Company Allows Employees to Know and Discuss Each Other's Salaries

August 21, 2013

Would you want to know the salaries of everyone at your company and for them to know yours? This is the case at SumAll, a data analytics firm, where pay information and ownership stake of all staff members, even those of the CEO, are out in the open, TODAY reported. Whereas SumAll's CEO Dane Atkinson believes this type of transparency in the workplace has merit, experts say it can cause problems.

"It creates better trust," said Atkinson, who earns $120,000 a year. "It takes away that stress that 'maybe somebody negotiated better than I did. Maybe the boss is making three times the money and not doing anything.'"

All salaries at SumAll are available on a drive for anyone to view but not distributed or broadcast. Access to these data makes workers feel their job performance needs to be representative of their salaries, Atkinson said.

"It's pretty obvious if you're not delivering for what you're being paid," he added. "It also makes it very hard for you to abuse your personal salary."

Salary knowledge allows employees to measure where they stand monetarily with respect to their co-workers, which is beneficial for salary negotiations and leads to more open communication between employees and employers, Atkinson told MSNBC.

Taking the transparent workplace concept further, when Atkinson wants to hire someone, he shares the proposed compensation package for that applicant with the workers in the peer group of that open position who then must vote on whether or not they approve, he told The New York Times. If, for example, the reviewing team doesn't agree to hire someone for above-market wages, Atkinson won't bring them on board.

"So far I've not been able to go 'out of bounds' to hire people," he said.

Although ultimately beneficial, implementing salary transparency at SumAll has been "a lot of work," Atkinson admitted to TODAY.

"There's much higher bar of communication needed in an organization like this," he added. "You need to explain why you've made choices and where people ended up. It's maybe not as profitable for a founder, but it's definitely healthier."

Perhaps Atkinson is onto something, MSNBC noted, as SumAll's employee retention rate stands at about 95 percent.

Yet, companies and workers remain wary of salary transparency. For instance, no Fortune 500 companies employ this model due to too much inherent risk. Similarly, 60 percent of respondents in a recent, online poll said workplace salary transparency isn't a good idea.

Jealousy is likely to result, said attorney Karen DeSoto.

"There are going to be some people who may leave because they may feel that their productivity is higher, but yet somebody who's not as productive is getting the same pay," she added.

Compiled by Doresa Banning


"CEO promotes disclosing all salaries -- he makes $120,000,", August 20, 2013, Emily DiCiccio

"Dane Atkinson of SumAll, on Making Pay an Open Book,", August 15, 2013, Adam Bryant

"In 'transparent workplace,' everyone knows what you make,", August 19, 2013, Scott Stump

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