Why we have a no salary negotiation policy

People who perform the same should be paid the same

There’s a funny saying, “You don’t get what you’re worth, you get what you negotiate.”

At Skillshare, we recently rolled out a pretty radical change: a “no salary negotiation” policy meant to ensure that every employee is paid fairly for their skills.

As we reflected on our vision of bringing a meritocracy to the new economy — where anyone, anywhere, regardless of their background, location or privilege, could learn new skills and earn a living — we began to think about how we could live up to this ourselves as an employer.

We believe that great companies are built on the following pillars:

  1. Meritocracy: People who perform the same level of responsibilities should be paid the same.
  2. Transparency: Providing the right context early builds trust which is the foundation for any great team and culture.
  3. Diversity: Diversity of thought is essential to building great organizations and innovative products.

I’m a believer that compensation details are never kept-secret: everyone finds out what you’re paying everyone else. I don’t believe that better negotiators necessarily make better employees.”

We’re certainly not the first to attempt this approach— other technology companies have adopted a no negotiation policy including Reddit, Jet and Buffer. This line of thinking is also fairly standard in industries such as management consulting, law and government.

To put it simply, this policy allows us to foster equality by tying compensation to expected impact, not negotiation skills or previous salaries. We want to ensure that we pay fairly regardless of what an individual may have previously earned.

And so we decided to move to a no negotiation policy where each role is attached to a specific level, with a specific compensation.

Our Process

It wasn’t an easy road to get here. Not only did we have to update the salaries for new hires, we also did the same for the current team. How did we do it?

To start, we had to do a lot of research into market salaries. It can be tempting to make exemptions for certain candidates, so in order to stick to our policy, we wanted to be 100% confident in the strength of our offers. We chatted with other companies, pored through data, and created a formula for compensation to make our tiers more objective.

Contrary to what skeptics might think, our no negotiation policy wasn’t about paying as low as possible. It’s about offering competitive salaries — we want to beat 75% of companies at a similar stage. In some instances, candidates who were getting underpaid at their last job will get a 10–20% increase at Skillshare. In other cases , the inverse might be true too.

Inspired by Buffer’s salary transparency, every employee can see their current salary, the salary levels for their team, and what each level’s salary increase would amount to.

We know this policy won’t be for everyone. We know that we will lose some candidates as a result. But more importantly, we believe this compensation philosophy will attract the right candidates to our culture, candidates that share our core values and principles.

Salary will always be an important part of any compensation package. But, we also believe that culture, mission, growth, and the ability to drive impact for both the company and the world, are what attracts great talent to a team.

These pieces bring together like-minded people, assures the team that they’re being paid fairly, and creates a culture where people can focus on doing great work.

Michael Karnjanaprakorn is the CEO/founder of Skillshare. Learn more about our company culture.

More by Michael Karnjanaprakorn

Topics of interest

More Related Stories