Salaries are taboo. Here are ours.

Salaries are taboo. Here are ours.

Picture of article author David Purkis
David Purkis
Brand & Content Lead

I’m David and I make $110,000 a year. And reading that probably made you feel a little uneasy. Conversations about how much we make are slowly (and I mean slowly) starting to happen1, but talking about them in public just isn’t something we normally do.

At oxio, we want to make it normal.

Step one: start talking about how much we all make. A lot of companies claim to be transparent. At oxio, we are transparent. We’re not here to follow the norm, we’re here to do what we think is right.

So, here are our salaries.

Well, that’s how it was supposed to go. But, we decided to calm down just a little.

We started out wanting to publish all our salaries online. It would have been bold. It would have been badass. It would have differentiated us as an internet service provider and company.

But, in talking it over with our team and asking everyone at oxio to take part in a survey, we realized that not everyone shared our vision. Everyone has the right to talk about how much they earn in public, but it's not right for oxio to force it on anyone.

Our obsession with radical transparency will always respect the personal privacy of our team. It took a while for us to arrive at that conclusion, and it’s now one of oxio’s pillars. We learn and we adapt.

We also realized that salaries aren’t representative of how much someone at oxio actually makes. Which is why we’re going to be talking about our remuneration, aka the combination of salary and stock options (don’t worry, we’ll explain everything in a minute).

So, sharing our salaries with the world became:

Sharing our remunerations with our coworkers.

There has to be a pretty damn good reason for a company to make who earns what available for everyone who works there to see.

We’ve got one.

We don’t just want to say we’re transparent. We want to actually be transparent. We believe in equal access to opportunity, and to make that happen everyone needs access to the same information. And how much we all make is part of that.

Our industry isn’t exactly known for its transparency. We want telcos in Canada to be better, so we’re leading by example. Sharing our salaries is kind of like our pledge, proof that we are dedicated to being truly transparent. We want everyone to know that they are valued and that their experience and skill set is being properly recognized. We know, we know, it sounds cheesy—but hey, it's true.

Unexpected advantages.

Discussions about who makes what are already becoming increasingly common among colleagues, friends and families. So, we might as well keep the conversations going by fuelling them with the facts2 that, until now, were almost impossible to find. We think that the more companies that openly talk about remuneration, while encouraging their team members to do the same, will make it easier for everyone to get the remuneration they deserve.

But, it turned out that that was just the start. By openly talking about what we all make, a lot of good things started to happen.

For example, the developers at oxio quickly realized that knowing the remunerations of their coworkers helped them better understand what certain experience, responsibilities and skills are worth on the market.

Another plus was the sense of community that developed. We all started looking out for each other–making sure we’re all being remunerated fairly. You know, treating others how we want to be treated.

We also found out that everyone knowing what everyone else makes (at least here at oxio), raises a lot of questions. We’re going to do our best to answer them.

What’s a fair and sustainable remuneration?

For remuneration to be representative of everyone’s individual experience and skill set, we need...

Wait, wait, wait. Before we get into that:

What’s the difference between compensation and remuneration?

Your compensation is everything you get from oxio. Yeah, that includes your salary and stock options, but it also includes the insurance, perks and benefits oxio provides. Since those last three are the same for everyone who works at oxio, we’re going to focus on remuneration. But, just to be clear, good compensation is just as important as being fairly remunerated.

So, remuneration is made up of your salary and stock options. We all know what a salary is–money in our pockets–but what exactly are stock options? Well, here’s a dangerously simplified explanation from our Dolla’ Dolla’ Bills Director (aka Finance Director) Jérôme.

Stock options give you the right to buy a predetermined number of shares at a later date at today’s price.

"So, if we assume that the company will increase in value over time (meaning that the price of its shares will go up), stock options allow you to buy shares at a discounted price. You make a profit by benefiting from that difference in price."

"Stock options let you invest in the company you work for and benefit from its growth. But, it’s also a risk. The company might fail. And, unlike other investments, stock options are inaccessible until certain specific conditions are met. At oxio, you can choose what percentage of your remuneration to allocate to stock options. We’re flexible because we know that everyone's financial situation is unique."

There are lots of variables that I completely ignored to keep this explanation short.
There are lots of variables that I completely ignored to keep this explanation short.

