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  • Sarah Maximilian

Beyond Compliance - Tackle Pay Transparency Together

Under the pay transparency directive, EU companies will be required to share information about how much they pay women and men for work of equal value, and take action if their gender pay gap exceeds 5%. We all have heard the blast in our social feeds a few months ago. Out of a sudden, transparency becomes an urgent matter. Some consultancies and compensation & benefit experts started counting backwards until the inevitable is here to come – reporting on salary inequalities. Some even set a countdown to mark the end of salary secrecy.

Compliance with this directive is crucial, but it's time to understand pay transparency beyond this aspect and to shift our perspective. Pay transparency shouldn't be seen as a mere box-ticking exercise or a legal obligation. Instead, it presents an opportunity for companies to proactively engage with their employees, foster trust, and create a culture of fairness and equality.

Picture this: Company X – let’s call her Newly Transparent – will release the obligatory report after months and months of salary analysis and remuneration audit to present a – hopefully – well perceived message: Newly Transparent has nothing to hide, because no inequality is visible. The path leading to this message was not easy: Coming from pure insecurity what the analysis might detect and lack of insights to a brutal awakening presented by facts, to carving out budgets to make it disappear, to landing at a moderate state of salary distribution. Happily, a report will be issued about the current state of Newly Transparent. All good again. Move on. It sounds so realistic, I can almost hear the announcements.

In reality, the path of Newly Transparent is not transparent, is it? So, will the obligatory pay transparency report make all the difference? Besides the whole body of work that leads to the pay transparency report, what is in it for Newly Transparent and what is in it for her employees?

Do we confuse pay transparency with legally compliant reporting standards?

Pay Transparency goes Beyond Compliance

Who is really benefiting from salary reports? Pay transparency goes beyond compliance—it offers an opportunity for companies to proactively engage with employees, foster trust, and cultivate a culture of fairness and equality.

But how can organizations provide employees with information that is not only relevant and current but also comprehensible and empowering?

"Transparency is the Method, Comprehension is the Goal."

In my experience working for a tech company, I witnessed the transformative power of participation and visualization firsthand. As Global Head of People Operation, I was given many nicknames, and “fun police” was one of them. HR policies and employee handbooks had been one of the domains in my area of responsibility. Necessary yes, comprehensible maybe, recognized nope. So, how did I turn dry content into something relatable and engaging, something that says: we do all of this for you, people! It is positive.

Visualization is an Effective Tool

So let me tell you a quick story how me and my team achieved recognition and even appreciation through visualization.

We faced the challenge of communicating our parental leave policy to a diverse workforce spanning multiple countries. Instead of relying on heavy policy papers and impersonal emails, we sought a new way to engage employees and create a lasting impact.

Inspired by the idea that a picture is more like the real world when it is made out of the real world, we decided to take a visual approach. Rather than flooding employees with complex policy documents, we asked those who had recently become fathers to share a picture of themselves with their newborns. Each photo, adorned with our company logo, became a part of a collage that showcased 20 proud fathers across different locations and positions within the company.

This simple act of visual storytelling transcended language barriers and cultural differences. It conveyed a powerful message: our organization values its people as humans, not just as employees with unique skills. The impact was immediate and long-lasting. Our employees felt seen and appreciated, fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty that extended far beyond the initial four-minute attention span.

"Visualizing information can give us a very quick solution to problems. We can get clarity or the answer to a simple problem very quickly." - David McCandless

Visualization is also an effective tool to unlocking the full potential of pay transparency. Rather than simply informing employees about salary ranges, policies, and individual compensation, visualization can be used to ensure comprehensive understanding of the company's compensation model, processes, and policies.

By embracing visualization techniques, companies can create a visual language that empowers employees to understand and navigate the fogginess of their compensation, building a sense of ownership and trust. Through visual communication, companies can provide employees with meaningful insights into the compensation structure, growth & progression opportunities, and pay related criteria.

Infographics, charts, and interactive dashboards can transform abstract numbers into tangible messages that employees can easily grasp and use to make informed decisions about their careers. This visual approach ensures that pay transparency is not confined to compliance-driven efforts but becomes an ongoing dialogue between employers and employees.

Participation is key for real transparency

In case you missed it: Transparency is the Method, Comprehension is the Goal. If people do not understand your message, the level of transparency will not matter.

How can information be more comprehensible, you may ask? From my experience, no expert will be able to make your compensation model more comprehensible than those people affected by the results and engaged in the design of the comp model.

Individuals will contribute with their ideas, perspectives, and concerns, ensuring that the conversation around pay transparency is inclusive and representative of the entire workforce. They will use a language and images; even emotions to gain clarity for themselves and to enter real discussions. Out of a sudden, catch-phrases will be filled with life and missing understanding will be explored and clarified together.

Visualisation makes your pay model comprehensible

To incorporate visualization into pay transparency discussions with your people, consider the following inspirations:

Showcasing Compensation Information:

  • Infographics highlighting salary ranges and structures

  • Graphs and charts illustrating pay differentials and growth opportunities

  • Employee-generated testimonials on their compensation process experiences (e.g., What aspect of the compensation conversation do you value the most?”)

Summarizing Compensation Policies and Processes:

  • Visual guides outlining the steps to salary adjustments or promotions

  • Compensation statements (individual or role-based) displaying compensation data in a user-friendly format

  • Purpose driving decisions: Storytelling to convey your compensation framework: When designing the comp model, what was the core belief or the given situation at that time? What principles were non-negotiable?

Creating a Transparent Culture:

  • Compensation transparency walls showcasing anonymized salary information

  • Regular town hall meetings with visual presentations on compensation topics

  • Open forums for discussions and Q&A sessions on pay-related matters

Embrace pay transparency

By harnessing the power of participation and visualization, companies can go beyond compliance and transform pay transparency into a catalyst for meaningful engagement. It's about empowering employees with relevant, current, and comprehensible information, enabling them to navigate their compensation journey with confidence and trust in their organization. Embracing pay transparency as an opportunity for growth, equality, and collaboration sets the stage for a more transparent and empowered work environment.

Author: Sarah Maximilian


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