At Whole Foods, paychecks are public

At Whole Foods Market (WFM), worker salaries are not private. Anyone can look up anyone else's pay, from the newest store hire to the top executives.

It's part of an unusual philosophy by management. If you throw everything out in the open, the thinking goes, it empowers employees and motivates them to do more. At least that's the way co-CEO John Mackey sees it.

The policy has been public for years, but was in the spotlight this week after being mentioned in a new book on innovative management practices called "The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers."

But Whole Foods' practice doesn't mean everything is egalitarian. Some workers are still paid more than others. And some workers feel that's unfair. Just like any company, really, but at Whole Foods everyone talks about it a whole lot more.

"I'm challenged on salaries all the time," Mackey said in the book, as reported by Business Insider. "How come you are paying this regional president this much, and I'm only making this much?' I have to say, 'because that person is more valuable. If you accomplish what this person has accomplished, I'll pay you that, too.'"

Opinions regarding this approach, at least across the Internet, are mixed. "Totally abhorrent policy,'" wrote one commenter on Business Insider. "I'm sorry, but the idea of transparency has gone a little too far," wrote another commenter. "I don't think knowing everyone's salaries makes for a rosier culture or happier employees."

But people were cheering Mackey on Twitter. "Wish this management practice that Whole Foods has about salary was actually law," wrote one user. "Sharing salary info is beneficial to productivity and growth," wrote another.

It helps that Whole Foods' employees are better paid than the average grocery worker. The chain's average hourly wage was $18.89 in 2013, and the average annual wage was $39,289. All full-time and part-time workers can get stock options after they have worked for the equivalent of three full-time years.

How much does Mackey, who co-founded Whole Foods, make? Just $1 in annual salary. And he doesn't get any bonuses, stock awards or option awards, either.

"I have reached a place in my life where I no longer want to work for money," he wrote in a letter to employees in 2007. "The tremendous success of Whole Foods Market has provide me with far more money than I ever dreamed I'd have and far more than is necessary for either my financial security or personal happiness."

Other executives have no problem taking home a paycheck. Co-chief executive Water Robb made $3.2 million last year in total compensation. Nearly the same amount was earned by president and chief operating officer A.C. Gallo.

  • Kim Peterson

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