We wrote a very detailed article to explain all this to our colleagues right here.

Okay, now that we’re all on the same page:

How do we figure out who makes what?

To make sure everyone at oxio is fairly remunerated, we decided to imitate Netflix’s now well-known policy called Top of Personal Market. (We have an epic, EPIC crush on Netflix and their culture3.) You can read a lot more about it in their book No Rules Rules.

Netflix (swoon ❤️) uses Top of Personal Market to make sure that every position is occupied by the best person for the job. And, they determine top of personal market based on a few objective factors: How much you could earn at another company. How much time, money and energy it would cost to replace you. And, what they’re willing to pay to keep you if you get a better offer somewhere else.

At oxio, we follow the same process. We keep an eye on the employment market to stay aware of the trends. We don’t take a person's location into consideration when determining their remuneration (we’re a remote company based in Canada, so our benchmark is the Canadian market). And, if a position goes up in value, we adjust your remuneration. It’s as simple as that.

But we can’t do this alone. Yes, oxio has to keep its end of the bargain. But, each of us is also responsible for making sure oxio does what it says it’s going to do. A radically transparent company that pays top of personal market and insists on an environment designed to enable exceptional results, only works if each of us believes in it, gets involved and uses all available resources (or creates them if they don’t exist) to keep it that way.

Cost of living.

Aside from increasing the remuneration of someone whose position has grown in market value, we give annual increases.

oxio wants everyone to be able to afford their lifestyle year after year. So, to offset inflation, we inflate our remuneration yearly (pun intended–sorry not sorry). The aim is to counteract the increase in the cost of living.

And if we ever have a crisis with 150% inflation, we'll rethink our strategy (and we probably won't be the only ones).

We do this because we want to keep our talent long term. When we take the time to actually think about it, we realize pretty quickly that an exceptional salary for an exceptional employee is worth it.

But, to earn a job here, you have to be exceptional. How we define exceptional is definitely a stand-alone article. So, for now, we’ll stick with remuneration.

Why we pay Top of Personal Market.

oxio’s hiring criteria is based on performance. For us and for Netflix (we really can’t get enough of them), context is key.

Talented people perform at their best when the context they work in gives them the knowledge and ability to make their own decisions. By removing barriers and friction, we’re helping our coworkers do their job. No excuses. But, to be able to remove those obstacles and barriers, we need to hire people that are the best at what they do. So, to work at oxio, you have to be exceptional—it’s the foundation of our system.

The problem is that everyone wants to hire the best. This ultimately leads to a bidding war for the “rockstars”4. We’re okay with that.

Paying top of your personal market doesn’t mean we always pay the highest salaries. Sometimes we realize we’re just not willing to offer 20% more to match an offer. Other times, we’ll offer more than the competition because we really need you on the team.

These types of decisions, determined as much as possible by the market, can lead to pretty drastic differences in salary. And, understandably, those differences can look a lot like inconsistencies. That’s where context comes in. We make sure to be as clear as possible when those situations arise. In all cases, your age, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, skin colour, etc. have no say in this discussion.

Let’s say, hypothetical speaking, we were looking for a developer with a very specific skill set. Someone who has experience in mobile, the creation of billing platforms within a telecom company, and knows Rust (a pretty niche programming language) inside and out. This type of expertise is rare. So, even though the title of the post is Senior Developer, the salary that the market has established for this candidate will probably be different than another Senior Developer.

We want our working (and living) conditions to be the best in the world. And no, that’s not too much to ask. We want our team to be full of talented people who know their remuneration is excellent because it’s one less thing they have to think about5. And one less thing to worry about means more space up top for creativity6.

And, that makes sense. If I know that my salary is excellent, I don’t need to spend my time worrying about whether or not I’m underpaid or if I could make more money somewhere else. Knowing that I am well paid motivates me to perform based on my desire to succeed and surpass. In other words, I can actually focus on doing my job and doing it well. (Like writing this pretty great article.) Oh, and don’t get me started on bonuses, at least not here. We’ll talk about them some day in another article, but for now, take a look at our sources for more on the science of bonuses.

We know that this isn’t a perfect system. It is a work in progress and always will be. But, when there are problems, we’ll address them as best we can, learn from them, and try not to repeat them in the future. That being said, we’re human and we definitely make mistakes.

