Inside Wildbit's decision to move to a location-agnostic pay structure - Technical.ly Philly

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Inside Wildbit’s decision to move to a location-agnostic pay structure

CEO Natalie Nagele talks about why the company is moving toward a salary structure that pays the same wage regardless of where a team member is based, and what that looks like in a remote world.

At Wildbit's May 2019 retreat in Stowe, Vermont.

(Photo courtesy of Wildbit)

Web dev firm Wildbit has long been a remote company, but in a time where most companies have embraced some form of remote culture in the pandemic, they’re pondering a bigger question: “Does place matter anymore?”

When it comes to pay structure, Wildbit cofounder and CEO Natalie Nagele wrote in a recent blog post that yes, it does. While the company’s roughly 35 employees are spread across the globe, the company recently announced it would be moving to a “location-agnostic” pay structure, meaning employees will be paid consistently regardless of where they live.

It’s a decision more and more companies may face as they allow employees to continue remote work forever. While some firms, like software company VMware, have decided to reduce the salaries of those who have moved to less expensive cities, Wildbit’s focus will instead raise the salaries of most of its employees.

Natalie Nagele

Natalie Nagele

The company’s benchmark will be based on compensation in Philadelphia, Nagele explained in the post. Nagele and her husband, cofounder and CTO Chris Nagele, both reside in the city, along with a handful of other employees. The company is incorporated here, and its tech salaries are competitive, sitting right under top tech hubs like San Francisco and New York City, she said.

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“When we looked at the math to get everyone to Philly, we realized that not only was it financially doable, but also still very impactful to our team,” she writes in the post. “It felt like a really huge win, and I’m excited to have made this work our own way.”

In an interview, Nagele told Technical.ly it’s a move that she and other leadership have been considering for years. After all, it’s a process that requires a lot of time, consideration and money (as did the leadership decision to experiment with a four-day work week a few years ago). The recent addition of Head of People Leia Rollag, who came to the company with a lot of experience in compensation strategy, helped get the process rolling, Nagele said.

The company is at the beginning of this location-agnostic process, part of a year-long project they’re calling “solving for fulfillment” which includes clarifying titles, career development and tracks to upward mobility within Wildbit. Moving forward, any two people with the same title and responsibilities will be paid the same, regardless of if they live in the Midwest or in Europe.

“It began with us wanting to give more structure and opportunity for growth with the goal of being consistent and secondly, opening up the conversation about how compensation works,” the CEO said. “We set off to just have more transparency around how raises are given… and realized we could do [location-agnostic pay]. It will create consistency and generally equality across the board.”

As of July 1, anyone on the team that wasn’t within the 75th percentile of the Philadelphia benchmark would see the increase in their pay. So far, 62% of the team has received an adjustment to a higher salary based on the new location-agnostic policy. And no one is losing money, Nagele clarified. If someone is currently over the benchmark, leadership will address it at the end of the year with more conversations about career journeys, she said.

In large part, the new approach can begin now because the company met certain milestones, such as its largest product Postmark doing very well. As a private, fully self-funded company, Nagele said leaders wanted to be careful with the planning and execution of this change, and she said she envisions that it will be a “slow rollout” to get to their 90th percentile goal.

“I don’t want this to come off as the only way to do things, but it’s really right for Wildbit right now,” she said. “We can afford it, we have the right team, and it’s something I’m really proud of.”

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