Pay Transparency—the Challenges and Benefits w/ Brandon Fluckiger
People & Capability Advisor at Thiess (“Teece”)
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Pay transparency is one of the biggest topics in HR right now—and one of the most controversial. What are the advantages and disadvantages of posting salaries in job descriptions? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
In this episode of the HR Mavericks podcast, Brandon Fluckiger, people and capability advisor at Thiess and freelance HR consultant, tackles those questions and more. He’s a strong believer in transparency, but he knows that in order for transparency to work, businesses need to have the right processes in place first.
In this episode, we talk about:
- The definition of pay transparency
- How companies can benefit from making salary information public
- Potential downfalls of salary transparency
- Why it’s essential to have a solid compensation strategy
- How small businesses can be transparent—without losing their competitive edge
- Resources HR can use to determine how much to pay employees
Read his article on pay transparency
Visit Brandon’s website to learn more about his consulting services
Episode 77 Transcript
You’re listening to HR Mavericks, a weekly podcast, featuring leading small business HR professionals who share their experiences and insights to help you know how to turn your HR processes and employee experience into a strategic business advantage. Let’s get into the show.
[00:00:00] Garrett Jestice: Welcome to the next episode of the HR Mavericks podcast. I’m Garrett Jestice and today I’m joined by Brandon Flukiger who’s a freelance HR consultant, and also a people and capability advisor at Thiess. Brandon, how you doing today?
[00:00:16] Brandon Fluckiger: I’m doing very well, Garrett. Thank you. How are you?
[00:00:19] Garrett Jestice: Doing so well, it’s great to have you on the show. I know you’ve been, you know, a member of the HR Mavericks community for a while now. You joined pretty early on when we started this last year, I think. Is that.
[00:00:30] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah, it was something like a year ago. I was excited, you know, an ex an excited graduate student looking to get all the experience I could, and community has been great for me. So, yeah, very happy to be here.
[00:00:40] Garrett Jestice: And now you’re the experienced HR professional in, in role consulting on the side. So we’re, we’re super happy to have you on the show and to pick your brain on this topic today. before we jump in, tell our, our, our listeners just a little bit more about you and your background and also what your company does.
[00:00:58] Brandon Fluckiger: For sure. Well, I, it [00:01:00] actually wasn’t too long ago that I graduated, from school. I attended Utah State University for both my graduate and undergraduate programs. I got a bachelor’s in communication studies, immediately went into their, fantastic dual program, for an M H R and mba. Quick shout out for, for U S U, Huntsman School for putting that together.
graduated. well, I finished up online, started work a little bit early. But graduated just ear earlier this year and started full-time work with Thiess mining in January while going to school. I also got some on the side full-time and part-time HR experience as a HR generalist,a recruiter and also an HR intern for Texas Instruments.
[00:01:38] Brandon Fluckiger: So, but now, yeah, people, capability advisor for Thiess which is essentially an HR generalist, HR business partner. Super happy to be where we’re at and getting all the experience. That I’m getting still, never regretting my decision for pursuing hr. It’s a good spot to be in.
[00:01:54] Garrett Jestice: I love it. What do you love most about your role at Thiess now that you’re, you know, a [00:02:00] year or so into that?
[00:02:01] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah. what I didn’t anticipate is being able to focus so much on the relationships. So Thiess is a mining company. We mine, we run a mine in Colorado and I actually get to go visit the employees out there about once a quarter. A lot of employees that I’ve hired, that I’ve answered questions that I’ve interacted with for, for so long, I gotta go see them in person and just, you know, shake hands.
Have a good time. Everyone’s happy to see each other. That’s probably some of my favorite parts of the job is just maintaining the positive relationship employees and to be able to, you know, see them after a while and they’re happy to see you. And it’s like, okay, I’m doing my job as an HR guy. I’m not being Toby from the office and Michael Scott, you know, it’s, it’s a sign of a job well done and I.
