Readying ourselves for salary transparency: Are you?
This fall, salary transparency is a buzzword in workplaces across the United States — that is, if you haven’t heard the buzz already.
Salary transparency laws go into effect on November 1, 2022, in New York City, January 2023 in California, and other states and localities like New York State, Illinois, Nevada and Connecticut following suit with laws soon to be passed. Change is afoot, and while laws vary from state to state, employers are embracing transparency. Businesses are sharing knowledge and power, and remedying the inequities that women, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and other historically disadvantaged groups have faced as they negotiate salary at various points in the employee lifecycle. This embrace of transparency shatters barriers that stand in the way of advancement for so many: imagine it as one more glass barrier that is shattered on the way to full equity and equality, starting with listing a salary on a job posting.
So what’s the buzz?
This moment marks a true watershed across the United States, when courageous employers and workplaces are inviting opportunities for dialogue and learning about compensation, and how employees’ salaries are structured. At the same time, we know that this poses a meaningful challenge. Those employers who are unaccustomed to sharing, who haven’t (yet) engaged with these issues, who prioritize privacy, or who have not established compensation philosophies or set salary bands will feel especially challenged. All of this sits alongside any concerns that we might hold information about compensation that might be used to discriminate, as well as taboos or biases around money. We want to allay your concerns — and invite you in. Consider this a time for inquiry and for building relationships grounded in trust, not as a moment to fear. Asking questions and inviting dialogue about transparency opens up our eyes to its risks and rewards.
Listing salaries on a job posting is a basic — and important — first step toward pay equity. But what if you’re not ready yet?
This is where we start. A number of the laws we see coming up will include this requirement, and we invite our Jewish communal colleagues across the country to join in, even and especially in states that have not yet adopted the requirement. We know it’s hard, and we understand that it requires significant pre-work, both for internal advancement and for positions listed externally. And at the same time, we also know that to be competitive in today’s workplace, salary must be listed. Let the Jewish communal field be an industry known for our transparency, forward-thinking, and embrace of equity. This is a basic first step that says “here’s what this position (and only this position) is worth.”
Listing a salary on a job posting enables women, people of color, LGBTQ+ folks and other historically disadvantaged groups who might be applying for these positions to narrow the ask gap that contributes to the gender wage gap. Folks who do not know what to say when they must “choose” a starting salary are stung the hardest. Employers know their budgets, and if they don’t, they should. This is a crucial place to start which is good for all of us. Salary transparency is a solution. Let’s not see it as a problem. It’s a solution to the challenge of wage inequities and a chance to remedy that challenge.
But this is hard, and it takes so long!
You’re right! All the most important work is. It is good work that is meaningful, that engages productive dialogue with employers, and builds faith in a process, relationships, and deep understanding of how our systems work. And yes, it is challenging work but does not have to be done all at once. We know that many spaces in the Jewish community are not easy places to begin this process. You might feel challenged if you are in merged organizations, in states where this conversation has not yet started, in tiny organizations that have not approached compensation at all or over time, or who have grown quickly without at the same time adjusting their compensation philosophies and practices, and in organizations with resistant boards who are not engaged in these practices in their own workplaces (still, a surprising number of domains). The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
And yet others say that salary transparency is bad for business. It is not. This is an emotional response to a threat, which is natural, as is the fear of losing power and control. Employers who are actively advocating for salary transparency do not need to do this work alone: ample resources are available to support your process, from data to language to research. And a reminder: everything doesn’t need to happen all at once, tomorrow. Rabbi Tarfon reminds us “לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה,” “It is not our responsibility alone to complete the task, but neither can we desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:16). We don’t need to make this a more difficult emotional transition than it already is. This can be an incremental process, and it needs to get started. If you need some help, let the Gender Equity in Hiring Project get you ready.
Salary transparency feels like too much — like there’s nothing private anymore. Why do we have to share everything?
Think about transparency as a spectrum. A great example is like our window coverings: you can choose to have your windows bare, or you can choose room darkening shutters, or anything in between. Organizations can make their own choices about transparency and design how transparent their compensation practices are, both internally and externally. At one end, everything might be private, except for the data shared on an organization’s Form 990. Somewhere in the middle, retaining some privacy about individual employees’ salaries, transparency might invite a conversation about data, and how data is used to determine pay (see our reference here to audits, for example).
At another point along the spectrum, organizations may share how salary is constructed, their compensation philosophy, and why pay bands are established the way they are. All of this is an invitation to transparency, at whatever point along this spectrum, opening up conversations that enable employees — current and prospective — to engage in dialogue about how salaries are constructed. And along the way, employees become partners in the process, champions of these changes, trusted allies and advocates, and representatives of the values and vision your organization represents. They are the human embodiment of your organization’s integrity, and make visible that your internal practices match your external behavior, too.
