How do we at SmartCat decide the compensation within our team?

We are about to let you in and tell you everything…

Don’t get too excited, no, we don’t know who was Coronavirus patient zero, but yes - you read it right, we’re here to take you on a journey. A SmartCat journey.

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How do we at SmartCat decide the compensation within our team?

We are about to let you in and tell you everything…

Don’t get too excited, no, we don’t know who was Coronavirus patient zero, but yes – you read it right, we’re here to take you on a journey. A SmartCat journey.

A little backstory to all of you who don’t know us that well – SmartCat is someone who is known for always being innovative, and as a team, we never look in the neighbour’s yard and compare ourselves to others. However, when it comes to being transparent in every possible way, we strongly believe we’re different from others. We even have a saying – if you smell bullshit, call it bullshit.

What do we mean by that? Well, for starters we are very open about everything with our employees starting from everyone’s skill set and salary, our monthly and annual financial results, and now, for the first time, we’re about to tell you about it in detail.

In general, salaries and compensation are usually taboo topics, and in some companies, it’s even  ‘illegal’ to discuss it with your colleagues or share the information anywhere else. And we get it… Compensation is an important aspect of every company.

How do we decide who gets paid what?

SmartCat has been in business for almost 6 years now and through that time, compensation was always an open topic and internally discussed amongst the management and the team. Of course, our approach to compensation has changed and evolved, but the fundamentals have always remained the same.

In this article, we will focus more on the monetary salary, but we think it’s important to note that besides our salary formula, all our employees have another set of benefits which is a crucial part of our compensation philosophy.

We try to accommodate all our employees when it comes to choosing what kind of equipment they would like to work on, we focus on their internal training by assigning mentors to them, but also on the external by allowing our employees to go to events or upgrade their skills through online courses/books and so on. We do that through a knowledge budget which is a mix of dedicated days which you can use for self-development and money (the budget you get equals 50% of the net base salary at the beginning of the year for that year). Besides those self-development days, we added extra days to employees’ regular vacation which is bigger than the state legal minimum.

So, you can see that people are really important to us. They could get jobs elsewhere, easily. But they choose not to and we wanted to reward that. We came up with a loyalty coefficient where we multiply our salaries by the time spent in the company and a personal bonus plan where the company shares its profit with the rest of the team. But you know what, we’ll get into more detail about that in one of our next articles.

SmartCat formula

In SmartCat, we have created something that we call a ‘career path’, which represents six levels, zero being the lowest and five the highest. This means that someone who is at a level zero is inexperienced and will be needing mentoring and someone who is at level 5 is a C-level manager and someone who is leading the company, and so on.

Each level has its predefined pay grade, which means that every single employee who is at the same level will also receive the same salary.

All our employees have a goal during the first year in SmartCat is to advance as fast and as much as they can, but even after the first year, we always want our employees to improve and strive for better. One way of tracking the progress on this path is through personal goals and progress measures. Their mentor and the entire SmartCat team are there to support them in every possible way. Together with the mentors, our HR team constantly overlooks the progress and upgrades individuals according to the skills they show in comparison to the skills required for that specific pay grade.

So, now you know more about our generic career path, but we have come up with a leveling role-playing game to better illustrate how do we differentiate our career path levels.

Let’s begin…

L0 (Level zero) – Beginner
Someone who is just getting started, ready to grind and kill basic monsters to gain experience. Still figuring out if they are a bow, one-handed sword, or dagger type of a person (or if they like magic and want to walk the sorcerer’s/monks path). Learning what quests are best for them and learning what kind of additional skills they have. This is usually a beginner and this is their first job. They are becoming familiar with software engineering and especially process terms. Their main responsibility for this level is completing tasks they are delegated to do.

L1 (Level one) – Junior
Did their fair share of grinding in the plains and killing boars. They are exploring joining the guild, learning how to talk to it and which part to take. They know that they are a fighter and like two-handed swords and strongly believe that people with daggers and bows are crazy. This is usually a junior who had a prior job and prior project experience. They are familiar with software engineering but need babysitting.

L2 (Level two) – Medior 1
This person was involved in a fair share of dungeons and wants to use different weapons and different skills based on the dungeon they are entering. This person understands that a two-handed sword is an overkill for a dungeon full of spiders and goblins. They even understand that they can finish the dungeon alone, but having a thief and healer in the group is better optimized and they will restless before the next quest. They are ready to learn from the Thief and Healer since they might possess interesting skills they do not have and are great to complete the job.

L3 (Level three) – Medior 2
The fighter has leveled up enough and shown the skill of tanking for other people in the group so they are a valuable part of the crew. Their clear ownership is tanking so others can do ranged damage. This person is also ready to mentor younger fighters if there is a need. The Dungeon leader wants them on the team since they have proven records finishing the dungeons. They are the ones talking with nobles about quests in the dungeon and negotiating rewards.

L4 (Level four) – Senior 1
Seen one type of dungeon or one type of creature and mastered it. They are great at solving those dungeons and similar dungeons, but they still do not have the confidence to enter unknown dungeons or travel to unknown plains. They are still not truly confident that they can lead even in an unpredictable situation, they are a work in progress.

L5 (Level five) – Senior 2
Seen it all, they went to many dungeons and unknown places so they are ready to explore new worlds and join mostly any adventure no matter where and when. They are confident in their skills and arsenal and they can develop a strategy even for unseen monsters and dungeons. A good candidate for leader of a group or at least leader for certain important skill in the group (leader of mages). Their most important thing to do is strategize and plan before entering a dungeon or facing a monster. They saw a lot of different heroes in plains so they know how to spot potential and how to leverage the best skills for each hero.

The future

All in all, of course, we look into all our employees’ skills in more detail, but our career path has helped us tremendously by allowing us to be fairer to our employees when it comes to determining their salaries, but also more transparent to them when it comes to promotions, as they are clear on what they need to deliver and what kind of skills they need to show.

Ultimately, we view compensation and benefits as the set of tools that empowers our team to bring their best to our company so that we can share that same generosity when working with our clients. By ensuring our team members are fulfilled and connected with their work, we can build innovative solutions that support our customers to achieve success and fulfilment in their lives.

The future brings inevitable changes and we always try to keep up with the current situation, so we believe our formula will change in the future for the better. What do you think – is it better to be this open or would you rather work somewhere where you don’t know your colleagues’ salaries?