Katrina Jones: Negotiation Secrets from HR, Diversity & Inclusion Expert

Katrina Jones: Negotiation Secrets from HR, Diversity & Inclusion Expert


Katrina Jones is an accomplished HR executive and fierce champion for diversity, equality and inclusion. She currently serves as the Director of People & Inclusion at Vimeo and is also an adjunct faculty at NYU Wagner.

In this interview, Katrina shares: What do employers think about when they put together an offer to a candidate? What are some of the best salary benchmarking resources? What should women who want to close their wage gaps do? What sets apart the people who excel at negotiating and leading at work? She shares insider's insights, scripts, and timeless strategies for getting what you want and getting ahead at work.

Follow Katrina on Twitter: @Katrina_HRM

Full Episode Transcript

Jamie:  Hello! Welcome to the eighteenth episode of Born to Thrive with Jamie Lee. I am your host, Jamie Lee. I believe that negotiation skills are leadership skills and that we’re all born to thrive.

And we can thrive when we learn from each other and when we brave that uncomfortable ask. And it’s often about salary, isn’t it?

So, today I have a very special guest. My guest is Katrina Jones, who is an accomplished HR executive and fierce champion for diversity, equality, and inclusion. She currently serves as the Director of People and Inclusion at Vimeo, and she is also an adjunct faculty at NYU Wagner.

She is an expert on pay negotiation because she is the person who puts together these offer packages for candidates that she hires at companies like Vimeo and I thought it would be really great to hear about salary negotiation from the perspective of somebody who works in HR, somebody who is an advocate for diversity, equality, and inclusion.

Both of us being women of color, I think this is going to be a really great conversation. So, I hope that you gain valuable insight and that it helps you get bolder, braver and better paid. Enjoy.

Katrina: Hi, Jamie.

Jamie: Hi, Katrina! How are you?

Katrina: I’m well, how are you?

Jamie: I’m doing excellent. Thanks so much for joining us on this podcast. I’ve not had an HR expert on the podcast to talk about negotiation, so this is really interesting for me, and I think it will be really interesting and helpful for our listeners.

So, would you share some insights as an HR expert on how employers like Vimeo put together a compensation package? I’m really interested in learning about the thought process that goes into putting together an offer.

Katrina: Absolutely! I’m really grateful for the opportunity to join your podcast and to be part of it and have this conversation - an important conversation - about compensation.

For Vimeo, we first set by defining our compensation philosophy, which is something that happens outside of the recruiting process and extending an offer. We aim to be competitive with what the market is paying out across roles, and we know that we’re recruiting against the likes of a Facebook, a Google and other local tech companies in Silicon Alley, so we do need to be competitive.

So, we will conduct market research to know what a particular role pays for or what the median range, what the pay range is for a particular role. So we’ll do that research. We have a budget, of course, that salaries are built into, and so at that point, we’ll get into negotiations as part of an offer, potentially.

And we do make the best offer possible. So, our goal is not to put people into a position where there’s a ton of negotiation, but the goal is to make sure that it’s a really great offer that will close the deal because ultimately when you’ve gotten to the point of offer, we just want to hire you. We really want to bring you on board, and we will work to get to the yes. So, that’s something that’s important to think about.

And of course, as part of our offer - and offers vary - so, offers can include equity, they can include, of course, we have great benefits, our health benefits, as well as other insurance benefits and what we offer, our unlimited vacation, which is a fantastic benefit and really cool company and great company culture as well, with an amazing CEO who’s a woman of color. So, these are all things that - there’s the salary piece, and there are the intangibles as well. I should say salary and overall compensation.

Jamie: Yeah. So, it’s really good to know that from the HR perspective, you really want to get that yes.

Katrina: Yes, absolutely!

Jamie: And also, that you’re not just thinking about the salary component, you’re thinking about making a really compelling offer with the intangibles and the benefits and the culture. So, I guess for people who are getting prepared or thinking about, oh, how do I negotiate an offer, you have to really think about the whole picture.

Katrina: Yeah. Absolutely. And for a lot of companies, tech companies, in particular, depending upon the level of the role, there is often an option for equity, which is incredibly important and I would encourage people to ask for that or negotiate for that. At the minimum, ask whether or not equity is a part of the package, but that can certainly sweeten the deal.

But for anybody who’s going through a recruiting process, know that once you get to the offer, the employer, the organization, the hiring manager on the other side really just wants you to say yes.

Jamie: Yeah. So, in a sense, people do have leverage when they’ve been offered a job.

Katrina: Yes! Yeah, you definitely do have leverage. And I can say this from personal experience, where I’ve been able to negotiate my base salary based on what I brought to the table, what I bring to the table as an HR and diversity and inclusion practitioner, and say “That figure is great, I appreciate the offer,” or “Thank you for the offer. I’m really excited about the opportunity. In terms of base salary, this is what I had in mind based on these reasons why.”

Jamie: Yeah. And I appreciate that, because that’s the same script I offer to people and it almost always starts with that appreciation and enthusiasm, because it might sound like just soft language, but it’s really important to communicate that no, you really are excited, and you do feel enthusiasm for what the company is doing. Otherwise, you don’t really have a reason to be talking.

