The transparency era is here
A communications playbook to take control of your workplace equity story
This playbook is for you
This playbook is for leaders across the company and around the world facing the pressures of increased transparency around workplace equity.
It's for companies that are already (or soon will be) required by law to post salary ranges or report on pay data; for companies fielding intensifying questions from employees about pay; and for forward-thinking leaders who see the opportunity to harness transparency for a competitive edge but need the right tools to proceed.
No matter where you're starting from, this playbook offers the strategic advice, real-world examples, and hands-on guidance you need to move forward in an intentional, comprehensive way. It will help your organization identify where you are and where you aspire to land on your transparency journey. And it will help you navigate the current environment of transparency, while also looking around corners to prepare for what's coming — because more is coming.
Remember: Every small step towards more transparency is a giant step towards more trust.
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01 The transparency era is here
Chief Executive Officer
02 Why companies are embracing the transparency era
By being proactive about sharing information, they control their story. They also shine a spotlight on the good work they're doing and acknowledge the work still to be done before employees, investors, or others shine a (potentially unfavorable) light for them. Take note — what a couple of these trailblazers are doing today points to what's coming tomorrow.
Median pay gap
Measure of overall differences in median earnings between two populations by comparing the earnings of the middle employee for one group to the middle earner in another group.
Compensating people performing substantially similar work in a way that is not based on gender, race, or other protected categories.
All employees have equal access to opportunities for employment, advancement, and development, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.
Workplace equity requires both pay equity and opportunity equity. All employees are treated equitably and without bias at each stage of the employee experience.
A trend to watch: Leaders disclose median pay gap
Other leading companies disclosing or agreeing to disclose their median pay gap include Adobe, American Express, BNY Mellon, Chipotle, Citi, Disney, The Home Depot, Mastercard, Pfizer, Starbucks, and Target, to name a few.
5 reasons C-suite executive and HR leaders are embracing transparency
Help for the naysayers and worriers: how to handle common objections
What happens if leadership (or your legal team) is concerned about making too much noise? Here are some objections you might hear — and how to handle them.
Will transparency spark a lawsuit?
Employers who are more transparent may actually be less likely to be sued. As Seher Khawaja, Senior Attorney for Economic Empowerment at Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund), put it: "Litigation is costly for everyone involved. One of the driving motivations behind our push for pay transparency is to reduce and ideally eliminate the need for employees to bring pay equity litigation by creating the conditions and incentives to drive employers to set pay more equitably and to hold themselves accountable. The shift towards more transparent models will inevitably unearth problematic disparities; and we recognize employers will need some time to clean house and correct them."
Do I have to choose between transparency and privilege? Does this mean I'm waiving the attorney-client privilege?
No, it's not an "either/or." Companies often conduct privileged workplace equity analyses. (In fact, the majority of Syndio customers conduct privileged analyses.) Many of these companies are also open about the conclusions of their workplace equity analyses. Transparency and the attorney-client privilege are not necessarily totally at odds. As the court in Cahill v. Nike put it, "the disclosure of the outcome of the process does not constitute a waiver" of the attorney-client privilege. It's a careful balance and one you want to approach with legal advice, but don't assume that you cannot be transparent if you conduct privileged analyses.
03 Understanding the transparency spectrum
When people think about pay transparency, they think about posting salary ranges. But that's only one piece of the transparency spectrum. The complete spectrum includes pay range transparency, pay equity transparency, and opportunity transparency.
Within each category, there is a range of how transparent you can be: from less to more, as depicted below.
04 Transparency requires pay explainability
Reexamining your compensation philosophy will enable you to confidently deliver a higher level of pay explainability moving forward — because questions employees are asking about pay ranges now will naturally lead to questions about pay equity and opportunity equity.
The ability to clearly convey your compensation philosophy (how pay is determined overall) and how that applies to individual employees, as well as whether or not pay is equitable and consistent.
Your top priority: Pay explainability
Getting proactive about pay explainability builds critical trust with employees and lays the foundation for your workplace equity journey.
Prepare your people managers
At a time when employers are sharing more, how you prepare your people managers dictates how successful you are with your transparency initiatives. Yet, helping managers communicate about pay is getting more complicated. Instead of trying to turn managers into compensation experts, companies are using centralized communication tools like video vignettes to explain pay to both managers and their employees.
The best HR teams offer managers a clear, concise breakdown of their organization's compensation philosophy (e.g., job you're in, skills you have, time in role). Armed with that information, managers can explain where an individual employee fits within a range, what's needed to move up, and how differences in pay are the direct result of their company's compensation philosophy.
According to Gartner®, "Employees' perceptions about their pay are not encouraging — only 32% believe their pay is fair, 34% believe it's equitable and only 40% believe that pay procedures and practices are applied consistently. The lack of transparency about pay and how equity is assessed exacerbates employees' perception that pay is unfair."
EPIC: 3 Ways to Drive Better Pay Equity Decisions, Christie Struckman, Debra Logan, Tony Guadagni, 10 October 2022. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
05 Build your transparency roadmap
An effective transparency strategy is one based on incremental, intentional, and consistent communication. Use the framework below to determine what the right roadmap looks like for your organization.
Once you've made decisions about what you want to share, plot the steps you need to take over a multi-year period. There's no single timeline or process. Every company has specific requirements that will define their best path forward. Here's one example to get you started.
Example roadmap: Pay equity transparency
As your transparency strategy matures, there are several ways to use third-party technology providers and certification organizations to help craft the narrative and lend legitimacy and credibility to your workplace equity message.
Build your story using data visualizations
Sharing data visualizations with the core team working on the results and to leadership lends both clarity and credibility to a conversation that, for many people, is still new. Data visualizations like below often serve as a backbone for the narrative framework that of "how we got here" and provide opportunities for improvement at the root cause for future commitments.
Actual vs. Predicted Compensation
Impact of Pay Policies
For this employer, each Geo Zone was intended to be 10% more than the next. Analysis of pay practices identified that in their Sales Operations group, Geo Zone 3 is paid 10.19% more than Geo Zone 2, in line with expectations. However, Geo Zone 4 is paid only 11.19% more than Geo Zone 2, suggesting that the employer is not differentiating by Geo Zone as intended, which may be causing the pay inequities in this group.
Build credibility with certification
Some companies pursue certification from organizations like Fair Pay Workplace and EDGE, undergoing a rigorous pay equity evaluation and committing to ongoing analysis. Certified companies, including those listed below, can then use certification as a valuable proof point to boost their brand and employee retention and hiring.
Make transparency your next move
The transparency era is here and leaders are rising to the challenge — adopting new tools and technology to analyze workplace data, digging deep into pay explainability, and refining their compensation philosophy. They're also working across HR, Legal, Communications, and Leadership to tell a consistent, clear, and compelling workplace equity story vital to their employer brand.
This takes work. But if you do it well, there's a big payoff that comes from reducing risk and building accountability and trust with your people.