[00:02:43] Garrett Jestice: That’s awesome. I think, I think a lot of HR people that I’ve talked to, you know, they, they would probably agree with you that it’s about the people and the connections and that’s, that’s what it should be. Right? And, and, and so I love that. I think that’s great. and tell us, more about some of the HR consulting that you do.
Are there, are there [00:03:00] certain types of companies that you work with? Is it, just a part-time thing on the side? Right.
[00:03:05] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah, it’s, it’s on the side of my full-time gig with Thiess. I actually kind of got the motivation for my graduate program. We did several consulting projects there, but I kind of recognize Utah to be, a really great place for startups and small businesses. . And the other aspect of work that I love so much is just building and having an impact.
and, so I love working in startups that that’s what I. focus on as a consultant, working with startups in small businesses, whether they’re in Utah or not in Utah. That’s what I’ve been working with so far. just helping them establish kind of some of their first HR practices, whether they have HR department or employees or not.
[00:03:41] Brandon Fluckiger: Most of ’em don’t, which is kind of the purpose why I wanna be able to help them out, get the HR perspective and the practices in place to. accelerate the employee experience and help them un unlock the potential that’s there. I know a lot of businesses this size just aren’t big enough for an HR department.
Right. Which is fine, but no business [00:04:00] is too small for the effective HR practices that can propel them forward.
[00:04:04] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. I love that. So great. So Brandon, I’m excited to get into this topic today. I’m, I think we should just jump right in because it’s a big one. and I’m excited to tackle it. It’s core to. You know, every business. It’s something that’s a, a big topic often talked about, and it’s as, as you and I discussed, what did we talk about on the show today?
You, you proposed this idea of pay transparency and some of the challenges and benefits, so help set the stage for us so that we’re all thinking and talking about the same thing. What does pay transparency mean, to.
[00:04:36] Brandon Fluckiger: Transparency. I mean, the easy way to say it is when a company, makes. The different salaries that they offer their employees public for within the organization, outside the organization and their job postings. Really enabling, or letting everybody kind of look up where everybody’s at, which is kind of a scary thing, at least for a lot of companies.
But it’s getting a lot of attention these [00:05:00] days as we shift more and more to an employee’s market having to adapt to a lot of demands of job seekers. and employees, and that’s something that a lot of people are fighting for right now because the, the difficult truth is that a lot of companies kind of abuse the situation that they’re in, where they can be really secretive.
About, what they’re paying their employees, whether their intentions are good or bad. It can very, very easily lead to, unfairness, I mean discrimination. So a lot of, employees and job seekers are recognizing this, complaining about it very loudly, all over social media, especially LinkedIn.
That’s kind of what motivated this, whole research project I put into. . but yeah, it, it’s, it’s a trending topic and, and, the truths about it really need to be spread.
[00:05:44] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, with, with strong opinions on both sides. I would add, you know, from an employer perspective, from an employee perspective, and we’re gonna talk about some of those on from both sides today. Some of the challenges, some of the benefits for doing this. So I guess just to really, you know, start down that path.
Like you [00:06:00] said, pay transparency a lot of times is about our salaries being included in job postings. And then are they, are they public? Existing employees at the company. There can be a couple different aspects of this, but I guess what’s the deal with this? Why, why would, why would employers do this? Why would they, I guess, first include salaries in job postings?
What’s the advantage to them in doing that?
[00:06:22] Brandon Fluckiger: There are there. There’s several significant advantages. The first is I. Well, well back to your previous point actually, there are kind of two aspects. The internal transparency and the external, which are actually a little bit one and the same thing. when you publish your job, salaries externally, you’re doing the same thing cuz for internally, cuz all your employees can see it too.
And your employees will talk about pay amongst each other. You can’t really do anything to stop that. So what happens when one of your current employees sees a job posting? And the posted salary is higher than what they’re currently getting. or your employees discover that someone’s getting overpaid for what you’re advertising, right?
