Pay Equity Communications Playbook

Introduction

The topic of pay equity communications is increasingly prominent in conversations among employees, senior leadership, investors, and in government. Progressive leaders know the importance of sharing their commitment to pay equity with these stakeholders.

Benefiting from communicating about pay equity doesn't require perfection - it requires a commitment to progress. Sharing your pay practices and pay equity strategy can have a powerful impact on your brand reputation, employee engagement, and even your bottom line.

We created this playbook to guide you through the steps and key considerations for planning an effective pay equity communications strategy that aligns with your company and people goals.

What's Inside
    41%

    of companies we surveyed disclosed to their employees that they were doing a pay equity analysis

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    of them shared high-level results with their employees

    The Benefits of Communicating your Pay Actions

    Syndio 2021 Review

    Boost investor perception

    Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) is top of mind for many investors, and progress on pay equity is a concrete measure for the oftentimes difficult-to-validate "Social" aspects of ESG. Companies that communicate effectively about pay equity have the opportunity to build investor trust, which is critical to a company's resilience and ability to maximize returns.

    Syndio Build a positive brand reputation

    Build a positive brand reputation

    Consumers increasingly care about pay equity too. According to a 2021 Harris Poll Survey, "85% of Americans believe it is important for companies to conduct annual pay analyses across different demographic groups to ensure equal pay for equal work." Globally, pay fairness is also gaining traction. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, "51% of Global Consumers believe CEOs need to make gender and ethnic pay equality a higher priority." Brand reputation impacts consumer spending, so sharing pay equity successes publicly can impact the bottom line for businesses.

    Recruit and retain talent

    More than ever, employees are looking for values-driven organizations that are putting actions behind words and holding themselves accountable. This year, Edelman's Trust Barometer found that 61% of workers choose their jobs based on personal belief. Focusing on values like pay equity is a shrewd business decision that makes current employees more likely to recommend the organization as a good place to work, further helping attract new talent. In fact, 58% of U.S. employees would consider switching jobs for more pay transparency.

    Syndio Improve perception of pay gap

    Improve perception of pay gap

    It's critical that companies manage perceived pay inequities effectively and efficiently. In the case of gender pay gaps, for example, "the perception is twice as bad as the actual gap" according to Gartner. That false perception has real consequences. You can prevent employees from filling an information void with worst case scenarios with proactive and credible communication.

    Gartner research shows:

    When employees perceive a credible organizational effort to address equity, they report the following talent improvements:

    Performance-20% more employees are willing to put in extra effort to get a job done.
    Attraction-Nearly 2X as many employees would recommend their organization as a great place to work.
    Turnover-24% fewer employees say they are actively looking for a new job at a different organization.

    Syndio Maximize tenure performance and productivity

    Maximize tenure, performance, and productivity

    When your employees understand your pay practices and know that they're being paid fairly, it increases their sense of engagement - which leads to higher productivity. In fact, a Gallup study found that companies with high employee engagement experience 23% higher profitability. (Gallup Q12® Meta-Analysis, 2020)

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    Not saying anything about pay equity is like paddling upstream. When you stop trying, you don't just stagnate; you actually start moving backward, drifting faster in the opposite direction from your destination."
    -Gartner

    How to Communicate with Different Stakeholders

    Pay equity communications is not simply publishing a few data points on your website. There's an art to aligning your communication to your brand and company goals, and it's important to understand the nuance of different conversations with each of your audiences. For example, you want the managers at your company to be prepared to answer questions directly from employees, but that requires sharing clear, consistent information about your pay equity strategies directly with them - not in a company-wide email at the same time as the rest of the employee base.

    As you build out your communications strategy, use this framework of questions to think about how to communicate to each audience.

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    Now, let's walk through how to execute a pay equity communications strategy leveraging this framework.

    How to Develop a Pay Equity Communications Strategy

    How to Develop a Pay Equity Communication Strategy Step 1
    1. Analyze race and gender

    Identify where you are.

    There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to communicating about pay equity. How your organization approaches pay equity communications will depend on your unique goals. Use these steps as a starting point to outline your plan.

    Answer these questions to determine your current pay equity and communications status.

    Current pay equity status:

    • Have you completed a pay equity analysis? If so, which comparable groups (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, age, veteran status, or LGBTQ+) and types of compensation (e.g. base, bonuses, or stock) did you analyze?
    • What were the results? Did you remediate? Why or why not?
    • Did you achieve pay equity? If not, how will your organization maintain your commitment to ensuring that gender, race, or other factors don't impact pay?
    • What makes the results credible? What partners, tools, and/or methodology did you use to complete the analysis?

