Workplace Equity Communications Playbook

The topic of workplace equity communications is increasingly prominent in conversations among employees, senior leadership, investors, and in government. Equity in the workplace spans representation, compensation and access to opportunities. Progressive leaders know the importance of sharing their commitment to all of these aspects with their stakeholders.

Benefiting from workplace equity communications doesn't require perfection — it requires a commitment to progress. Sharing your strategies and progress 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 workplace equity communications strategy that aligns with your company and people goals.

Syndio Pay Equity Communications Playbook

The worst thing an organization can do is make empty promises around equity. Without being able to demonstrate how equity works and point to specific examples of it in your organization, it's a hollow concept that damages trust and only serves to undercut equity in the end."

The benefits of communicating your workplace equity actions

Here are some of the ways that sharing workplace equity commitments and achievements improves your business:

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Boost investor perception

Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) is top of mind for many investors, and progress on pay and opportunity equity is a concrete measure for the oftentimes difficult-to-validate social aspects of ESG.

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Build a positive brand reputation

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Recruit and retain talent

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Improve perception of pay gap and diversity in leadership

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Maximize tenure, performance, and productivity

How to communicate with different stakeholders

Workplace 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 workplace equity strategies directly with them — not in a company-wide email at the same time as the rest of the employee base.

Your first step should be deciding what areas you want to cover and what you should share with each audience. Companies cover a variety of points, but often report on:

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Representation breakdown—Will you report on gender/race, intersectionality? Some companies go beyond gender/race to include age, sexual orientation, and other identifying criteria. Determine what level of detail you will include for each audience in the chart below.

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Opportunity equity—What will you communicate about representation in leadership positions compared to the overall employee population? Will you also publish promotion rates/advancement rates by race/gender, etc.? Consider where you stand, and whether you are moving in the right direction.

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Unadjusted pay gap—An analysis of mean or median pay gaps shows how representation and opportunity equity impact pay in your organization. Determine what level of detail you will show and for which populations. Again, showing where you stand and what direction you are moving in provides context.

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Progress over time—No one expects your organization to be perfect. Showing your progress over time demonstrates your commitment to an equitable workplace. See examples of this in our Workplace Equity Communications Lookbook.

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 workplace equity communications strategy leveraging this framework.

How to develop a workplace equity communications strategy

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

Step

Identify where you are.
Answer these questions to determine your current workplace equity and communications status.

Current workplace 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?
  • Have you completed an analysis of representation in leadership compared to your overall employee population?
  • Have you completed analyses of hiring, assessments/performance reviews, promotions, and retention?
  • What were the results? Did you remediate? Why or why not?
  • What is your plan for improving representation in leadership?
  • What plans do you have for improving equitable hiring, assessments/performance reviews, promotions and retention?
  • 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?
  • How do the results of your analyses compare to prior years?

Current workplace equity communications:

    • Who have you discussed your workplace equity initiatives 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)?
    • Have you shared your plans and goals for improving representation in leadership and equitable hiring, assessments/performance reviews, promotions and retention?
    • Have you reported on current results compared to previous years to show your progress?

Step

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

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

  • Increase talent pipeline, especially for technical talent
  • Build overall brand reputation
  • Improve investors' perception
  • Grow diversity in leadership roles
  • 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 workplace equity standing/action plan?
  • Are you interested in pursuing a third-party certification? Why or why not?

Step

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.

Who will receive what information?
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 workplace equity landscape and the impacts that pay and opportunity disparities can have on various aspects of business, including investor relations, employer brand, and legal risk.

This group should also understand the entire workplace 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 workplace equity. Additionally, ensure you have their full buy-in regarding what you will communicate to other audiences.

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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 your pay gap and how you're planning to address it.

Prepare the key pay and opportunity equity metrics across comparable groups, so that this group can get a more detailed understanding of the full workplace 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

Managers and HR

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

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 five important areas:

Ensure that managers and HR can clearly explain policies on pay, hiring, promotions, performance ratings, and other advancement criteria, such as succession planning. Give them the tools they need to explain why people with similar job titles are paid differently or promoted over others — and that doesn't mean there's necessarily a pay or workplace equity issue. Factors like location, experience, and performance affect pay levels and advancement paths. Make sure managers and HR are able to explain what it takes to advance in your organization.

To discuss advancement policies, define what constitutes leadership vs. general employee population in your organization: Is it director and above? Do they manage others? What benchmarking are you using, and what's the method of analysis? Are you using statistics or rates of promotion?

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 (such as how employees were grouped — on a high level), 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.

Give your team overall information about where the company stands, and the narrative about the causes and explanations for any inequities. Then, most importantly, share your action plan for making improvements.

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

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 process for your analyses (as many will not be intimately familiar with what these typically look like), the methodology that was used, the results, why the results are credible, and your plan for achieving and sustaining workplace equity across the organization — as well as how this all ties back to your company values and commitments.

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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 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 your pay equity status or diversity across your organization.

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 workplace equity as part of your general 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.

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Earned media

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

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Speaking engagements

Participate in speaking engagements to discuss your organization's commitment to workplace 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 workplace equity and the actions you have taken with other HR, compensation, or business leaders.

Step

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 common 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.

Step

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 workplace 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/promotions analyses 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 workplace 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 workplace equity announcements.

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See examples of how other leading companies are communicating about their workplace equity analysis results and ongoing commitments in our 2022 Workplace Equity Communications Lookbook.

Your partner in addressing workplace inequities

As a leader, it's critical to think about your role in addressing gaps in workplace equity. Communicating transparently about your commitment and progress to achieving and sustaining equitable pay and opportunities 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 workplace equity.

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