What's All this About?: 1) Employee Engagement & 2) the Gender Pay Gap

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In this Issue:
  1. Employee Engagement & Alignment
  2. Bias and the Gender Pay Gap: Why and How to Foster Equality at Your Organization

Employee Engagement & Alignment

An "engaged employee" is defined as one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests. An engaged employee has a positive attitude towards the organization and its values. [This is one of many definitions…]
Employee alignment means everyone is pulling in the same direction. Employee goals line up with team goals, department goals and enterprise goals. Each person’s effort combines with others across the organization, as everyone moves toward the same goal. When people feel that their work is aligned with that of the organization, it boosts their engagement.

According to a Gallup poll, only 32% of employees in the United States are engaged in their jobs; and that as many as 51% of workers are actively looking for a new job or watching for new openings. Gallup also estimates that the cost of poor management and lost productivity from disengaged U.S. employees is between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year, and that companies spend a combined three-quarters of a billion dollars annually to improve employee engagement.

Here at Face The Music we have an expression, “Your Work is Your Song”, that to me means it’s an expression of where you’re at personally, professionally, spiritually, etc. Pause and look at the work you are doing today. If it’s a song, what would its title be? What would the rhythm and vibe be? What sort of lyrics—a love song, an energetic rockin’ jam, a slow blues? Are you “engaged”?

Engaged employees are actively participating in the composition and performance of their song in duets, trios, sextets, and choruses & choirs that are the organization. They know what they are working towards and for, are confident that their contribution is contributing to that vision/mission/goals, and are acknowledged and recognized for that contribution.

In my recent chapter in the Handbook of Personal and Organizational Transformation, I wrote about the importance of personal and collective purpose in the alignment and engagement in an organization:

Purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organizational culture. It’s an unseen-yet-ever-present element that drives an organization. It can be a strategic starting point, a product differentiator, and an organic attractor of users and customers.

People in touch with their personal purpose have a strong sense of who they are, and are in touch with their passions and values. Their goals and career choices are informed by that purpose and they are looking for opportunities to live that purpose on a larger playing field, to fulfill it in a bigger way than they could manifest on their own.

An ideal organization is one where the personal purposes of the employees and leadership cascade into the purpose of the organization. What we’re doing here serves my personal purpose as well as putting bread on the table and paying the mortgage. In this situation people are self-driven and motivated. The commitment and energy level are many-fold higher than say, in a place where people are on the edge of singing “take this job and shove it,” where work is a necessary evil in order to survive.

A company’s purpose cannot simply be a pretty set of words. As the adage goes, actions speak louder than words. There is a sense of integrity that is clear to people in an organization if we are walking the talk of our mission and values, or if they are merely window dressing.
Employee engagement cannot be achieved by a mechanistic approach that tries to extract discretionary effort by manipulating employees’ commitment and emotions. Employees see through such attempts very quickly and can become cynical and disillusioned. —engageforsuccess.org

One key element in engagement is that there are authentic channels for self-expression and a listening and active response to act on new ideas, address concerns and issues, communicate transparently, and partner on actions and solutions. A key energizer in Face The Music’s work is that it provides a forum for expression of themes, issues, ideas, and concerns that are self-selected by the participants. They are able to talk (and sing) about what is important to them; things that may not have an existing framework or platform for expression in the day-to-day work system.

Unaddressed issues have a way of gathering their own mass and gravity; they get more and more pressing, like a rock in your shoe. The pressures and urgency of day-to-day business responsibilities can push aside addressing issues that are important, but don’t have the urgency of today’s firefighting and pressing deadlines. Left unaddressed, they linger in the organizational system like an ignored medical symptom that can develop into a chronic illness.

An engaged culture is one where we co-create with all stakeholders the conditions in which employees offer more of their capability and potential, where personal purpose is aligned with organizational purpose, and where vision and goals are clear and present in daily operations. It takes a conscious, self-aware system with a dynamic balance of direction, information, participation, delegation, innovation, and robust communication to pull it off. And when you do—you have a great place to work.

--Paul Kwiecinski--

Bias and the Gender Pay Gap: Why and How to Foster Equality at Your Organization

The New York Times published a letter which brought attention to the gender pay gap, including that female clerks at the U.S. Department of Treasury were earning half of their male counterparts. Did collective outrage and correction ensue? The letter was published in 1869, and despite 150 years transpiring since, the concept of equal pay for equal work continues to be widely elusive. The stakes, however, have never been higher. One of the latest employers in the spotlight is Oracle, whom the Department of Labor is now suing, for shorting the pay of women and minorities by $400 million.