    Current pay equity communications:

    • Who have you discussed pay equity with so far?
    • What information have you provided to each audience?
    • Who has been asking you for more information (e.g., investors, employees, managers)?
    • Talk to many different leaders across departments - including HR, Compensation, Legal, and the C-Suite - to get a clear and comprehensive picture of all your audiences.
    • What public commitments and statements have been made (e.g., company values, DEI&B-related goals, ESG goals, employee experience promises)?
    How to Develop a Pay Equity Communication Strategy Step 2

    Define clear and measureable goals.

    Figure out where you want to go and what you want to share. Pay equity communication goals will vary by organization, but some of the most common ones include:

    • Improve ability to compete for top talent, especially technical talent
    • Build overall brand reputation
    • Improve investors perception
    • Increase employee tenure, satisfaction, and engagement
    • Mitigate brand damage from high-profile pay equity lawsuits

    To help determine the most relevant goals for your organization, answer the following questions:

    • Who are your most important audiences, and what do you want their perception of your company to be?
    • What specific questions or concerns are you hearing from investors, leaders, employees, and the public?
    • Are there areas of talent acquisition or management that need improvement?
    • How often do you want to communicate your pay equity standing/action plan?
    • Are you interested in pursuing a third-party certification? Why or why not?
    How to Develop a Pay Equity Communication Strategy Step 3
    3. Budget for pay equity adjustments

    Build a communications plan for all your audiences.

    Your communications plan should include what information you will share, who you will share it with, and how you will communicate it.

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    Executive leadership

    For this group, it's important to give them foundational education on the pay equity landscape and the impacts that pay disparities can have on various aspects of business, including investor relations, employer brand, and legal risk.

    This group should also understand the entire pay equity analysis process on a deeper, more detailed level than other audiences - including the methodology, outcomes, and key metrics - so that they can assist in making informed business decisions. They should be a part of creating a long-term action plan for achieving and sustaining pay equity. Additionally, ensure you have their full buy-in regarding what you will communicate to other audiences.

    Investors and board members

    Work with your investors and board members to see if they have any requirements regarding what information you need to share with them. Typically, investors and boards will want to understand the extent of the pay disparities across the company and how you're planning to address them.

    Prepare the key metrics across comparable groups and compensation types, so that this group can get a more detailed understanding of the full pay equity picture. Walk them through an actionable plan of how you will address any issues and on what timeline, including your long-term analysis commitments and how it ties to business goals (e.g., hiring, retention, etc.).

    Managers and HR

    This group needs less detail on the business strategies impacting pay equity than executive leadership, but they need more details on analysis methodology, outcomes, and how individual pay equity issues were handled. This will ensure they feel confident and can address employee questions. Remember: they are your front-line communicators with employees, who are likely one of your most important audiences.

    Prepare the key metrics across comparable groups and compensation types, so that this group can get a more detailed understanding of the full pay equity picture. Walk them through an actionable plan of how you will address any issues and on what timeline, including your long-term analysis commitments and how it ties to business goals (e.g., hiring, retention, etc.).

    To ensure that the right message is conveyed in conversations with other employees, arm this group with speaker prep, talking points, and FAQ responses. It's also critical to make sure they can speak to four important areas:

    Educate managers and HR on the differences between the pay gap (the average differences in pay between groups like men and women) and pay inequity (unequal pay for equal work), so they can share this with employees. Pay gap gets a lot of press, but its causes, remedies, and implications are distinct from pay equity.

    Once the above is covered, this is the meat of what a manager or HR representative will be asked to explain. What was analyzed, what math and methods were used, which third parties served as partners in the process, and why the company is confident in its results. Even if much of this information is disseminated in a wider communication strategy, managers and HR may face additional questions and you'll want them to feel ready to respond.

    Factors like location, experience, and performance, along with organizing employees into groups performing substantially similar work, serve as the foundation for a pay equity analysis. Make sure managers and HR can clearly explain this process and that sometimes people with similar job titles are paid differently - and that doesn't mean there's necessarily a pay equity issue.

    Make sure any talking points also tie pay equity to the company's broader employee commitments, so it's clear to employees that this analysis was done for their benefit.

