How Pay Transparency Is Changing HR

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CHROs need to get in front of new laws—and changing talent demands—around compensation to stay competitive, says Jamie Girouard, chief people officer at Telesign.

While the hot topics of DEI, talent shortages and hybrid work are still very much on the minds of HR leaders, employee compensation is once again coming to the forefront as more states enact pay transparency laws.

So says Jamie Girouard, chief people officer of Telesign, a company based in Marina del Rey, California, that provides APIs to verify digital identities. Girouard spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about how to stay on top of compensation concerns, how to handle hire for “culture fit” and what talent data is most important to monitor.

What area of HR is a trending topic of discussion these days?

We have seen many different areas of HR become trending topics such as culture, DEI, talent acquisition and hybrid work environments. While these are still very relevant areas that HR leaders want to remain competitive in, the focus is shifting to employee compensation for a couple of reasons.

First, the pay transparency laws that many states are adopting now and even spreading internationally are going to raise many debates among companies and spark more conversations on the topic of pay between employees and their managers. Companies have not spent a lot of time educating their workforce on how compensation is determined for employees, or how salary bands or other comp programs are created. As new transparency laws start requiring compensation information to become more public, this may cause employees to ask more questions.

Managers will need to be more thoughtful in their pay decisions and be prepared to answer difficult questions on pay. An example of this could be why the pay range at their company does not match the pay range of a similar job posted at a competitor. HR will be at the center of these discussions to help provide clarity to the business and employees on the art and science of the field. 

Second, as we have seen in 2021 and 2022, it remained a candidate’s market as companies competed to attract top talent. As the volatility of the labor market continues throughout 2023, companies will be looking for agile compensation programs that will allow them to be competitive, yet flexible and affordable, as the talent market heats up or cools down.

Companies and HR professionals will have to get more creative on how to design agile compensation programs that work within a given financial model but can shift swiftly with the internal and external expectations of high caliber talent.

Outside of the standard compensation and benefits plans, what are the smartest ways you think companies can invest in their employees in today’s competitive market?

Over the last 24 months, we have seen a fluctuating talent market oscillating between the War for Talent and the Great Resignation with the most recent layoffs in the tech industry overlayed. Companies are striving in parallel to find new and competitive compensation practices that will retain key talent.

The whiplash of these events has left leaders asking themselves: What does the talent market really look like behind all these big headlines? Is it still a hot market? Do we have the right total rewards packages in place to attract new talent, and do we have what is needed to keep our existing talent long-term?

When candidates are looking at prospective companies, they first check to see if the boxes of their new opportunity expectations are met. For most candidates these requirements include working for a company that demonstrates a business of stability and growth, offers competitive compensation and benefits, has a flexible work environment, and a strong thriving culture.

Beyond these fundamental expectations, prospective and current employees look at other ways companies choose to set themselves apart from the competition. If we have learned anything from engagement surveys and years of employee feedback, it’s that people want enriched learning and development opportunities. The smartest ways a company can invest in their employees begins with a strong L&D strategy.

Employees crave growth opportunities and a well-defined career path with clear expectations on how they can reach new levels. Companies that can help their teams create individual learning journeys will drive better business results. These learning journeys can be a mix of online or instructor-led trainings, soft skills trainings, leadership development opportunities, or supporting the attendance of external conferences or workshops.

To create a more whole-life balance experience, some companies even offer services such as a MasterClass subscription so people can explore personal interests as well as grow professionally. It’s important to allow people the time, space and bandwidth to indulge in learning and development opportunities so they can take advantage of these programs.

A robust L&D offering will not only help retain employees as they progress in their growth and development but will also bring new ideas into a company, create more networking connections, and gain more knowledge about market best practices and what other competitors are doing. 

Culture fit: What does it mean and how can companies hire for it? 

The number one question every candidate asks in the interview process is about the company’s culture. Prospective employees press for details on the attitudes, behaviors, values, and if the company cultivates a positive and inclusive working environment. On the other side of that conversation, the company is also gathering insights from the candidate to determine if the candidate will be a culture “fit” beyond just their technical expertise.

