Databricks’ cost-benefit analysis dashboard for global comp expansion with Devin Engelsen

April 3, 2024
Min Read
Databricks’ cost-benefit analysis dashboard for global comp expansion with Devin Engelsen

Discover insider insights on navigating global compensation strategies in our latest webinar hosted by Charlie Franklin and featuring Devin Engelsen, a leading figure in total rewards and people analytics at Databricks. Devin shares practical tips on leveraging data for informed decision-making amidst rapid expansion. Explore key topics like creating cost-benefit analysis dashboards and aligning global expansion with corporate strategy. Don't miss out on expert advice from industry leaders driving success in today's competitive landscape.

Key topics

In our latest webinar, Charlie Franklin hosted Devin Engelsen, Head of Total Rewards and People Analytics at Databricks.

With an impressive professional background, Devin is able to offer a rare glimpse into the world of global compensation through the lens of a rapidly growing tech company. 

The webinar covered many important topics and raised insightful questions addressing more than just how Databricks created a cost-benefit analysis dashboard to influence their global comp plans and strategies. 

Key topics

  • Navigating global compensation strategies during an expansion
  • Bridging the gap between achieving operational efficiency and attracting top talent
  • Developing a cost-benefit analysis dashboard to inform global comp strategies
  • Empowering comp teams to influence strategic decisions about entering new markets
  • Aligning global expansion with corporate strategy, operational efficiencies, and cost of employment

Defining efficiency

At the very beginning of the webinar, Devin raised the question of what ‘efficiency’ means for a company looking to expand: 

“Is it the efficiency of cost? Or is it the efficiency of getting the right talent?”

When Devin came to Databricks, the company had about 400 employees, located in less than a dozen countries. Today, there are almost 7,000 employees, located in 21 countries across the globe. 

To make this rapid growth more streamlined and “intentional” Devin and her team relied (and still rely) heavily on data. Balancing between the demands of different internal stakeholders is not an easy task, said Devin:

“When we put assumptions in our financial model to make sure we're singing from the same song sheet, you realize there are different things we are trying to solve. It led us to think about how we should create a platform in which we all are relying on the same assumptions.” 

Balancing between costs and benefits

“Does the cost of talent match the impact we’re expecting to get?”, Devin continued:

“From a technical support perspective, how do we ensure we have a global coverage? And then, what is the actual cost of having people in different time zones? Are there certain roles we could nearshore?”, she continued listing the internal dilemmas her team was tasked to answer. 

The conversation naturally shifted to how some talent expect certain perks, while some are only interested in other benefits. Devin explained that it’s important to zero in on the things that really matter to the company. 

“So many cooks in the kitchen”

Charlie then discussed how there are so many factors to consider when creating a comp location strategy:

“There are so many cooks in the kitchen. You have the legal folks setting entities and thinking about work councils and you have the benefits folks looking to localize everything”, Charlie started before continuing:

“Then there is talent availability and intelligence on the recruiting side. There is also the compensation factor, how much to pay people when entering a brand new market.” 

Charlie's comments on comp strategy's role in market entry decisions prompted Devin to emphasize the importance of having accurate data.

Making assumptions locally-relevant 

“If we believe that there is a lot of talent in some market, we can trust the market data more”, Devin said before mentioning how wise it can be to find a reliable partner who is an expert in analyzing the local market conditions. 

Charlie agreed and broadened the discussion talking about how the company should strive to understand who is it competing with for talent in certain countries:

“Are you competing with local companies - or with your peers who are a couple of blocks away from you in San Francisco?”

The conversation gradually shifted to how Databricks rapidly expanded, and the role of costs when considering different countries in which to establish new teams and find new experts. 

Helping leaders make intentional decisions

This challenge was the main driver that led to the development of a scalable cost-benefit analysis dashboard. 

Devin explained how there were many different factors and angles Databricks’ leaders had to consider when making decisions, stressing that these decisions should be sustainable over time. 

“I understand we have certain assumptions about one country - but do they apply somewhere else? And how does it all fit with the broader angle of building an organization?”, Charlie said. 

“Let’s make sure we are solving for a broad scope, looking at all the data about the questions we are trying to answer. Let’s make sure that we are set up for success”, she added. 

Charlie and Devin then shared a couple of screenshots of Databricks’ cost-benefit analysis dashboard, highlighting some of the main features.

While explaining the different capabilities of the dashboard, Devin talked about how it’s crucial to feed it with accurate and fresh data.

“If we don't have a ton of market data, how does that start to influence our numbers and trajectories? There can be some broad assumptions with how we build ranges”, she said before adding that the lack of data hurts the ability of the finance team to generate their own modeling. 

To explore a myriad of other topics that Charlie and Devin explored during the webinar, watch the full recording here.  

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