HR Disruptors: Top Takeaways from Pay Equity Conversations Don’t Have to Be Uncomfortable
In this session of our fresh and fearless HR Disruptors series, Pay Equity Conversations Don’t Have to Be Uncomfortable, we were joined by three seasoned leaders:
- Session moderator Hakemia Jackson, CEO and Global Executive Coach at Divinely Powered
- Becky Lakin, Chief People and Culture Officer at Bonfire
- Jiquanda Nelson, CEO of Diversity Window
Our speakers got candid about the challenges and anxieties of leading pay equity conversations in the workplace, and we were thrilled by our attendees’ reactions to the earnest and practical advice offered by this session’s experts.
Below are a few highlights from the hour-long conversation, or you can enjoy the full discussion here.
“YES! I need to hear this.”
“I love not feeling alone!”
“I love how real this narrative is.”
1. Understand that Employees Just Want a Fair Shake
“Employees want a fair shake,” says Hakemia, “and one of the very measurable indicators of fairness which employees, company leaders, and external stakeholders can look at to evaluate fair treatment is what we call our pay. This is a very emotional and personal discussion, but leaders today are here and ready to talk about it from a very real perspective.”
While it can feel intimidating for HR and executive leaders to address long-standing compensation structures, Becky points out, “There’s hope in this conversation too.” Despite common pay gaps between genders, races, and other social identities, when you’re informed, you can be deliberate and effective in building equitable compensation strategies, communicating pay decisions, and negotiating salaries with employees and job candidates.
2. Start with Pay Equity Analysis
Jiquanda stresses the importance of addressing equity before equality. Equity exposes opportunity gaps and barriers that prevent certain groups of people from entering certain roles, while equality focuses on the experiences of people already in those roles. She advises asking yourself these questions:
- Where do we have gaps in our organization that have created barriers for people to get promoted?
- Where do we put value on certain roles and why do we do that?
- How are we putting value on new talent coming into the organization and people who are already there who are absolutely qualified?
- How do we assess bonuses? Is it based solely on merit or on a leader’s ability to like or not like people?
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“Performing a pay equality analysis on your executive team and seeing if they're being paid equally for equal work is not going to address the issue that you don't have women represented there, or other gender identities, people from different backgrounds,” says Jiquanda. “You can't address any of the equality pieces without looking at the barriers that prevent people from even getting into certain roles within an organization.”
As for doing the work to identify those gaps, “I tell people, start somewhere. Internally set that baseline. Start with gender identity, race, ethnicity…EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commision) data. Use whatever data you have and build on that, but you have to be truthful and honest about where you are as an organization and the systemic way in which you view and compensate talent.”
3. Build a Case for Research and Get Buy-in From the Right People
One way to get comfortable with pay equity conversations is not to go it alone. It’s critical for HR leaders to gain internal support across your leadership and executive team.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I need to look into pay equity? This helps you build the case for research—especially in anticipation of pushback or dismissiveness. You’ll collect case studies that illustrate the business case for DEI, existing company goals and strategies, third party pay data, etc.
- Who do I need to agree that I need to look into pay equity? This helps you identify the people you as the HR leader need to get buy-in from, which will depend on your organization but will likely be people on the executive, finance, legal, operations, and DEI teams.
Together you’ll create a game plan that involves filling in the gaps of your collective knowledge about the equity situation at your organization.
- What do we know we know?
- What do we know we don’t know?
- How do we show what we know?
- How do we show what we don’t know?
4. When You’re Overwhelmed, Take the Next Right Step
Are you an HR leader in a small company or on a small team? We know it can feel isolating and daunting to tackle this work when you don’t have the resources larger teams might have. Our speakers suggest being an advocate for your own expertise and staying grounded by focusing on taking “the next right step.”
Sometimes, for many of our attendees and other HR pros trying to make a difference at their companies, this next right step is responding to the statement, “I don’t think we have a pay equity problem.”
Jiquanda offers this example response: “We may or may not have a pay equity problem, but we don't have a process in place to know for sure. In order for us to be a proactive organization that wants to show our current employees that we care about them and their access to equitable, fair pay, it would be great to have a process in place that will prove we don’t have a problem, or identify where we do have a problem. This process will help serve as a guide to make us better for the people within our organization as well as the people we're trying to attract to our organization.”
Want to learn how to lead pay equity conversations at your organization?
Watch the full HR Disruptors session with Hakemia, Becky, and Jiquanda.