Some have raised a debate on whether “fit” is the right approach to a company’s talent acquisition strategy. Leaders point out that it can lead to hiring for “similar to me” bias resulting in similar personalities or archetypes dominating the company. However, limiting the interview process to only selecting candidates based on their credentials and experiences can impact the culture by hiring someone who doesn’t work well with others or share in the company’s values. But what is really meant by culture fit and how should companies go about hiring for it?

An individual who is found to be a cultural fit is someone who can create amicable disruption yet work well with others to solve complex problems all while navigating the internal political waters. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s someone who shares in the company’s values and emulates behaviors that contribute to successfully executing on the business objectives.

This may sound like finding a unicorn in a field of candidates but with the right approach, companies can add high caliber talent who aren’t just aligned to the company’s culture but will enhance it while avoiding potentially costly mis-hires.

First, it’s important for a company to have a clear DEI strategy that is incorporated into an employee value proposition to help attract diverse candidates and individuals with unique skills. Marketing the company’s mission and values on a website, in job postings and through social media channels will attract candidates to the company’s purpose.

In today’s environment, the relationship between employer and employee has changed. Employees are overwhelmingly seeking organizations that know how to create a positive atmosphere of equality, belonging and inclusion. In tandem, companies are seeking new hires who will enhance and reinforce their values and mission.

Next, it’s important to understand what behaviors an individual should exhibit within the company that will make them successful. These behaviors should be known internally and should align with the company’s values, mission and strategic plan.

For example, if collaboration is a key behavior in a company’s culture, hiring managers need to ask pointed questions in an interview to gauge if there is a cultural match. Have the candidate provide examples of how they have had to work through challenges on a team, collaborate on projects to execute results, resolve differences and work toward solutions.

Interviewers should spend time getting to know a candidate’s work style, communication style and leadership style. Spending time learning the behaviors, values and how candidates approach challenges will allow hiring managers to identify the right talent that can successfully influence business outcomes without damaging morale, creating a toxic environment or achieving results through other harmful measures.

How can understanding and using the right people data analytics enable company growth?

Data always tells a story, and the underlying story of a company’s employee experience are insights that leaders should not miss. Using the right data analytics can help a company make more informed decisions and promote company growth. 

Specifically, people analytics have become an important aspect in human resources to help solve business problems using data-driven insights about their workforce. When leaders have a pulse on things such as attrition rates, cost of turnover or the engagement levels of their team, companies can make better decisions about their attraction and retention programs to positively impact the bottom line and drive overall performance.

What are some of the critical metrics to monitor?

Talent acquisition analytics. It’s imperative these days to understand the revolving door of talent. Companies spend a significant amount of time attracting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding new employees. It can be very costly when talent walks out the door. Answering the question, “Who is leaving and why” will help leaders be proactive in retaining people.

When diving deeper into the analytics to look at turnover by location, department, tenure with the company, gender or age, interesting themes can be found. For example, losing talent that has less than two years with the company may be an indicator of a poor onboard experience or failure to integrate new hires into the culture. Whatever the reason, understanding the revolving door can help organizations identify and correct unforeseen gaps.    

Diversity, equity and inclusion analytics. Looking at the people data statistics is important to measure how an organization is doing on DEI efforts and where teams can improve in their talent acquisition initiatives.

Engagement survey results. The easiest way to get a pulse on a company’s culture is through an engagement survey. This is a great report card for a leadership team to learn about employee opinions on business strategy, leadership, total rewards, learning and development, culture and other areas of the employee experience. It’s also a great platform for employees to voice their feedback and provide recommendations on how the company can improve. Results can provide leadership teams with powerful feedback that can be immediately turned into action.

Focus groups or other verbal feedback. Survey data can help outline immediate trends on specific topics such as business strategy, leadership, hiring needs, training and development, or a company’s total rewards package. However, when low scores occur from an employee engagement survey or a negative theme has been identified, it’s helpful to support these findings with more qualitative data. 

Powerful and insightful information can come from verbal conversations such as focus groups, leadership round tables, office hours and one-to-one discussions. Having employees provide verbal feedback can give leaders more context and examples that support the low survey scores.

Often, the best way to solve a problem is to directly ask the customer. In this case, employees are the customer, and they can provide leaders with valuable information and recommendations on how to improve the employee experience.

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