Five essential rules for communicating your gender pay statistics

20 February 2018 -

GenderpaygapreportAs managers prepare to release details of their organisation’s gender pay gap, one advisory firm explains how to handle internal and external reactions

By Mark Pinnes

The BBC gender pay gap is controversial, but the way the organisation handled the announcement made the situation much worse. It was a communications disaster; one that the Beeb are continuing to pay a high price for.

To help your organisation avoid the same fate ahead of the April 2018 deadline, we have compiled five essential rules from interviews with some of the country’s leading HR directors, communication specialists, policy makers and organisational psychologists.

Produce a narrative. Senior sponsorship is crucial.

Pay is emotional – especially if people feel unfairly treated. Try to anticipate the responses your report will provoke and craft a narrative around the report to address those responses. Pay is just one of the ways in which you get rewarded – if you add that to the communication it might help alleviate the pain.

It is important to present your information honestly, but you can ensure greater clarity through other means such as providing charts with altered calculations which reflect the wider context of your company. A carefully prepared statement from your CEO or head of HR, to release alongside the report, is also a good idea.

Explain the data, but don’t be defensive.

Your data will not be as simple as it first appears. Your ‘pay gap’ is calculated using average percentages, which can be skewed by things like maternity leave vs. untaken paternity leave, senior management gender-balance, and the specific roles that people serve in – none of which must be provided in detail under the new regulations.

While helping people to understand the complexities behind the figures they are seeing is a good idea, labouring the point will make you sound defensive. Before releasing your data, ensure that you understand precisely what is causing the figures, and the practices or attitudes, both within your company and in our wider culture behind them.

Communicate a plan to fix the issue.

If you have a pay gap, is it acceptable to your employees? If not, you are going to have to address it proactively. Construct a plan with senior stakeholders, articulating proactive steps by which you

propose to address any pay gap. Provide clarity and certainty – or this issue will dog your business long into the future. (There is more detail on this in the full report, below).

Open up the channels of communication. Really listen.

If you have a significant imbalance, it will have an impact on your workforce’s trust in you. Give your workforce internal avenues through which to express their feelings on the matter, anonymously if they so desire. Have line managers, ambassadors and senior leaders explain matters internally and address internal reactions – and take action if necessary. There should be executive sponsorship.

When and what to publish

Everyone has to publish their figures sooner or later, but you might find that the decision as to ‘when’ turns into a game of ‘chicken’ between you and your competitors. If you get your figures out first, you can define the narrative and be rewarded – but handle it poorly and your brand can take a substantial hit. It’s preferable to publish and discuss your figures internally first if that’s possible – but recognise that you can lose control of the story if your team starts leaking information on social media.

These tips are abridged from “Gender Pay Gap Reporting - A guide to communicating your results” by Flagship Consulting

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