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How Square Roots Thinks About Compensation

In recent months, much has been made of the labor trend known as the “Great Resignation.” More than 40 million people left their jobs in 2021—but they aren’t settling into early retirement or some form of funemployment. They are finding better jobs, with more purpose, higher pay and other perks.

At Square Roots, we strive to build and retain a diverse team of values-driven, high performers who are supported, connected, and empowered to do their best work. Part of supporting our employees means compensating competitively and equitably, when it comes to pay, benefits, and stock options. 

For the past three years, we've utilized a compensation framework, which is underpinned by third-party benchmark data, from companies similar to Square Roots in size and stage. Updated on an annual basis, this framework is nuanced by job function, level, geography, and past work experience, which are all factored into compensation packages for both current employees and new hires. Our goal is to ensure equitable pay. (In some companies, the best negotiator can often get paid more than someone else with the same experience, in the same role—that does not happen at Square Roots.) 

Until recently, we operated in two locations: Brooklyn, NY and Grand Rapids, MI, which meant we could benchmark compensation by job function across only those geographies. The pandemic has forever changed how people work—and also where they choose to work. In recent months, we’ve added a number of fully remote employees who are distributed across the US.  We are also building campus teams specifically to support new farms in Kenosha, WI, and Springfield, OH. We therefore need a more flexible and dynamic approach to factoring geography into our compensation framework. After much analysis of benchmark data and deep dives into emerging compensation trends, we landed on a multi-faceted approach:

  • For hourly employees at our campus locations—those who work as growers, farm operations, facilities, delivery drivers, and more, we are committed to paying a starting pay rate that is indexed to what is known as “living wage.” We rely on MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, a model developed by researchers at MIT that generates a cost of living estimate based on geography and translates that to an hourly wage rate that an individual must earn to support themselves in that local area.*
  • For remote employees who live in high cost of living geographies, such as New York, we use NYC salary data to inform our compensation framework for each job function. 
  • For remote employees outside of high cost of living geographies, we use the national salary average, by job function and level. 

In addition to pay, all full-time employees, including farmers, receive equity grants in the form of incentive stock options, so we can all succeed together. Employees are entitled to paid time off, sick leave, and paid time to volunteer, get vaccinated, and vote. Hourly employees additionally receive a networking stipend for $50/month, which can be applied to mobile data or home internet for those who use their devices on and off the farm for purposes of work.  

We know that supporting our employees is more than just pay, however. We have prioritized robust benefits offerings, and all full-time employees in the company have access to the same plans. Square Roots covers 100% of the premiums for medical, dental, and vision coverage for full-time employees, and 60% of premiums for spouses and dependents. We offer access to affordable mental health benefits with in-network therapy visits priced at $10/session.  A number of our team members have shared that this is the first time they have been able to afford access to mental health care, a benefit that’s particularly meaningful as the COVID-19 pandemic has been linked to an uptick in mental health problems

With just under 150 employees, we are still a small company. We don’t have all the answers and we know we won’t always get it right. As we grow, we still continue to evolve our approach to compensation in response to macro trends and by listening to our employees' needs. 

If Square Roots sounds like the type of place you’d like to work, check out our careers page. And of course, if you have any questions about the work we are doing and how we got there, please reach out. We’re always happy to share ideas and learn from others.  

Brannon Skillern 
VP of People
brannon@squarerootsgrow.com

* MIT updates its living wage calculator on an annual basis, but this year has updated it a second time, due to late data and adjusting how they take inflation into account. Square Roots is committing to keeping up with living wage, and as of June 2022, is processing payroll updates for impacted employees, inclusive of backpay to the date the index was changed.