Salary transparency on job postings is efficient. We all want that, right?
In a job seeker’s market, our workplaces must appeal to prospective employees. We want to value people, their time and their process, and we certainly don’t want to waste their time (or our own). If we don’t post a salary, we’re setting up a barrier between our prospective employees and ourselves, and challenging them to figure it out on their own, which we know is time-consuming and often difficult. If employers post a salary range, they then save the time, effort and energy of interviewing prospective candidates who otherwise would be seeking a higher (or lower!) salary. Put all the information out there. You’ll reduce the size of your candidate pool effectively, reduce the burden on your hiring committee, and save time by interviewing those who are actually the right fit for your budget. This goes both ways: prospective employees also save time by not preparing for and interviewing for positions that are not a right fit for their budgetary needs.
However, it’s safe to say that not everyone wants efficiency — or even transparency — yet. This takes convincing. Many find real safety in organizational opacity, keeping what they perceive to be private information private. Plus, raising internal and external dialogues around compensation can be a challenging reminder to employees highlighting discrepancies, and potentially bringing general attention to issues of compensation. This may create a negative environment for employees, both those who feel that they are (or have evidence that they are) underpaid, and creating feelings of dissatisfaction or even attrition. All of this feels risky, and creates vulnerabilities for leadership who may make these decisions.
In spite of all this, every bit of evidence points to salary transparency as a step toward efficiency in the hiring process, by creating uniformity and consistency, attracting talent aligned with the appropriate salary and job description, reducing the back-and-forth of salary negotiations in this process, and valuing the time and contributions of all who take part.
Salary banding is a healthy next step. And everyone can do it.
Start with a process of auditing your internal salary structure, and look at what your people are earning on the way to creating bands for different kinds of roles at different kinds of job levels (or assessing them). Consider whether or not your current team’s salaries and benefits are equitably distributed: this way, listing salaries externally (for new positions) will feel both less painful and will be aligned equitably with your current team. An audit can be complex, with many data points, but can also begin with a baseline assessment that can start simply, and help you to move toward salary banding that will enable you to step into transparency sooner rather than later. And if you already have bands, this is an opportune moment to gather the data necessary to determine if they’re working, if they’re correct, or if they need to be fine-tuned.
Salary banding falls at the middle of a spectrum of practice around transparency that suggests that structure and strategy can inform planning: where your pay may be in a particular band, and where you can grow indicates your particular place inside an organization’s compensation structure. For each individual employee, it doesn’t tell you what all your colleagues are making down to the penny, but it does offer you insight into how salaries are structured and how your trajectory might be informed by that process. We recommend beginning with Leading Edge’s excellent resource to get started: Salary Banding: Valuing Talent with Intention and Transparency.
All the good stuff too: salary transparency improves trust and productivity.
The more transparency organizations offer about how decisions are made, the more commitment employees demonstrate to organizational mission and vision. In general, this translates into retention, loyalty and higher levels of morale, and general job satisfaction. Most employers want people to enjoy working with them, to feel good about the work they do, and feel good about being a part of their team: this is amplified when they understand how salaries are constructed, why people are paid the way they’re paid, and how their individual contributions are rewarded. Transparency matters.
We are the leaders. We are modeling the challenges and gifts of transparency, and the opportunities that arise when we ask questions and construct our responses together in community. When we talk about and embrace transparency, we’re modeling a commitment to equity. When we invite transparency, we’re not saying “please post the salaries of every single one of your employees, down to the penny, on your website.” We’re not talking about “keep your windows wide open and uncovered and share all your organizational secrets.” That’s a lot and we know it. And at the same time we know that transparency is an attitude, an orientation that is modeling being in an engaged relationship with others, even when it is hard. We — and our organizations — have the capacity to lead, to take risks, and to act bravely by shining lights on challenges and by asking hard questions, even where we find ourselves embracing transparency at different places on that broad spectrum.
Listen to the buzz. It isn’t just state legislatures making decisions for employers in governmental offices. Or our supervisors deciding how we are paid and how our information will be shared–or not. It’s a collection of voices in unison, including ours, representing different perspectives on transparency and embracing it along a spectrum, as we turn the tide toward pay equity that lifts us all.
The Gender Equity in Hiring Project will be releasing a set of new resources this fall and winter to support organizational readiness as these state deadlines approach. We’ll be celebrating the long-awaited NYC Pay Transparency Law (Local Law 32) that goes into effect November 1, 2022 in New York City. We look forward to being in conversation with Jewish organizations and communities across the US as they ready themselves to embrace salary transparency, and support their process. Let us know how we can help. Join us for conversation and further action as these changes unfold, as they open up our workplaces and our minds, and as we join together to learn from this transparency and embrace it fully. Follow us to stay connected with upcoming events, opportunities to get involved, and learn together about how we all are readying ourselves for salary transparency.