Photo: Suffragettes, 1913
Based on today’s average pay gap, American women can expect to lose an average of $430,000 over their careers, though importantly, the figure more than doubles for women of color. The loss becomes magnified during one’s latter
years, as retirement funds and social security benefits are predicated on earned income. It is therefore no wonder that women over 65 are much more likely than men to be impoverished, no matter their education, race, or marital status.

Of course, ensuring equitable compensation is simply the right thing to do. Yet, organizations needing other compelling reasons should know that there is a strong business case for equity. This article will dive into the why and how, including practical ways to foster equality at your organization. Let’s begin with a primer on unconscious bias, a sneaky culprit in this equation. [Click here to read a case study about FTM working with unconscious bias.]

Our brains rely on the unconscious portion to help us make decisions fast. When it comes to dealings with other people, we make assumptions based upon various demographics (ex: age, gender, education, skin color, orientation, etc). To maintain speed, our unconscious mind may rely on stereotypes, such as men being more decisive and capable leaders, even when our conscious mind would object. In the context of hiring and compensation, bias shows up in perceptions of competence and deserved salary, repercussions for women attempting negotiation, and a motherhood penalty/fatherhood bonus. Further, women are judged more harshly for many workplace activities, such as assertiveness, perceived failures, what time they leave work, and more. It is thereby no surprise that in the performance management process, women face critiques that men do not. All of which ultimately ties back to compensation, in a vicious cycle.

Infographics: Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

So, what is an organization to do? Understand the business case and take action.
The Why: Business Case for Equal Pay
  • Wage gaps jeopardize business outcomes – When employees perceive discrimination, including on the basis of gender, their satisfaction and commitment to the organization diminishes. Achieving a happy workforce is nuanced beyond compensation, yet worth pursuing, as it is positively correlated with sales, productivity, and accuracy.
  • Protect your brand and revenue streams – Companies facing allegations for their pay practices experience a barrage of press, to the risk of their brand and client relationships. With Oracle, the DOL warned upstream: “Lawsuit could cost company millions in federal contracts”.
  • Legal compliance can minimize costs – Failure to comply with emerging legislation can prove costly when claims arise. For example, New Jersey’s 2018 Diane Allen Equal Pay Act dictates damages of three times the shorted pay for up to a six year lookback period, for the same or “substantially similar work”.

The How: Practical Ways to Foster Equality at Your Organization:
  • During recruitment, don’t obtain salary histories. What someone earned for a different job and set of circumstances is frankly irrelevant, and inquiries into salary history are known to perpetuate wage gaps. Which is why the practice is increasingly becoming illegal across the nation, including for state agencies in New York & New Jersey as well as for all employers in New York City. A better practice would be to share the budget range for the open position.
  • Proactively assess your compensation data by demographics, which you can do for relatively little or no cost with stunning visual software. In addressing gaps, learn from others’ best practices and seek professional assistance as appropriate.
  • Modernize parental policies. Mothers are disproportionately affected by the gender pay gap, including via bearing the burden of time away from the workforce. American employers can catch up to the rest of the developed world by offering paid paternity leave, which when taken, has shown a positive effect on mothers’ earnings, in addition to offering a much need benefit to men as well. Further, employers can review opportunities to leverage increased flexibility (ex: work from home) as a means of keeping employees, and their valuable knowledge base, in the workforce as well as to diminish turnover, which is well known to be extremely costly to employers.
  • Eliminate bias from performance management practices – Subjective application of evaluation criteria has been shown to reflect gender biases, including in critiques of decision making and confidence. Experts recommend implementing more objective criteria, offering training for evaluators, and leveraging a crowd-sourcing model for feedback collection.
  • Pursue developmental programming and inclusion – Cultivate professional development and mentorship opportunities for women of all levels. Further, foster women’s representation in leadership, which has been linked positively to profit, innovation, and reputation.

Organizations ready for more progressive measures can utilize pay transparency practices, review job descriptions and postings for gendered language, pledge equal pay in talent marketplaces, and sign equity compacts with the communities they operate from.
The gender pay gap is perpetuated by bias, among other factors. And while unconscious bias may not entirely be our fault, we still bear the responsibility of addressing its implications. The business cases discussed earlier demonstrate that it is in organizations’ best interest to address bias and wage gaps. In that pursuit, several practical solutions were offered. Yet well beyond the business case, is
the one for humankind. Wage equality is, after all, about equality. When history books are written about this time, what would bring you joy to be remembered by? Photo: UN Women

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