It, it, [00:07:00] it can do a lot to kind of, burn your organization from, from the inside out. So, the, a lot of when it comes to advantages and, and the benefits behind it, first off, is when you’re actually able to, Have the transparency inside and out. There’s gonna be a forced equality when everybody can see each other’s pay.
they’re going to speak up when they see any unfairness. Cause people are always serious about, about their salaries and their pay. you’re going to avoid upsetting the current workforce for anything there. Also, what comes along with transparency and pay, and we can talk about this a little bit later probably, but it means you’re gonna have objective, decision making strategies.
[00:07:35] Brandon Fluckiger: There’s gonna be pay bands and descriptions and anchors for each salary band and a firm justification for why everybody is where they are at. When those are publicized, it’ll give your employees more motivation to grow and to, dig deeper into the organization, find ways that they can, work harder and, and, achieve all the qualifications that they need to be able to get to the higher range.
When it comes to recruiting, this is where like all the research is at, job [00:08:00] postings that have the salaries included in the job description get way more attention than those that don’t. More and more job seekers. well, research is also showing job seekers more often, than before are mass or bulk applying.
which means they’re going quicker. They’re only gonna be,going through and apply, making applications for jobs that, are easy. And they’re convinced quickly about if there’s no salary range, they’re gonna skip it. so therefore, when you. Salaries included in your job description, you’re gonna get more attention.
[00:08:30] Brandon Fluckiger: You’re gonna get hires quicker, and it’s gonna reduce recruiting costs a whole lot. yeah. Sorry.
[00:08:36] Garrett Jestice: No, I was just gonna say I, and I think that that’s why we see with like a lot of job boards, you go to Indeed, you might post a job on LinkedIn, you know, monster.com, any of these other places, a lot of times they have like an estimated salary if you’re not putting it in, right? Like they’re, that’s part of the reason why they’re doing it is because they know that, hey, you’re, this job is gonna get way more clicks and applicants, which is ultimately what, you know, customers of theirs want.
[00:09:00] If it has a salary range.
[00:09:02] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah, it’s, it’s all over. I think it was, it was like a week ago, I saw SHRM released another article. honing in on this idea. You, you get way more attention if you’re struggling hiring. This should be one of the first things you look at. Are you advertising the pay? if you’re not, that’s, that’s a big problem.
It’s something you should reconsider.
[00:09:19] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, so I think that makes total sense from like an external perspective and why businesses would do it. There’s tons of data backing up. You know, again, from a recruiting and hiring perspective, you’re gonna get more applicants if you have it on. There. I think from an internal perspective, you know, I, I definitely hear you on the, some of the stuff you said of, the reducing the bias that exists and the pay gaps in inequality, which is super important.
I think that there are business owners out there, I’ve talked to some before who have said things like, but it just causes more drama. It just causes more drama internally, or it, it. It gets messy right to do that. So what, what would you say to, business owners who were expressing [00:10:00] something like that, especially from like an internal company perspective?
Why do you typically what, or, or I guess to start off, what are other reasons that you see that employers often keep this secret and should they.
[00:10:13] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah, thi this is the difficult part, and you’re right, this is the, the messy part, that a lot of people you see, you know, making complaining posts about this on LinkedIn don’t quite understand it is so messy getting to this paid transparency. point. . first thing, when, companies don’t advertise pay, they have a huge competitive advantage.
they can, they can shoot for cost savings and labor costs a whole lot easier. if the candidate they’re looking to hire isn’t aware of what their budget is and what they’re looking for, when it comes to pay negotiations. Yeah, they don’t want to upset their current workforce. Like the examples I gave before, if you’re overpaying or underpaying someone, then compared to what you’re advertising, people are gonna get mad.
