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What Open Salary Spreadsheets do, and don't do

“What’s the value of my work?” This is the question that is on the minds of so many of our Jewish communal colleagues, and the question that is driving GEiHP’s research and deliberations. More often than not, we’re trying to find the answers to this question alone, and negotiating alone, and we don’t know where to find support in our workplaces, or from our colleagues.

Those working in the Jewish community can’t yet depend on clearly articulated compensation philosophies shared by their employers. Those are on their way, as more and more organizations are recognizing their value. Websites like Glassdoor and Payscale are less effective and don’t offer recently updated (and thus relevant) information for Jewish communal organizations, although they’re often a great place to start. And at the same time, we can attempt many one-on-one conversations between colleagues, because the personal connections built in these spaces are powerfully valuable, but word of mouth doesn’t get the information needed directly to the people who need it, as human capital is scarce, and not allocated equitably.

We know that there’s a lot of need out there, and we believe that this effort is one step closer to cultivating dialogue about equity, value, and organizational transparency. And at the same time, we know that our Open Salary Spreadsheet can’t do it all–nor should it. Let’s take a look at what open salary spreadsheets can and cannot do.

  • 62% of employees in the nonprofit Jewish community report that their organization has not worked or is not actively working on our approach to compensation.

  • 61% of employees in the Jewish community report that their organization does not understand how salaries and raises are determined at their organization.

  • 58% of employees in the Jewish community report that they do not believe their salary is fair relative to similar roles at their organization.

Many employees across the nonprofit Jewish communal sector feel they need more information about how compensation works at their organizations, including how salaries, raises and advancement are constructed as well as plans to improve and structure compensation processes in the future. While we know that everyone wants to earn more, what we see is that employees want to know that the ways in which they are being compensated are equitable and fair. In other words, Jewish organizations aren't doing the work of explaining to their employees how compensation works, even when they have done the work. Employees want to find out themselves--whatever information they can.

What Open Salary Spreadsheets do:

  1. Create cultures of transparency, which in turn create cultures of trust. Trust is the foundation of a fair, healthy, and high-performing workplace.

  2. Exemplify democracy and advocacy in action. Employees ask for this information, employees want this information, and employees should be able to gather this data if they choose.

  3. Encourage diversity in our networks and negotiation processes. Every salary negotiation expert recommends benchmarking salaries with multiple data points to achieve healthy diversity in the process. This is extremely difficult in the Jewish communal ecosystem, and this may be improved by connecting employees to data.

  4. Help employees understand the value of their work in workplaces that are limited concerning feedback and supervision metrics, issues that prevent understanding the real or perceived value of their work.

  5. Reduce inequities built into our reporting systems. 990s are publicly available for many of our Jewish non-profits and serve to perpetuate the inequity by offering the salaries of the organization's top 5 employees. The individuals who need transparency the most are the folks who are paid less--those who make up the rest of the organization. Salaries are already "public," but only for the top tier of organizational hierarchies.

  6. Strive for more equitable workplace cultures. Insider information is just that--insider. Open Salary Surveys eliminate insider-outsider knowledge and level the playing field. Everyone may participate and everyone benefits.

What Open Salary Spreadsheets do not do:

  1. Create holistic pay transparency, pay equity, close the wage gap, replace compensation audits, and change culture or systems--alone. Compensation is not this simple.

  2. Replace conversations and relationships to encourage salary benchmarks, most especially between employers and employees. Salary Surveys, although fascinating, don’t replace dialogue that develops context and specific data points for how specific salaries are built in specific organizations.

  3. Reduce bias. The data may help to prompt conversations, draw attention to gaps, and help employers and employees notice particular disparities, but surveys alone will not reduce bias of any kind in pay or reduce the wage gap.

  4. Normalize the conversation around salary because they don't replace it. We still must talk about salary, compensation, negotiation and power.

  5. Acknowledge the spectrum of transparency that might benefit an organization, from full transparency (a la Buffer) to total secrecy. Open Salary Surveys and their resulting spreadsheets are about organizational and systemic transparency, shifting towards helping employers and employees understand the data about the marketplace and not necessarily or exclusively about the organization's compensation.

  6. Get employees raises. Having the data you need and asking for a raise will get you a raise. Neither the cost of living increase is not a raise nor is a bonus in any given year a raise. To be meaningful, we must take this data and use it effectively.

Whether or not you find the Open Salary Spreadsheet and the resulting data valuable, it is likely you agree that it is important to know what a particular job is worth, what fair wages and fair wage increases are, and how recruitment and retention work best to retain employees within organizations. All of this requires data, which is, in our Jewish non-profit world, in short supply. This project is not backed by funder dollars. Rather, this project is backed by people power and the power of the wisdom and knowledge of the folks in the room who care to do the hard work of participating and sharing their data so that we all may grow and benefit as a community.

Regardless of what open salary spreadsheets or surveys do or do not do, we believe that it is crucial to operate in a mode of experimentation to support this effort on behalf of all employees across the sector who are demanding data. And we invite you to take part.


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