Salary transparency has been a big buzzword in recent years. President Obama signed an executive order that bans federal contractors from retaliating against workers who talk about their pay. More Silicon Valley start-ups have adopted the idea of disclosing workers’ salaries. And millennials — now the biggest generation in the workforce — are reported to be relatively comfortable with the idea of talking about what they make.
Yet for all those changes, discussing what we make is still a big office taboo, and feeling underpaid remains a perpetual paranoia in the workplace.
To help, a growing crop of online tools aim to give workers a more personalized sense of how their pay compares with their peers’. The latest entrant comes from the careers site Glassdoor, which introduced new features to its suite of company reviews and job listings late Tuesday. Called “Know Your Worth,” it asks users to enter their current salary, years of experience, employer name and location, and uses that data to calculate their “market value” and plot it on a graph against their current base salary over time.
The result can be reassuring — or a little depressing. (“Your current pay is below your current estimated market value,” the site would inform a hypothetical assistant store manager based in Dallas with 11 years of experience, informing her that her market value was $61,827 a year — 14 percent higher than her current pay of $54,000.) “Even with all the transparency, it’s still pretty hard to know where you fit in your company,” said Dawn Lyon, vice president of corporate affairs at Glassdoor. “You can do the research, but how does that play for your job right now? What’s happening in your industry and in your market?”
For those frustrated to learn that they’re not making as much as their peers, Glassdoor conveniently appends related job listings to their reports, adding an expected salary range next to each listing — even if the company offering the job hasn’t included that information. It is also adding a feature called “Salary Explorer” that lets people gauge how much they might expect to be making after their next promotion.
The company, which says it can currently give a “market value” for 55 to 60 percent of the U.S. workforce, bases its calculations on salary reports that millions of workers have submitted anonymously to its site; the heaviest weight is given to the most recent reports. It also factors in supply and demand trends of job listings in local markets and a user’s proximity to a likely step up the career ladder.
With its new offering, Glassdoor joins a range of sites that also offer tools aimed at arming employees with some kind of individualized data when they’re heading into salary negotiations. PayScale asks users for a battery of information, including bonuses and other forms of compensation (something Glassdoor plans to add), providing them with a snapshot of how their pay compares with median reported pay in their local area. SalaryExpert uses data from the Economic Research Institute to compare users’ personal details with a local average. Comparably tells users how their salary ranks among their peers, and the start-up Paysa currently offers data on tech careers, but plans to expand to other industries in the future.
Yet even as the options for compensation data proliferate, it’s unclear how much taking a printout of your “worth” into your boss’s office will really sway her into giving you a raise. Some of Glassdoor’s calculations, for instance, are based on only a handful of salary reports, which could be a hard sell to a skeptical manager. (The company says it also looks at relationship data between reported pay at different companies and job titles within local markets to bolster the data behind its calculation, and if there isn’t enough to go on, it won’t spit out a number for that user.) In addition, the results are likely to vary across sites, as that hypothetical assistant store manager in the example above would have found — SalaryExpert, for instance, put the average at just $56,112, lower than the “market value” calculated at Glassdoor.
Still, tools like these may offer employees, long at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating their compensation, another data point to consider when they’re prepping for that nerve-racking conversation with the boss. At the very least, it may give them a little more to go on than knowing what that one co-worker makes who was actually willing to ignore this long-held taboo.