When it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.

It’s not a question of if, but when.

Caroline, our Marketing Director, knew she was underpaid for her role. So, she did the research and found out that the top of Caroline’s personal market was actually $40,000 more than she was being paid. That’s not nothing.

No one wants to find themselves in that kind of situation. It’s stressful to ask for a raise, and it feels shitty knowing that you’re not being paid what you deserve. Talking about money comes with a lot of conflicting emotions and, even if we're trying to change it, there’s a lot of baggage to deal with.

In Caroline’s case, she collected information on what other people in her position were paid across Canada and had a chat with Marc-André (our CEO). The result: Caroline’s salary was adjusted by $40,000 to reflect her top of personal market value. And, well, that’s it. Other companies might have refused to correct her salary because of subjective salary ranges or budget constraints. We call bullshit on all that.

It wasn’t easy for Caroline to talk with Marc-André about what she was being paid. But we want it to become easy. Sure, this kind of transparency is new for pretty much everyone. But that shouldn’t stop us from doing something that is going to help a lot of people.

At oxio, being a leader means keeping an eye on the employment market to make sure that each of their coworkers are being paid at the top of their personal market. With data from sites like Option Impact, chats with colleagues from other companies, general studies from Randstad, and any other sources deemed appropriate, a leader will keep their team’s remuneration up-to-date. This helps us avoid a lot of what’s considered subjective when it comes to how much you make. We don’t want anyone’s remuneration to be determined in any part by their negotiation skills, how outgoing they are, and definitely not by their age, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or skin colour—yes we’re repeating ourselves, but it’s important.

Technically, we should be re-evaluating remunerations all the time. That’s what being proactive means. Your leader should be staying up to date on market fluctuations and you should know your top of personal market value and, most importantly, talk about it.

But, we are realistic. We can’t spend 24 hours a day doing research. So, we settle for leaving a mental note and checking in as often as we can.

Okay, but if we don’t agree?

The main disadvantage (like all remuneration systems) of Top of Personal Market is that it can lead to completely different views of the same situation–even if you try to stay objective. Let’s say I thought my remuneration was too high. LOL. Joking, who would mention that? Let’s say I thought I deserved more than what I was being paid. What would happen?

Well, I recently took on additional responsibilities at oxio that required us to adjust my remuneration. Marc-André had done his research and determined that $110,000 represented my top of personal market. I disagreed and thought it was closer to $115,000. We both wanted my remuneration to reflect my top of personal market. So, we worked together to figure it out and ultimately let the data speak for itself. In this case, Marc-André’s initial research better represented my experience and skill set.

At oxio we encourage everyone to talk about how much they make. Open and constructive discussions with our coworkers, chats with headhunters, interviews at other companies and maintaining an up-to-date database are all part of being and staying transparent. We want our system to work.

But, nothing is perfect. Top of Personal Market is a work in progress. Every time we run into a situation that doesn’t fit with our philosophy, we re-evaluate, we adjust, and we move forward. We know that we’re going to make mistakes. We can accept that, but we can’t accept that someone isn’t being paid what they deserve.


So, that’s what we think.

Okay, that was a pretty quick wrap-up for a 2,500+ word article. Let’s try that again.

We think that sharing our salaries internally is a step towards becoming truly transparent, and that encouraging more of us to talk about their remuneration will create opportunities that will fundamentally change what Canadians expect from the companies they work for. (That’s one long sentence. But hey, a conclusion like that can use all the words it needs.)

We’re defusing the taboo that surrounds remuneration because we really do believe that it’s the right thing to do. We don’t have any seers to guide us towards the absolute truth. So, this is our best attempt. A start that we’re more than willing to improve on. And, we believe that the good pay transparency will bring is worth the hiccups along the way.

To improve, we have to be open and willing to listen. So, what do you think? Pay transparency is complex, and our way is definitely not the way most companies choose to do things. We love meaningful discussions and hearing other opinions, so drop by our Discord, Reddit or Facebook for a chat.

Article written (and rewritten and then rewritten again) by Danilo Tubić in close collaboration with Marc-André Campagna (CEO) and David Purkis (Senior Copywriter and the guy who adapted the article into English).

Picture of article author David Purkis
David Purkis
Brand & Content Lead

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