No More Ass-Kissing: An Alternative Salary Model

Bram van der Lecq
Written by Bram van der Lecq April 15, 2020

No more ass-kissing for a pay raise! When we asked fellow rebels what they wanted to know about Haier, the number one request was: “How do they do salary?” Or, maybe you’ve never heard of Haier, and you are just sick and tired of kissing your manager’s ass for more money? Either way, read this blog and learn about Haier's Customer Paid Salary System.

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First things first: What’s salary?

Sometimes we forget why salaries exist. In their simplest form, salaries exist to motivate people to do things they wouldn’t normally do for free. Whether those people are soldiers paid so they could buy salt , or Paper Pushers in a big corporate, doesn't really matter.

Today, organizations commonly use a ‘position-based’ or a ‘competency-based’ salary system. In the position-based system, the salary reflects the value attached to a position in the company. In the competency-based system, salary reflects how highly the skills or experience of a person are valued.

In both, the person who decides on how that value is translated to salary is mostly in top management, HR, or finance. These are the people who set your salary.

The Customer Paid Salary

Haier has adopted an alternative. Salary is based on how much customer value an entrepreneur creates, irrespective of position or experience. The more value you add for the customer, the bigger your reward will be.

Customer value is highly subjective. A glass of water is very valuable out in the desert, and less valuable when you’re near a well. Haier reasons that customers are willing to buy or spend more if a product adds more value for them. By rewarding its entrepreneurs for creating more customer value, Haier attempts to make all parties benefit.

The good thing about this is it moves decision-making about salaries from top-management to the customer. This reduces politics, nepotism and the kissing of managers’ asses. Compare that with traditional organizations.

At Haier, customers, indirectly, decide the salary a Haier entrepreneur gets. It doesn't matter if those customers are inside or outside of Haier's boundaries.

No More Ass-Kissing: Check Out This Alternative Salary Model
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How it works

All Haier staff receive a basic income, as required by law. So even if a Haier entrepreneur fails to find customers, he/she still receives a (minimum) income. This amount is low and isn’t their main source of money. There is a dynamic aspect to their salary as well.

Any entrepreneur can see and “bid” on work targets. Those targets, created by other Micro Enterprises in Haier, describe what job/product/task they wish to outsource.

These targets are clearly described. Background and market information is provided. How ‘value for the customer’ is measured is set out. And there’s a statement of what needs to be achieved. Plus, potential rewards for different levels of performance are specified. Each entrepreneur can apply for the target and, if accepted, become responsible for it.

The targets are always directly linked to how much user value is created. So, targets are not like: “Produce 1,000 washing machines and receive a fixed price/item.” They are more like: “Help us produce and sell 1,000 washing machines, and earn a part of the profit”. Entrepreneurs are bidding for potential rewards, not a fixed salary.

Different levels of performance

It cannot be stressed enough that Haier is dynamic, big and culturally diverse. You’d struggle to find ten Micro-Enterprises that use exactly the same method for creating performance levels and the related rewards.

However, from our research, we know that, mostly, the different levels come from comparisons with market data. They take averages as a base, and adjust for what Haier calls ‘Added Value’, to define the levels and thresholds of performance. Added value is ‘what is created above market average’. If the market average is 1,000 and you create 1,100, the Added Value is 100.

Added value is where things get interesting for entrepreneurs, it’s where they start to earn big bucks. In the image below you can see how that works. Each row shows a different level of performance.

In the 'Performance' column, a full gear wheel stands for 'market average production', if it's more than one gear wheel it means that the entrepreneur performed above market average. In the 'Reward' columna full coin stands for 'market average salary'. The coin in the 'Added Value Sharing' shows how much added value was created, and how much profit, in red, the entrepreneurs receive over the created added value.

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For example, row three shows that if an entrepreneur produces 25% above market average, they'll receive a market average salary and 10% of the profits over the 25% they produced extra.

Profit sharing

If an entrepreneur performs well consistently, they can also share in the total value created by the Ecosystem they are part of. (Find out more about Haier’s Ecosystems here!)

Finding the right balance

In practice, rewards differ for each target. This allows an entrepreneur to find a target that fits their skills, and a reward that fits their needs. And they decide if their needs are for higher base income and lower profit sharing, or lower base income and high profit sharing. It is up to the entrepreneur.

In our interviews we asked entrepreneurs if they felt working at Haier gave them more stress than working elsewhere. Some said yes, some said no. But none seemed to mind. For me this was hard to understand. Before visiting Qingdao, I shared the concerns of some readers that salaries based on performance and market-driven contracting could create “the worst of competitive capitalism”.

But the more I probed, the more I was reassured. I asked: “What do you like about Haier? And why do you still work here?” The common answer? “Because it’s fair and I am rewarded based on my capabilities”.

Don’t reward entrepreneurs as employees

Haier’s customer-paid salary system seems is an important part of its entrepreneurial culture. Haier isn’t giving employees a job: they are giving them a chance to be entrepreneurs. To encourage that behavior Haier doesn’t force employees to attend courses, workshops or whatever. They simply ensure that entrepreneurs are rewarded well when they do well.

In a country where being an entrepreneur is really hard, they’ve given many, young & old, men & women, the chance to be entrepreneurs. All have influence on the targets they work on. Each can decide if the reward is worth the effort; or if they’ll look elsewhere.

No need for ass-kissing to get a pay raise here!

Interested in learning more from Haier? Join us on the 29th of April during this free webinar all about Haier. Check out more in this link.

FYI; This blog is part of a series and is the result of a research collaboration between Haier & Corporate Rebels. Want to know more?

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Written by Bram van der Lecq
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