Katrina: Right. I was just going to say, I am totally, wholeheartedly in agreement with you that that language is important to say thank you and to be enthusiastic about the offer that you’ve been presented with, and then pivot to that next part of the conversation, which is “This is what I was thinking of,” or “This is the number I would like us to get to, that I’m hopeful we can get to.”

Jamie: Right. Speaking of numbers, I’m really fascinated by the research that practitioners like yourself would do to put together an offer, because a lot of my clients, they go to Payscale.com, Salary.com, Glassdoor.com, and depending on what they type into that search box, they might get a completely different number.

You just change the title or change the geographic data, and the range can be really astronomical, and that can lead to confusion as to what is the going market rate. So, what is the level of research that you do when you put together an offer?

Katrina: Yeah, so we are, and most companies have access to research, so there are companies out there, compensation companies and other compensation consulting companies and other talent consulting companies that what they do is they benchmark salary data. So, we have a compendium of annual data that we have access to with salary ranges for certain positions.

And this is fairly common, I would say, across industries. I’ve worked in the law firm industry before, and we similarly had research from a company called Towers Watson that we would access when evaluating compensation. So, there are companies like Towers Watson, other companies out there, that they solicit data from companies, they benchmark and then they turn around and then sell that data to a broad range of companies.

Jamie: Yeah. So, in your opinion, do Glassdoor, Payscale, Salary.com, do they even come close?

Katrina: It’s very mixed. My recommendation is those are great resources at least to access and to get a sense of what the range would be.

I would also encourage people to reach out to recruiters if they have any recruiters that they have personal or professional connections to, and just ask them about what the salary range is and salary ranges are for roles that they’re recruiting for. That can be a great predictor of what’s the range, what should you ask for, and will get you closer to what is the range for a company of x size, versus a company of y size, or in this sector versus another sector.

And I think that’s what makes it difficult to really accurately pull data. What you’re getting from Salary.com or from Payscale can be across a multitude of industries, including, for example, the hospital and health industries, other industries and so that is definitely not an apples to apples comparison.

Jamie: Yeah.

Katrina: Another site that’s really great that I also encourage people to visit is Fairygodboss.com. So, Fairygodboss is designed for women, specifically, that aggregates and publishes reviews and information on company salaries offered to the site, and it’s aggregated by company, so you can actually look for a specific company and start just looking at some of the ranges, and it’s all pulled from real reviews that are out there by women working at these different companies.

Jamie: Thank you for sharing that. I also know that Fairygodboss, they have data on company culture, work-life balance, as well as maternity leave policies. Like, which companies actually have paid maternity leave, etc. Information that’s really helpful for women in particular.

Katrina: Yes. I find it to be helpful, I think, for people in that they have a comprehensive - and some of this actually vetted with the companies directly, so that they have given their permission to publish what they offer across their benefits from maternity or parental leave and beyond, and I find that those are pieces of information that are really hard to get during that process to understand, in addition to salary, because you should think about that as well, what will you be paying for health insurance, for instance, or what kind of leave is offered? If you are asking for one salary, but your health insurance premium is $30,000 annually, that can make a dent into your salary and may or may not change what you negotiate for.

Jamie: Okay. There’s a lot to think about. It’s always good to know that these are specific things you can look out for and that there are great resources available. So what advice do you have for women who want to close their wage gaps?

Katrina: So, that’s a great question, and the advice that I would give to women is to ask for more, to always ask for more. When you are negotiating a salary for an initial offer, always ask for more money. The worst that the organization will do is hold firm and say no, but chances are it may be that you’re able to negotiate for more money, it could be for more benefits, it could be for increased equity. Everything is on the table when you’re at that final offer.

Jamie: Because they want your yes!

Katrina: Yeah. They want your yes. They want to close the deal. By the time you’ve gotten to final offer stage, they are just waiting to send you that welcome packet and they are eager to welcome you into the company. So, you do have real leverage there.

I would also encourage women to ask for and to meet with their managers to meet at least a couple of times a year to talk about their career path and talk about what opportunities are out there for them. So, internally, just being very intentional about how you grow your career within a company, looking for those other opportunities. If you’ve had a really great quarter or a great couple of quarters, asking for perhaps a spot bonus, and I think what comes with that is also doing some research to understand what compensation opportunities are out there, and what does the company offer.

Do they provide spot bonuses? Are bonuses purely on a year-end basis or part of the review process? But you never know until you ask, and once the ask is out there, again, the worst thing that they can do is say no. But, what they might do, and what often happens is they come back with at least a timeline of when you could have your salary reviewed for an increase or really advocate for yourself for that year-end bonus.

Jamie: I love that you’re tying in the fact that you have to be strategic about the development of your career. It’s not just about money, but what kind of assignments are you asking for, and then from there, once you have contributed value, then you have an even better case for the money that you want.

Katrina: Absolutely. That is incredibly important, that you are able to - I always encourage people to be specific and to share some data about what have you done. Have you increased market value? Have you increased page views or site clicks or whatever you’re working on? Have you decreased a budget or filled a budget gap? Being able to translate that into, this is what I’ve saved the company in terms of money that I’ve saved the company or this is how I have increased the company’s value.

