscale published a remote work white paper in 2020, sharing thoughts on remote compensation. PayScale also started gathering cost of living data in order to compete with Numbeo.
They argue that the differential engine they created should help with Remote workers salaries:
"It’s not enough to layer a differential on top of a region; for true accuracy it’s critical to look at the geo in context of the role. Ensure that your organization is staying competitive for critical roles and uncover areas for savings." - Payscale
I couldn't find pricing information at this stage.
2) Crowdsourced data
Many sites let you see what workers make through crowdsourcing. You'll find very granular information, but sample size could be small or outdated: make sure you can access the primary data!
Simple, elegant, and open! Especially helpful with Big Tech salaries. The only issue, they focus mostly on the US and seem to be doubling down on salary negotiation.
It doesn't make them an excellent source of benchmark for remote workers... unless you're working at Basecamp, earning a cool SF-salary regardless of where you live.
We had to step in! Through our new initiative MirrorPay.co, we gathered over 1,500+ salaries, including 500+ remote worker salaries.
You can already access our data by sharing how much YOU have been making! Or see results directly here.
Glassdoor is an important source, they have tons of crowd-sourced data and offer a fairly granular view in local markets. They'll tell you how much a Designer makes in Sao Paulo within a few clicks! You'll have to sign up to do some serious research.
The Arc.dev team built a beautiful interface comparing salaries with regional differences, which is a great to compare averages. Yet it doesn't quite offer granularity. It's good for rule of thumb but less meaningful to set salaries. It's also developer-only for now.
3) New data providers
Pave (formerly: Trove)
Trove rebranded to Pave after raising a $16m Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz. They are on a mission:
"Plan, communicate, and benchmark your compensation in real-time. Pave allows you to make smarter comp decisions and eliminate spreadsheets, powered by real-time integrations with your HRIS, ATS, and Cap Table."
Feels like they would plug in directly into HRIS & ATS APIs in order to get compensation (and equity) data. It's a hard problem to solve, they may be able to pull off a "real-time, primary data compensation dashboard".
Will they help solve compensation globally, or solely focus on the US?
OpenComp wants to be your complete compensation solution. Get started for free, then $2,000/yr for less than 50 employees. They do offer consulting (need to pay extra). I couldn't figure out how US-centric they plan to be just now, most screenshot and data feel like they may start with the US-market in mind.
Kamsa (by Cultivate People)
Kamsa wants to be the best global compensation tool for data-driven pay decisions. It's a new SaaS built by a 6-people team out of San Francisco who also do consulting on pay and compensation. Kamsa said "many of our clients join Kamsa to move to more remote friendly compensation ranges!".
Where's the easy answer I came here for?
Compiling global salary data is a big job. You'll have to pick a provider or company above you feel the most aligned with.
One learning here is that there's no single "source of truth" for remote workers. Traditional data providers won't help if they continue selling data per country and/or only rely on a "club-like model" that's mostly targeted towards Enterprise companies.
Crowdsourced data is awesome but hardly ever has the trust-factor you need. Levels.fyi works great, but they are extremely US-focused.
As for new entrants, few players may turn out to be great. If I learned one thing from comparing/paying for HRIS software it's that they are rarely the silver bullet who wish they were.
Feels like there will still be tons of negotiation and research to be done before your localized salary bands could become a no-brainer!
PS: Thanks to Andreas Klinger for inspiring this blog post's title :)
At Remotive, we published guides on pay & compensation for remote teams:
- How to Structure Compensation for Remote Teams around the World
- How To Employ & Pay Remote Employees Around the World
Over to you
If you have questions about salaries & remote team, please drop me an email! You'll find me at (name)@(thisdomain) :)