Establishing fairness in pay involves careful and thoughtful decision-making that is not as straightforward as simply assigning the same salary to all employees in the same position. Staff development is never uniform. Employees develop at different paces, with some gaining skills and experience around specific areas of the job faster than others. To ensure fairness and equity through pay, employers need to carefully assess the unique skills and knowledge of each employee, while providing clarity in approach.
Clarity in Pay Through Transparency
Historically, disclosing one’s salary has always been considered private and taboo. Salaries have always been an emotional and sensitive subject, as it is typically associated with one’s value to the company. According to this LinkedIn article, one of the reasons for keeping wages and salary ranges private is that companies want to keep the status quo. They are afraid to upset employees which can inevitably happen when pay gaps in the organization are exposed. But the reality is that every organization will have pay gaps, and a major step in eliminating those gaps is through transparency.
In recent years, both lawmakers and leading companies have been addressing gender and race-related pay gaps through laws and compensation policies. In 2006, Denmark introduced legislation that required companies to disclose wage statistics between men and women with the same job if the company has more than 10 men and women working in the same position. In this study done by Professor Morten Bennedsen from the Economic Institute at the University of Copenhagen and INSEAD Business School in France, the law appears to have decreased the pay gap between men and women by 13%. In Canada, public sector employers are required to disclose salaries and benefits of employees that are paid $100,000 or more in a year which led to a 30% drop in the gender pay gap according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research .
In Birches Group, we too, believe and practice transparency in pay which is demonstrated through a couple of ways. First, the company’s salary scale is published to all staff. All employees are allowed to see the salary ranges not only for their grade level, but also others. Simply making our salary scale public allows everyone in the organization to see predictable movement within each grade level, the difference between one grade level to the next, and possible career progression for each role.
Second, our compensation policies on setting pay, variable pay movement, and milestones to determine promotion readiness are made clear as part of the company’s onboarding process and refresher trainings are regularly provided to all staff. When organizations make it clear how employees are paid and how they can chart their careers, staff feel more empowered to take equal ownership of the level and pace of their development, positively contributing to employee retention, while holding the organization accountable to provide clarity to their employees on how they are assessed and recognized.
Fairness and Equity in Pay by Measuring Staff’s Skills & Knowledge
Managing pay increases has always been a complicated process. People want to be paid according on their level of experience, but traditional approaches have never allowed managers to clearly measure experience apart from time (through time-based “steps” in the salary scale) or performance (through merit pay).
Using time-based steps or increments was never effective in recognizing one’s experience. As long as an employee completes another year with their employer, they get one or two steps in their pay regardless of whether they do their job or not. Merit pay, on the other hand, allows for variable pay movement based on the employee’s performance ratings from the preceding year. While this approach was designed to award pay increases to employees with good outputs and results, using performance ratings is not reliable because it doesn’t guarantee the same results the following year. When performance is used to drive pay increases, the organization is essentially rewarding an employee’s one-time achievement with a salary increase forever.
To truly establish equity in the workplace, we at Birches Group, believe pay movement should be based on the level of skills and knowledge the employee brings to the company. Over time, as an employee acquires and demonstrates new levels of skills and knowledge, their capacity to perform their job becomes better, making it a more effective and objective way to drive pay increases.
A big challenge to employers has always been how to measure one’s experience – “How do I know, what you know?” Birches Group has come up with a framework and an assessment tool that can explicitly measure your employees’ skills and knowledge. Using our Community™ Jobs approach as the underlying foundation, Community™ Skills consists of a progression of five skills stages across six indicators which is used to measure the continuous growth of an employee within their job.
Through Community™ Skills, pay management policies can be developed and aligned to use skills and knowledge growth to drive variable pay movement. Community™ Skills can also be used to demonstrate equity and fairness through deliberate developmental assignments for staff, as well as providing an objective criterion for succession planning and promotion decisions.
Pay equity and transparency in the workplace doesn’t happen overnight. Companies must take active steps to ensure clarity around pay management policies, as well as standards on how employees are assessed and developed. Birches Group has extensive experience developing compensation policies for organizations across different sectors and markets. Our Community™ Skills tool can help organizations assess the capacities in their workforce, facilitate pay movement, as well as guide learning and development assignments. Contact us to learn how we can improve your talent management programs today.
Kai works in our Marketing Team in Manila. She creates online content around Community™ concepts and assists in developing promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has had years of experience in social media content creation handling different brands over the years.
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