University of California, Irvine Uses Syndio to Embed Pay Equity, Increase Transparency, and Build Trust
Ranked among the nation's top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is dedicated to the goal of reflecting diversity in their faculty, staff, and student populations. UCI also has a reputation as a forward-thinking institution at the forefront of technology. This commitment to both diversity and innovation was the bedrock of a successful pay equity journey.
In 2019, with the help of a consultant, UCI was able to conclude a pilot study in fair pay for one of its largest divisions. After the pilot study, the Vice Chancellor and Chief Human Resources Officer, Ramona Agrela, wanted to expand the organization's approach. The Senior Director of Total Rewards, Dawn McKinley, hired Summer Houssainy as a dedicated fair pay specialist to ensure fair compensation across the entire organization. Her goal was to make pay equity a more comprehensive, consistent, and foundational part of UCI's total rewards strategy - and she's delivering.
Our CHRO realized that pay equity might be the missing piece of Total Rewards and wanted to establish a more holistic pay equity function."
Fair Pay Specialist
Approximately 5,000 non-unionized staff members
Establishing a consistent, data-backed approach to pay equity across the organization
- Syndio's Pay Equity Platform, PayEQ™
- Syndio's Expert Advisors
- Boosts employer brand as a certified "Fair Pay Workplace"
- Fosters open communication and trust
- Decreases pay disparities and lowers annual remediation
UCI has long been committed to equal pay for equal work, but their efforts were siloed; each department had a different approach. The consultant was able to help the university review fair pay and provide recommendations for one division, but that, too, had limitations.
"By nature, a consultant is with an organization for a relatively short period of time, which makes it difficult for them to work with business partners across HR on a regular basis throughout the year to understand how pay decisions are made and investigate the root cause of inequities," says Houssainy. "Having those conversations and socializing the program is crucial to the success."
Houssainy initially tried to perform pay equity analyses using R - a programming language for statistical computing - but it was time consuming, cumbersome to make changes, and difficult for other leaders to interpret and understand. UCI sought a partner that would deliver both the pay equity technology and expertise required to build a consistent, scalable, and sustainable program.
In 2021, UCI started working with Syndio's expert advisors and using Syndio's pay equity platform, PayEQ™, to analyze pay for non-unionized staff. They ran a regression analysis based on gender and race separately, as well as on the intersection of both, including women of color compared to white men, and women of color compared to everyone else. The analysis encompassed three business units (Campus, College of Health Sciences, and Medical Center), 29 divisions, and 4,368 employees.
"Syndio analyzed the data in seconds and remediation was easy," says Houssainy. Following the analysis, she shared the results with key stakeholders - including the Chancellor, senior leaders, and HR partners - to drive consensus and attain buy-in, then implemented the pay changes. Houssainy found Syndio's charts and graphs to be particularly useful, as the data visualization made it easy to communicate the findings and share insights.
Syndio is efficient, reliable, and trusted."
Fair Pay Specialist
With Syndio, UCI was able to create a data-driven, structured program that moved pay equity out of silos and into day-to-day operations.
Investigation into root cause issues
Working with Syndio was a launch pad for digging deeper on root cause issues. With clear data in hand about where pay disparities exist, Houssainy and her HR colleagues are able to dig deeper on root causes, identify the biggest problem areas, and focus their attention there.
Fair Pay Workplace Certification
To demonstrate their commitment to pay equity and validate their methodology, UCI partnered with Fair Pay Workplace, a nonprofit organization that provides a rigorous set of pay equity rules and standards. UCI promotes the certification on its Total Rewards page, job openings page, and on email signatures, and was featured in a Bloomberg article for the achievement.
This third-party certification has a positive impact on UCI's employer brand, which supports their ability to attract and retain top talent. As Houssainy explains, "The certification gives job candidates a feeling of comfort and trust that this organization is doing its due diligence to make sure employees are paid fairly."
A culture of communication and trust
As employees learn more about UCI's pay equity commitments, they are beginning to feel more comfortable about sharing concerns directly with their managers, HR representatives, or other employee advocate groups, such as Equal Opportunity and Compliance. And, when necessary, Houssainy is available to run individual analyses and work with leadership to address concerns.
Houssainy can explain how fair pay analysis is calculated and what was taken into consideration - which, according to Houssainy, is as important as the number itself. "That adds a lot of transparency," she says. "We need to create an environment where questions are going to people who understand how compensation is structured. Syndio and the program we've created is a way to manage that."
This internal pay transparency fosters a culture of trust, which leads to better employee engagement and higher retention rates.
UCI has a reputation for being a thought leader and innovator in higher education human resources. Being one of the first top 10 public universities to implement third-party verified fair pay practices is another example of how we strive to provide fair and equitable treatment to all our co-workers."
Vice Chancellor and Chief
Human Resources Officer, UCI
By making pay equity an ongoing focus for the compensation team, Houssainy expects overall pay disparities to decrease and annual remediation to go down year over year.
She plans to expand the scope of UCI's pay equity program by adding other forms of compensation, such as incentive pay and bonuses. Representation is an ongoing priority for the university, so Houssainy also plans to look at how internal opportunities for advancement impact diversity in leadership and the unadjusted pay gap.
UCI excels when it comes to innovation and being proactive. We're always looking forward, trying to stay current on best practices, and anticipating changes like the new pay equity legislation. Being proactive allows us to manage change responsibly while reaching our goal of being an employer of choice."
Fair Pay Specialist