Equity and Workplace Fairness: The case for transparency

Syndio & Fast Company, October 27, 2021

Syndio, in partnership with Fast Company, recently conducted a survey to better understand how managers and their employees think and feel about fairness, transparency, and opportunity in the workplace. While a growing number of companies are prioritizing pay equity analysis and action, even the most well-intentioned organizations don’t always know the right next step.

This study indicates that, in a talent market where unhappy employees will leave, it’s not only what companies do to eliminate disparities that impacts employee satisfaction—it’s how their companies talk about equity.

The results indicate a notable relationship between transparency and perceived fairness. At highly transparent companies, 87 percent of directors, managers, and individual contributors said they feel they are treated fairly at work — just below their managers’ belief that they treat said employees fairly (95 percent). At companies with low levels of transparency, however, only 54 percent of employees feel they’re treated fairly, while 96 percent of their managers believe they treat said employees fairly.

Companies prioritizing equity need to talk about their efforts in order to gain the full benefit of a highly engaged, equitable workforce.

Q1. I treat my employees fairly at work (managers only)

White managers are most confident they are treating their employees fairly

Race

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Overall 67% 26% 5% 1% 1%
White 74% 21% 3% 1% 1%
Non-white 57% 33% 7% 2% 1%

Leaders of smaller teams feel more confident they treat employees fairly

Team Size

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Overall 67% 26% 5% 1% 1%
Leaders of
Less than 15
76% 20% 3% 0% 1%
Leaders of 100+ 38% 40% 13% 7% 2%

Younger leaders are much less confident that they treat their employees fairly compared to their older colleagues 

Age

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Overall 67% 26% 5% 1% 1%
18-29 51% 38% 7% 3% 1%
60+ 86% 12% 0% 0% 2%

Q2.  I am treated fairly at work

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Overall 32% 41% 17% 7% 3%
Smaller Companies
(<100)
42% 34% 17% 5% 2%
Larger Companies
(>5000)
28% 46% 16% 6% 4%

Q3. I trust my manager to make decisions in my best interest

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
28% 39% 20% 9% 4%

Results also indicate particularly low confidence in leaders at companies requiring employees return to offices post-COVID (21% strongly agree)

Q4. I trust my company's leaders to make decisions in the best interest of employees

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
23% 35% 22% 14% 5%

Results also indicate higher levels of trust at smaller companies (32% strongly agree), compared to larger companies (18% strongly agree). Companies requiring return to office post-COVID saw lowest levels of trust (18% strongly agree, 27% strongly disagree/disagree).

Q5. My company's leaders demonstrate their commitment to DEI

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Leaders of 100
people or more
20% 32% 30% 11% 8%
Leaders of less
than 15 people
38% 36% 17% 6% 3%

Q6.  I feel a sense of belonging at my company

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
Overall 28% 38% 21% 9% 3%
Leaders of 100+ 24% 32% 32% 8% 4%

Sense of belonging ranked lowest among those required to return to office post-COVID. Results also indicated managers and leaders are more likely to feel a sense of belonging than individual contributors.

Q7. Everyone in my company, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, etc. has fair access to career opportunities

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
33% 38% 18% 7% 4%

Q8. As a result of COVID, career opportunities for people who work at my company have…

Greatly Improved Somewhat Improved Neutral Declined Greatly Declined
11% 20% 56% 11% 2%

Nonwhite folks generally responded more positively: 42% say things have improved somewhat/greatly compared to 25% of white respondents. Employees with lower household incomes also responded more positively: 43% say things have improved somewhat/greatly, compared to 31% overall and 30% of those making more than $200k annually.

Flexible return-to-office plans were associated with the most optimistic assessment: 46% of those with a choice of work location reported increased opportunity, vs. 36% of those remote, and 23% of those who must return to an office.

Q9. My company has a clear sense of direction after COVID

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
20% 36% 30% 9% 4%

Those required to return to office post-COVID were least likely to agree or strongly agree (50% compared to 62% of remote employees and 68% of flexible return employees).

Q10. People in this company are paid fairly for the job they do regardless of how they identify

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
30% 37% 19% 10% 4%

Q11. My company communicates openly about how compensation decisions are made

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
19% 28% 27% 17% 8%

White workers were more likely to disagree with this statement, 29% disagree/strongly disagree vs. 19% of nonwhite folks. Results also indicate that Individual contributors were more likely to disagree/strongly disagree with this statement than leaders, 28% of ICs disagree, vs. 23% of managers and 22% of leaders.

Q12. It is very important to me that the company I work for is committed to pay equity

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
37% 41% 17% 3% 2%

Company commitment to pay equity was more important among women (42% strongly agree) than men (33% strongly agree).

Q13. It is very important to me that the company I work for is committed to pay equity

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
39% 42% 14% 3% 2%

Promotion equity was also more important to women (43% strongly agree) than men (34% strongly agree). For managers, promotion equity was more important the smaller the team (84% of leaders of <15 agree/strongly agree vs. 66% of leaders of >100). Results indicated the importance of promotion equity to workers at all levels. 

Q14. I would recommend my company as a great place to work

Strongly Agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Disagree
27% 36% 24% 8% 5%
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