Ideas to help nonprofits change workplace dynamics

When I contacted Bricolage Production Company about being featured for the next Uniquely Pittsburgh, I just knew the company by reputation. I was expecting to only talk about its immersive theater, so it was fascinating to learn that the six staff members have a flat pay scale.

My first reaction was to dig my capitalist heels in, as this sounded a little too socialist for me. However, I have to admit it might be worthwhile for more nonprofits to consider this.

General Manager Jackie Baker says that she cannot say her role is any more important than the other five people she works with. Their budget is the same as it was before, just redistributed so that the top position(s) doesn’t gobble up a chunk of the total wages.

A level playing field — something a lot of companies talk about, more than they actually implement — helps cut down competition between staff members and office politics.

You certainly would need the right hires: people who go above and beyond without the goal of a promotion. However, this fits with research I’ve read that says most people aren’t actually motivated all that much by money.

When I asked Baker if she thought this would work in a larger office environment, she admitted that she’s not sure. I’m not sure, either.

She said that the only drawback, if there is one, is that with equal raises every year, you have to budget for it in advance.

Bricolage also shuts its office down for certain weeks of the year to help keep the employees fresh, along with providing additional vacation. Again, nonprofits typically have overworked employees but cannot provide large corporate-size salaries. This is another perk that might be interesting to explore. I can certainly see the advantages when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.

A note about the feature on Jeannette Specialty Glass that didn’t make it into the story: President and CEO Kathleen Sarniak-Tanzola has a book she thinks everyone should read — her employees are passing it around now — “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm” by Verne Harnish.

“Every company should live by that, in some way, shape or form,” she says.