    Lastly, make sure this group has a good understanding of what information they are not allowed to share with employees and who employees can turn to for additional questions.

    Employees

    Much of what you educated managers and HR on above will serve as the basis for what you communicate to employees. Package up the above points into official communications that you share on a number of channels.

    Again, this includes some details on the pay equity analysis process (as many will not be intimately familiar with what this typically looks like), the methodology that was used, the results, why the results are credible, and your plan is for achieving and sustaining pay equity across the organization - as well as how this all ties back to your company values and commitments.

    Also make sure employees understand where they can go to get any future questions answered, whether it's their manager, HR, or another point person in the company. This type of information about the general process may be more fitting to share in a town hall or larger group meeting. However, there is some information that is better saved for 1:1 conversations, such as why each employee is paid what they're paid and where they are in their salary range.

    The public

    Just like any other audience, members of the public are often looking for a commitment to progress rather than expecting every company to be perfect right away. Share information about your pay equity analysis methodology and aggregate results. For example, it can be overwhelming for someone in the public to see your results data sliced and diced by every comparable group in every team. Focus on sharing more high-level results, such as pay inequity between genders, races, and other comparable groups.

    It's also important to share what you plan to do with these results to fix the disparities. It's simply not enough to just say you're committed to fixing it - people want to truly understand how.

    How will you communicate this information?

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    Internal communications

    Use both company-wide and smaller format meetings, as well as 1:1 communications (i.e., a memo/email from CEO, live or virtual town hall, team meetings, internal training).

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    Owned channels

    Highlight pay equity as part of your general pay philosophy on your website and consider sharing your commitment to ongoing analyses, your methodology, results, and key announcements on social media, your blog, or within an annual report.

    Earned media

    Package your pay equity findings and actions with an authentic and transparent narrative to engage press. Outline the rigorous analysis undertaken and what was learned, and include the actionable and measurable plan to sustain your commitment over time.

    Speaking engagements

    Participate in speaking engagements to discuss your organization's commitment to pay equity and the actions you have taken. This could be something like a webinar or conference where you have the opportunity to discuss your organization's commitment to pay equity and the actions you have taken with other HR, compensation, or business leaders.

    How to Develop a Pay Equity Communication Strategy Step 4
    5. Prepare for increased pay transparency

    Determine how you will measure the impact and results.

    The metrics you monitor should tie back to the goals you defined for your organization in step 2. Some of the most comment metrics we see companies measure by audience are:

    Investors: Investor relations metrics, ESG ratings, NPS
    Leaders: Employer and consumer brands metrics
    Employees: Hiring, engagement, belonging scores, retention, eNPS

    Align internally on these measurements before sharing them broadly or going public. Revisit these metrics regularly - as well as any common questions you receive from each audience - to continuously adjust your communications strategy.

    2021 Pay Equity Communications Lookbook

    See examples of how other leading companies are communicating about their pay equity analysis results and ongoing commitments.

    2021 Pay Equity Communications Lookbook
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    Roll out your communications.

    After you've built your communications plan, follow these best practices to successfully execute on it.

    Timing: Plan the timing of announcements to ensure you get the greatest brand lift. It's best practice to report after you have completed a thorough pay equity analysis and have taken steps to remediate. Ensure there are no competing events that could detract focus from key audiences such as upcoming board meetings or corporate announcements.

    Partner with experts: It's important that your findings are trustworthy and that you have reliable information fueling your analysis. Work with experts in labor economics, legislation, data science, and pay equity analysis to ensure your results are backed by best-in-class methodology. Additionally, partner with communications specialists who can help
    you ensure communication strategy is aligned to your company values and goals.

    Be genuine: Share information about your pay equity journey (where you stand, where you have room for improvement, what your action plan is, etc.) in a way that is authentic to your culture and values as a company.

    Be open to questions: Create opportunities for employees, media, and influencers to ask questions and be sure to respond in a timely manner to critical comments.

    Seek external validation: Communicating compliance with trusted standards brings credibility to pay equity announcements.

    Your Partner in Addressing Pay Inequities

    As a leader, it's critical to think about your role in addressing pay gaps. Communicating transparently about your commitment and progress to achieving and sustaining equitable pay for all employees creates accountability for meaningful change, in addition to all the other benefits we've discussed.

    At Syndio, we are dedicated to helping you build a more open, resilient, innovative, and equitable workplace where employees and employers mutually thrive. Contact us for more information on how we can help you achieve and communicate about pay equity.