Jamie: Right, right. That’s something that I discussed in this earlier webinar I gave about how it’s really important to quantify your value. Yes, you are valuable and you need to be able to express it in quantified terms, right? The x percentage in increase in revenue, number of clients served, customer satisfaction rating went up, that’s quantifiable.  So, thank you for reminding us of that very important career strategy.

Katrina: Absolutely. And if I can just share one more piece of advice, I know there are some people who are kind of journeywomen and who will move around to different companies, different organizations, and some people who might stay in one spot and they have tremendous career opportunities and great visibility and great relationships and lots of other things that make them stay on with a company for quite some time, and that is great.

And I would also encourage you to even write out, periodically, for what else is out there in the market (in relation to your position). That can also be a great way to benchmark against the desired skills in the market. Also, if you can find out information that way about salary or other benefits that are being offered so you can continue to remain competitive in your career as a professional and of course from a compensation standpoint. You have access to that information.

Jamie: Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. So, I’m curious to know, since I imagine you do deal with a lot of salary negotiation, do you see a pattern between people who are vocal, people who are proactive about asking for more money, more hot jobs, great opportunities and those who actually lead?

Katrina: That’s such a great question! I can’t generalize, but I do see some people forcefully advocating for themselves and really holding firm, and I don’t know that it’s explicitly split by gender, say, that men advocate more forcefully for themselves versus women, or personality type, but where I find that people are successful is people that really understand the business, understand how the business makes their money and can speak to that, understand the value that they bring to the organization and can tie all of those things together.

Jamie: Oh, wow, that’s a really good point. You really need to understand how the business operates, how the business makes money, and what is the impact of your work on the operations.

Katrina: Yeah, how does your work contribute to that?

Jamie: Yeah, tie it all together so you can paint the full picture. Okay, thank you, yeah, that’s a really good one. And so do you see that those who can see the full picture of how the business operates and how their contribution impacts the business, do you see that those people tend to be leaders?

Katrina: I do. Because they have a holistic view of the business versus just looking at their part, and I think what is challenging sometimes is we get very heads down and can be siloed in these roles, but to look up and to understand what products do we produce, or what services, or who are our huge clients, how long have they been clients?

But really just understanding more deeply about the business, and that is something I think is something that everybody should do, and I have seen incredibly brilliant women who are business-minded and think about organizational health in that way and think about the business in that way, and then think about their careers in that way in terms of let me think about where I sit in this big picture.

Jamie: Nice, nice. So, one more question for you. As you know, my podcast is called Born to Thrive because I believe we are all born to thrive, no matter our gender, creed, sexual orientation. What does the word thrive mean to you?

Katrina: You know, it’s so funny that you ask. So, thrive is one of my absolute favorite words, and I’m always positioning things in terms of how can we thrive? How can we help, especially as an HR practitioner and diversity practitioner, how can I help people thrive? And it has so many meanings for me. For me, it means just traveling along joyously on that journey of life. That there are peaks and there are valleys, and it’s how do I maintain during those moments where I’ve hit a valley. How do I persist through?

Because the journey is a mix of overwhelming, incredibly joyous moments and it’s a mix of moments of sadness and tough times, right? But it is about how do you get through? So, when I think about thrive and what that word means to me, I think about grit and resiliency and how you push through til you get to the next mountaintop. The next high peak.

Jamie: Love it. Where can people learn more about you and what you do?

Katrina: So, I have a Twitter account and I’m incredibly active on Twitter. I share lots of news within the HR and diversity and inclusion discipline, and also speak about a lot of the current stuff that’s happening across businesses. So, you can find me on Twitter, my hashtag is @Katrina_HRM and then of course on LinkedIn. You can find me on LinkedIn and click my profile and definitely connect with me on LinkedIn. I love connecting with new people and follow me on Twitter as well and you can read all of my musings on a variety of things.

Jamie: That’s how we met! I met you on Twitter and then we connected on LinkedIn.

Katrina: Yes! Yeah, social media, that’s a whole other conversation, but I am a huge proponent of social media and the value of connecting virtually and what those connections can bring. It really does expand your network tremendously, and I’ve been able to connect with so many amazing people including yourself, and so many other people and I learn so much, so it’s just fantastic.

Jamie: Thank you. So, Katrina, what I’m taking away from this conversation is that when somebody gets an offer from a great company like Vimeo, they really do have leverage, because they want your yes, and you don’t have to be afraid to ask for more, of course, within reason, right?

Another thing is that it really helps to be able to see the full picture. That was a really good takeaway for me. So, thank you so much, Katrina for your valuable time, for sharing your great insights from within the trenches and I’ll be sure to let everyone know where they can find you on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Katrina: Okay, awesome! Thank you. And thank you again for having me. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the podcast and look forward to connecting with your audience.

Jamie: Awesome. Have a great day, Katrina! Thank you.

Katrina: You too.


Three Scripts for Sidestepping Illegal Salary Question

Three Scripts for Sidestepping Illegal Salary Question

Why We Need to Talk About the "F" Word in Negotiation

Why We Need to Talk About the "F" Word in Negotiation