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Spiria moves toward pay transparency

May 11, 2023.

For many companies, pay transparency often remains a sensitive issue and an opaque aspect of operations. Spiria, however, opted for full transparency, which was harder to implement than it seems. There’s more to it than simply releasing a detailed list of everyone’s salary, as that would lead to misunderstandings or internal strife in the worst cases. Some groundwork and strategic thinking need to be applied first. Below, some considerations.

Though policies on pay transparency are not very common yet, an increasing number of companies are looking into it. They recognize its benefits, as much for the working environment as for talent acquisition. For current and potential employees, it helps to understand the criteria that underpin their compensation, their ranking compared to coworkers, and their advancement potential within the company.

This decision to go for pay transparency was motivated, first and foremost, by our commitment to a workplace that is equitable and fair, where all employees feel comfortable working. An evasive pay-scale based on obtuse computations inevitably fosters suspicions of inequity, which erodes the trust between employees and employer. What’s more, transparency is a mighty weapon to fight systemic inequities, such as the wage gender gap. Statistics Canada’s 2022 survey results show that women’s average hourly pay is still a sizable 11.1% less than men’s.*

More than a window into current pay practices, mapping each person’s salary potential helps her or him set expectations. For those whose expectations are higher than what our pay grid allows and who have reached a ceiling, a mutually-agreed discharge might be the next step. As dire as that sounds, not facing it merely puts off the inevitable disappointment and resentment. In most cases, those whose expectations match well with our salary grid find a strong incentive to keep investing time and energy to reach new professional goals.

This transparency is also practiced externally, in all our job postings. We list every position’s pay scale, which is determined by the calculation grid. This is meant to avoid potential disappointment and to offer a good-faith vision of a likely trajectory. This excuses applicants whose expectations don’t fit with who we are, thus avoiding a fruitless discussion.

But such transparency doesn’t happen overnight. To pave the way, we had to review the salary grid, identify any inequities, then make adjustments to remedy them. This deceptively difficult task took over a year. Before disclosing any numbers, we spent several months explaining, answering questions, and improving the process based on feedback.

Developing a salary grid, as you can imagine, isn’t as easy as just inserting random figures in a spreadsheet. It was in fact a labor-intensive, sensitive process, which we paired with a steady flow of communication to all involved. We came up with a logical, equitable and justifiable grid that takes into account the company’s financial situation, while being competitive. Once the grid was made public, we met with each employee individually to discuss her or his position on the pay scale, the reason for that ranking, and what her or his options might be for further development.

This was definitely a big project that mobilized many of us, but it was worth it. Real salary transparency is now a cornerstone of our workplace based on mutual respect and trust. This initiative meshes with our goal to be a human-scaled company that is accountable, that listens closely to each and every one, and that works on building a contemporary and unique work culture.


(*) In 2021, women aged 25 to 54 earned an average of 3.79 CAD (11.1%) less per hour than their male counterparts. In other words, women in that age group earned 0.89 CAD on the dollar. [Reference.]