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  • Writer's pictureNiv Lobo Gajiwala

VP People - Salary Snapshot

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Let’s talk about money!

As a recruitment partner to Canadian tech companies, we’ve talked to hundreds of start-ups and scale-up leaders about their experiences, their aspirations, their motivations … and their compensation packages.

We're often asked, “What do you see as the market rate for this role?”. And since we know the answers - we thought we’d share our insights with you!

This is valuable (and often unavailable) information that can help your budgeting and can help you create a competitive compensation model. And if you’re on the hunt for your next challenge we hope you’ll find this useful in the negotiation process. (Take a look at our recent VP Customer Success Salary snapshot)

We’ve completed several incredible People leadership searches recently, so we thought we’d dive into a Head of People Salary Snapshot. Through hundreds of conversations, we learned both about salaries and about how the scope of HR leadership roles vary among tech companies. The top HR role with companies was not always a VP or C-level role, and the scope of responsibilities also varied from highly tactical to very strategic. Below are snapshots for the 2 groupings of HR leaders that emerged from the data, along with some very interesting insights.

While we’ve broadly defined this role as a Head of People, the companies we’ve partnered with have typically been high growth SaaS startups at different stages of scale. With that in mind, they often had a different set of criteria for bringing a leader on board with either a ground up builder mindset or strategic scaling experience.

We’d like to break our candidate pool down further into two key subsets based on the company requirements and skill level.

What are you looking at?

This data represents volunteered current compensation summaries from Director-VP People in SaaS start-up or scale-up software companies in Toronto. Each individual has between 1 - 20 direct reports. We’ve divided the responsibilities into two main camps in line with the two roles:

HR as Execution and Service Focused

One group of companies defined the role as very operational and process-focused, with a small team at most - with experience that would equate to a Director - where responsibility was for defining the tactical approach and owning execution, but not driving high-level strategy.

HR as Execution and Service Focused

  • Manage, coach and scale a team of HR, Culture and Recruitment specialists

  • Build an employer brand and a compelling growth story for talent attraction and retention

  • Focus on talent acquisition (sourcing, referral program) typically with a quota in mind

  • Introduce tools and processes to scale sustainably, drive engagement and create a positive candidate/employee experience

  • Implement talent acquisition, employee engagement, learning and development initiatives as mandated from the top

  • Run foundational programs such as compensation, benefits, and HRIS

HR as a Strategic Leader

The other group falls under a high-level VP/C-level HR where there was often a larger team and more responsibility for working alongside the C-level leaders to define strategy, then owning execution, but typically owning a team that would include managers.

HR as a Strategic Leader

  • Be a consultant to leaders & managers on people practises and programs to support long term strategy growth - through data driven decision making, performance metrics and business initiatives

  • Be a trusted strategic partner and advisor to the CEO/founding team

  • Champion and evolve culture and tie it back to the company’s mission, value and objectives.

  • Develop programs that drive: talent acquisition, diversity inclusion and belonging, employee engagement, learning and development, employee relations

  • Develop and implement a cohesive rewards and recognition and upskilling strategy

  • Manage all HR budgets for recruiting, HR, culture & L&D initiatives

Deeper Insights

  • For the Director of People total cash compensation plans ranged from $130-200K with a median of 150K.

  • Majority fall in the $130-150K bracket - 20% of the total candidates we interviewed

  • 12.5% of the total candidates make up the $171-190K range

  • 78% of the $190-210K range are at about $200K all in - 25% of the total candidates we interviewed

For the VP People/CPO total cash compensation plans ranged from $180-337K with a median of 225K. 10% of the candidates fall in the $220-240 category. Only a small percent crossed the $300K threshold.

The Bonus Question:

Of our candidate sample, 60% have a plan that is a combination of base salary and bonus (with the average variable pay of 18.6% of base and a range of 10-40%).

In the Director category the bonus ranged from a low of 10% to a high of 40% and in the VP category from 11.1% to 35% and an average of 18.4%.

For individuals who are earning a bonus, this was typically a mix of personal performance objectives + overall business results. For organizations that are highly metrics oriented, measuring the results of a People leader was more straightforward.

What about Start-ups and Equity?

Individuals who are part of earlier stage companies tend to be on the lower end of the range but receive a larger share of equity to compensate for a lower base salary. This is typical for all roles, not just People. Leveraging equity as a key component of compensation not only enables companies to conserve cash but also ensures that your team is aligned around success. The downside of highly leveraged compensation plans is the exclusion of great candidates who have financial commitments that preclude them from roles with lower than market salaries.


Our snapshots are not typical salary surveys - as they represent only the data we’ve collected from a handful of recent searches. We think it’s pretty useful though, as it represents current information from a sample of individuals who we’ve carefully selected as having credible and validated experience, with successful local companies.

What’s behind the data?

Each Salary Snapshot represents between 40 – 60 sources.

Each source is an individual who we deemed a promising candidate for a role within a high growth tech company. Most are gainfully employed and many were recommended as exceptionally talented. As a result, our salary numbers might be skewed towards the top of the range.

We elected not to show compensation figures related to equity or options. Though this was a significant aspect of the comp package for many execs, it’s often tough to put an annual $ value on equity.

Specific details that would identify an individual or their employer will not be shared for obvious reasons.


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