Can we talk? Why pay equity discussion important for both employers, employees

Annika Reinhardt, co-founder of the Talent Collective consulting firm in Vancouver, poses in this undated handout photo. Reinhardt says it's important to create a workplace environment that welcomes conversations about pay equity and compensation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO -

TORONTO - In a world where actor Mark Wahlberg can get $1.5 million to reshoot a movie scene while co-star Michelle Williams gets only $1,000 for the same gig, it's clear pay scales are sometimes seriously unbalanced.

Some government initiatives, such as Ontario's recent Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, may be of some help.

But experts in the field say an effective personal strategy can go a long way to closing gaps in your workplace, especially if you find a co-worker is being paid more than you.

Wendy Glaser, manager for human resources consulting at Solertia in Toronto, says you need to take charge of your own career.

"Don't be afraid to talk to your manager about your career, about your professional development and about your feelings about internal inequities," Glaser says.

Annika Reinhardt, co-founder of the Talent Collective consulting firm in Vancouver, agrees but notes that many people are uncomfortable talking about money in general, let alone about pay with co-workers

"And if they do, generally there is one party who is quite upset and the other party feeling awkward. . . . Especially if it's a confrontational type of discussion," Reinhardt says.

To avoid such pitfalls, she advises a step-by-step approach that begins with arming yourself with information and following that up with effective meetings with your supervisor or human resources department.

First off, she advises keeping a journal of big and small accomplishments on a regular basis.

"Every day. Or make it a habit, once a week. . . . What worked well and what didn't, et cetera. But really it's about the wins," Reinhardt says

Then, if you've learned or suspect a co-worker is being paid more than you, have a look at the industry norms.

"It's fine and dandy that Sandra or John . . . is making X amount. Let's verify this with the market. You can find salary data everywhere."

Glaser agrees.

"Even a simple Google search will bring you to website like Payscale, and Glassdoor, LinkedIn Salaries, Indeed (and) in some cases there are Facebook groups of employees sharing their compensation and benefit information with each other," Glaser says.

The next step is to ask your supervisor for a meeting, as soon as possible but with ample notice.

Reinhardt advises letting your manager knows what's on your agenda "rather than being completely overrun without having any clue what's happening."

At this point, she says, the goal isn't to ask for more but to continue to gather more information.

"I would flat out ask . . . where, in our pay range, do I fall right now?" Reinhardt says.

"We're not asking for a raise here. We're just asking, based on what I'm delivering for the company, where do I fit in?"

If the company doesn't have an established pay scale, pull out the ranges compiled from outside sources, and ask if any of your co-workers are higher up than yourself and how you can get there too.

"It's a very fair question," Reinhardt says.

But avoid giving the impression that you feel entitled to get a certain deal just because a co-worker is getting more.

Glaser agrees it's very important to avoid getting into office politics and to keep the discussion focused on performance.

And both consultants say that the employee needs to ask for follow-up meetings, every three or six months, to chart progress towards the higher end of the pay scale. If necessary, take your case up the ladder.

"Don't let your manager make those decisions for you. You have to be in charge of your own career," Glaser says.

As for employers or those near the top of an organization's hierarchy, Glaser says it's also in their best interest to establish a compensation policy and a communications strategy in order to ensure employees are treated fairly.

"At the end of the day, your employees are the ones who are making the sales, who are doing the marketing, who are making sure that you are staying out of bankruptcy," Glaser says.


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