By Caitlin Gibson
Almost half of U.S. workers think they’re underpaid and are less satisfied with their job compared to their peers who do think their pay is fair. When left unaddressed, this strain on job satisfaction can threaten employee retention. Where does this perception of unfair pay come from? It’s partly the result of employees not understanding their company’s compensation philosophy and all the ways they’re compensated in addition to their paycheck, like through comprehensive benefit and incentive programs. It’s due to the lack of meaningful compensation conversations between employees and their managers. It’s due to the known existence of inequitable pay policies and practices. It also comes from the pay secrecy policies that continue to influence work culture and make talking about pay still seem taboo, particularly for half of full-time workers who still can’t openly discuss their pay today.
So, what can employers do about this perception of unfair pay and all the reasons it exists? First, take the necessary steps to fine-tune your compensation strategy and ensure pay is fair across the company. Then, implement a thoughtful, robust compensation communication strategy that closes any pay knowledge gaps. When this type of communication strategy is executed effectively, it can boost job satisfaction and employee retention.
How to Craft an Effective Compensation Communication Strategy
First, before you communicate anything, it’s important to understand what types of compensation are most important to each type of employee you have, like your baby boomers, millennials, hourly workers, union workers, etc. To figure this out, put yourself in the position of each major employee demographic at your company and discern what their financial priorities are, as well as what compensation information they may be lacking. For example, millennial employees may need more education around your 401(k) program than their colleagues who are nearing retirement age. You can use short surveys and one-on-one conversations to help gather this information. Then, you can use that understanding to craft your compensation communication strategy by taking the following steps.
Leverage an internal communication software.
Most companies fail to communicate the extent of their total compensation investment in their employees. So, an internal communication software that blends both communications and content into one personalized, guided experience can be a game-changer. It can enable you to communicate the details of your compensation approach and pay programs in the most effective, engaging way possible. Specifically, by utilizing a software that includes a guided content experience that becomes progressively more detailed, you can present the entirety of your compensation program without overwhelming your employees. For example, your content experience can start with a brief overview video that outlines your compensation philosophy. From there, employees can continue viewing short videos and resources that explore how that philosophy impacts pay decisions, the types of compensation the company offers, and more.
Build a strong communication campaign.
No compensation communication experience would be complete without a robust communication campaign. They’re essential for reinforcing key messaging and concepts over time, so the information you share sticks and resonates with your employees. To craft this type of campaign, you’ll want to leverage a consistent theme, tone, cadence, and set of communication channels. That is, you should identify the most appropriate way to talk about a sensitive topic like compensation with your employees, and then use that tone and approach consistently throughout your communications. You’ll want to create a timeline for your campaign, so you send the right messages to the right people at the right time. You should also figure out which channels, like email, Slack, and SMS messaging, are best suited to each of your audiences. For example, regular emails may not be the best way to reach your deskless workers, but text messages or printed posters may be.
When it comes to the messages themselves, be sure to keep them brief. View them as the vehicle that delivers your content experience rather than the extent of your communications. This will help you avoid overloading your messages, which can cause employees to tune out your campaign before they even get to the content experience.
Create manager-specific communications and content.
One of the reasons nearly half of U.S. workers think their pay isn’t fair is that managers often lack the training and resources needed to effectively communicate their company’s pay philosophy and programs. Given that most conversations about pay happen in a one-on-one setting between an employee and their manager, it’s crucial that managers receive training on the company’s compensation approach, how pay decisions are made, and how to talk about pay with employees. In particular, it’s important to include training and resources that specifically focus on how to have compensation conversations, including do’s and don’ts and how to discuss pay with sensitivity and empathy. That’s why part of your compensation communication approach should include manager-specific messaging and content. If you use an internal communication software, you can even segment your audience when sending communications, so managers receive compensation messaging and content that’s specific to their role and responsibilities in the pay process.
Measure and iterate as you go.
Once you launch your compensation communications, measure your results to see what’s resonating with your employees and what’s not. To do this, collect both quantitative data like email open and click-through rates, as well as qualitative data that you can gather through sentiment surveys and feedback polls. You can use this data and feedback to regularly update and improve your communication strategy; this ensures your messages and content stand out among all the communications your employees receive each day.
In order to address the widespread perception of unfair pay among employees, it’s crucial that your company develops a thoughtful, robust compensation communication strategy and plan. When executed effectively, this strategy and plan can clear up misconceptions about pay and prepare managers to have meaningful compensation conversations with their employees. As a result, employees can better appreciate all the ways their employer invests in them, making them more likely to stay with the company and be satisfied with their job.