Atlassian is now a distributed workforce. In 2020, with the announcement of TEAM Anywhere, we committed to a new way of working: the majority of our team members – many of whom were office-based before the pandemic – can now choose to work from anywhere.
While TEAM Anywhere is a great opportunity for employees and the right decision for Atlassian, it took some time to make it a reality. We chose to initially focus on one of the most important factors for employees who are considering a move: compensation. Our philosophy was that pay would be determined by the location in which employees work, but it wasn’t easy for most employees to find out the potential compensation impact of moving from one location to another. Relocation discussions, even before the pandemic, required anywhere from 30 minutes to hours of time from the employee, their manager, and HR to explore individual cases one by one. As the pandemic progressed, we learned that hundreds of employees were considering a move, and we knew immediately that the “old way” wouldn’t scale.
So Atlassian IT, together with its HR, Legal, Finance, and Tax teams, launched a compensation estimator, an employee self-service tool that calculates an individual employee’s estimated compensation based on differences between their current and intended locations. From the landing page, the estimator pulls in employees’ current information from a database, then prompts them to choose the location they are considering moving to – and the tool does the rest. It quickly shows the employee’s current compensation and their new estimated compensation if they pursued the move.
We built the estimator using Jira, Jira Service Management, Workato, and Workday, and have continued enhancing its capabilities over time. More than a year later, it has far surpassed our original vision, evolving into a one-stop, automated relocation approval system, which saves valuable employee time and money. This tool has revealed some fascinating insights for management and employees alike.
Why do we need a compensation estimator?
In the brave new world of TEAM Anywhere, Atlassians would be more mobile than ever before, and we expected a flood of inquiries around relocation, according to Ashlee Aurandt, Atlassian’s TEAM Anywhere program manager. “Compensation plays an important part in a person’s decision as to whether they should move. An immediate priority was to update our compensation strategy and then make those policies available to everyone. To do that, we wanted a self-service tool that would make it easy to get accurate, individualized, and transparent data so employees could make actionable decisions.”
Our first iteration was a surprisingly rapid build. Two team members from IT’s People Tech team – Paul Biagio, Senior Manager, and Rohit Karthikeyan, Business Systems Analyst – used Jira Service Management to build the solution, and in only a few hours they developed a proof of concept that was ready to demo to the rest of the team. Not only was this an example of the Compensation Estimator in action, but it also amplified the versatility of Jira Service Management for business teams like HR.
“We met to discuss it on a Monday, and by Wednesday they were walking me through the demo!” Ashlee says.
Low-code solutions deliver value quickly
We credit the speed of development to the effectiveness and usability of the products we chose, which enabled Paul and Rohit to deliver some excellent results even though they’re not developers. The solution uses Jira Service Management for the front end, Workday for the data source, and Workato for the integration layer. As a result, it’s low- to no-code.
Jira Service Management’s front end allows users to customize the ticketing interface with different fields and make them dynamic with additional extensions and plugins, Rohit explains. It also ensures that any secure information on these tickets stays private. Thus, we were able to quickly and easily leverage Jira’s features without having to completely custom-build our own front end, and we didn’t need additional engineers to develop one. This allowed us to focus on the data and the integration touchpoints.
Workato, an integration platform we began using last year, has native connectors between a lot of existing business systems, so it’s our middle-integration layer. It allowed us to pull in data from Workday, our primary HR information system, about employees, locations, and policies.
How we improved the tool before going live
Having aced the first iteration in a matter of days, we started thinking about how we could create a richer user experience and add features like approvals and integration with Workday. It could be more than an estimator, we realized – it could be the first step in getting a relocation approved.
“We took the early design, which was strictly just an estimator, and morphed it into a tool that also facilitates the relocation process, which then gets approved and handled in Workday,” says Ashlee. “End-to-end, one of the things that we were really striving for was very little intervention on approvals by managers and senior leaders in cases where their input was non-essential.” The tool also directs employees to compensation-related resources that help aid their understanding of any changes they need to consider regarding other benefits or taxes.
In this final iteration, we achieved some major efficiencies: an employee can use the tool to see their estimated changes, agree to move, and complete the HR relocation process in under an hour, with no approvals required in many circumstances. About 30 percent of relocations fell into this category – primarily domestic moves.
“In many cases, we can sail through Atlassian’s relocation-approval process and actually make the physical move with zero intervention whatsoever,” Ashlee says. “We’re really empowering the employee to do what’s best for them and their families with as little friction as possible.”
Employee reaction to the compensation estimator
We launched the compensation estimator on Atlassian’s internal network, supported by a coordinated awareness and information campaign. In the first month alone the tool fielded 3,652 requests – 1,661 of those (about a third of the total Atlassian workforce at the time) were unique users. Some people were seriously considering moving, some were just curious, and some were exploring the world through the lens of this informative and easy-to-use tool. Regardless of user intent, the data is valuable, because it helps us understand where people are interested in moving to or from.
Atlassian employees are now able to get real, actionable compensation data for evaluating potential relocation. And if they choose to move forward with relocation, they might be able to complete the HR process in less than an hour.
The business value of compensation estimator data
The compensation estimator has already proven to be highly valuable for Atlassian leadership as well. Foremost, it generates anonymized data that helps Atlassian understand employee relocation trends – actual and hypothetical. How are people dispersing away from our hubs, and where are they looking to go? We can use that information to make key business decisions about how we’re supporting our employees. As a result, the IT team is currently working on dashboards that give us accurate insights to inform these kinds of decisions.
Interestingly, initial data showed New Zealand as the number one location employees were interested in. As such, it was the first location we unlocked. Since then, we’ve seen that Spain and Vietnam are the top two locations (outside of our current company footprint) people are requesting. Even though these moves might not be possible yet – a lot of very necessary work is required to enable employees to work in any given country – it shows us where there is interest and helps us prioritize new locations to bring online.
Without this sort of automation and technology, we would have relied on employee surveys to garner the same sort of feedback. “We don’t want to cause ‘death by surveys,’” says Uma Raghavan, Head of People Tech IT. “If we were to do this in a very traditional way, we would use surveys to collect data. Then we would need to get analytics from them, and correlate the impacts, but only after spending several hours on the task. In that regard, the compensation estimator is light years ahead, and getting better all the time.”
Like any automation, the estimator leads to significant time and cost savings. The most tangible example, in this case, comes from calculating the aggregate time savings for processing each request received. Uma says, “The time savings amounts to the equivalent of 1.5 FTE when you consider the effort it takes to manually reconcile and review requests that range from the most basic, at about 15 minutes each, to the more complicated ones, which could take an hour or more.”
One of our best outcomes from this estimator project is measured in performance. Uma notes that “IT, HR, and all of the TEAM Anywhere stakeholders did an outstanding job collaborating together as an agile and iterative team. Because we’re so agile, we were able to fast track this whole implementation in very short order.”
The compensation estimator is helping us jump into the future of work as a distributed company, supporting and servicing our employees globally, saving time and money, generating information and data, and proving the speed and value of having a tool like Jira Service Management to make it a reality.