Kyle Hurlbut
(650) 364-1598

Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal
November 28, 2000

The Edge
Top Secret: Sandy Lillie, OMIX

'We deliberately avoid regularly scheduled salary reviews'

At my workplace, it's not uncommon to hear comments from employees like, "I really think that Harold deserves to get a raise before I do," and "Are you sure you can afford to give me a raise right now? Because I can wait, you know…"

To me, the fact that people say things like this shows the high degree of trust that exists between management and employees at OMIX (an Internet applications developer), which is something that we work very hard to deserve. We truly do our best to treat one another as we would like to be treated.

My ideas about the workplace are derived from my general knowledge as a clinical psychologist, my experience in 20 years of private practice doing organizational consulting and working with employee assistance referrals from Silicon Valley corporations, and my experience in guiding the development of the OMIX culture over the past six years.

In the course of these experiences, I have developed some strong impressions regarding how best to structure the framework for human relations in the workplace.

For example, making enough money to support their lifestyles is important to our people, but compensation has significance far beyond this.

At least in modern American culture, compensation is how people evaluate the worth that is placed on their contributions, and relative compensation is an important measure of fairness.

At OMIX, insofar as we are able, we want people to feel well and fairly paid for the work that they do.

We make a special effort to compensate employees according their relative contributions at the time, not according to their age, previous salary, how long it's been since their last raise, or their ability to negotiate.

We deliberately avoid regularly scheduled salary reviews with employees, choosing instead to quietly review the list of employee salaries as needed (about every 4-6 weeks) to evaluate whether relative compensation levels still seem fair.

In this way, we offer raises immediately when people have assumed new levels of responsibility, developed new skills, or otherwise demonstrated merit.

We regularly adjust salaries upward as new people are hired at salaries that reflect increases in the labor market.

I can remember very few times in the history of our company when OMIX employees have had to request salary increases before we offered them.

This irregular yet attentive approach allows people to receive rapid, concrete evidence of appreciation for their contributions, avoids the tense stand-off and competitive tension of scheduled salary reviews, and permits frequent adjustment of compensation levels to keep them both fair and competitive with the market.

Employees whose contributions increase very rapidly receive salary increases just as rapidly, so they have little reason to change companies in order to qualify for a higher pay scale (as so often happens when raises are given as a percentage increase over previous salary levels).

This approach also lets people know that we are paying attention and that we care about them-- because we are and we do-- and this is an important way of showing it.

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