[00:10:52] Brandon Fluckiger: People are gonna, cause drama, they’re gonna complain and they’re gonna leave. but I mean, to be honest, they, they may have every right to, if it really is, [00:11:00] unfair or miscommunicated, companies will worry about the posted pay. Overshadowing every other part of the job. say they want to really emphasize some, some perks and benefits or the culture,or, or what the job entails, but.
yeah, pay does get the most attention and maybe people are just applying for that. So there, there’s a lot to it. It requires a lot of work. overall, how you are able to overcome these kind of depends on each one you’re looking at, but you just have to be a lot more intentional and strategic about your hiring.
[00:11:31] Brandon Fluckiger: We could do a whole nother podcast episode explaining, you know, what strategies you can implement for each of these different points, but the overarching. principle is you need to be actively,intentional about, about how you’re hiring, who you’re hiring, and what you’re putting in your job descriptions.
There are ways around it. there are things you can do, to move past these messy parts of, of,of achieving pay transparency, but it, it will pay off in the end. The [00:12:00] research is showing.
[00:12:01] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, really good. I’d, I’d love to take one or two of these as just an example and just kind of explore it with you. So like one or two of these issues. So, you know, the first one that I, that comes to mind is, , you know, especially small businesses. You know, I, I know you say, you know, you often consult with a lot of these small businesses on the side, so a lot of times small businesses, I’ve often worked in small businesses, the challenge that they face is we can’t pay as much as the big guys.
Right. Like our, our bigger competitors. And so if we post salary there, are we gonna lose out on people? Because where we really win and compete is on some of the other stuff we can pay, you know? A decent salary for this job or a decent hourly wage, but we can’t pay as much. We can’t be the best in the market.
So does it just drive costs up and does it take attention away from, you know, our culture and some of the other things when it comes to hiring? And so taking that example, if you were consulting with a company who had that concern with, [00:13:00] posting salary or hourly wage on a job opening, what would you say to them to help them understand why it would be important to do it anyways?
[00:13:08] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah. first thing I will say is, I mean, it’s, it’s a very obvious fact, but you never, I mean, it’s still surprising when you hear it. 50% of companies in the world pay below market averages when it comes to salaries. That’s just a statistical fact, right? if I’m working with a startup or if a business exists that decides that they can’t pay over market, with some of the big, with some of the big guys, they better have a pretty good reason for doing it.
payroll and what you pay your employees is something you should not take lightly, and should be one of the last places you go if you’re looking to, to cut costs anywhere. So it’s totally fine. If you decide to pay below market, tons of companies do it, tons of thousands, hundreds of thousands. you just better have a pretty good rationale.
[00:13:53] Brandon Fluckiger: Pretty good justification behind that. Some examples is you put a lot of, Money and value and the benefits and perks. Maybe you have a [00:14:00] really good, stock options or, really good health benefits. you know, you put a lot of effort into the work environment. You have a, you know, top of the line, brand new office or, or you offer remote work opportunities.
[00:14:11] Garrett Jestice: You find all these other aspects of working at your company that are valuable to your target workforce, then yeah, you could up your efforts in that area and perhaps lower. The money that you’re putting into compensation? So I guess to build on that, Brandon, in, in that scenario, let’s say, let’s take a company that you know, They can’t pay above market rate. They pay slightly below, but they feel like they’ve invested in some of those other things, the perks and the other benefits. does it still help them at that point to be transparent about pay when they’re hiring for a new role?
Why or why not? You know?
[00:14:47] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah, glad you brought me back to, to the question here. Sorry for the tangent. so with all that being said, once you have the clear rationale or justification, you, you gotta communicate it. , obviously the first [00:15:00] place you can put that is in the job descriptions. Hope, hopefully in a easy-to-read, concise way, show off all the, all the other values behind working at your company.
find the best way to communicate that and sh and, and make it clear to your employees. Yeah, we recognize we may be paying below market, but here’s why. it all kind of plugs into your overall employer brand. There’s, there’s so many different ways to attract employees besides just putting, paying the job description, like making the application process super simple, super easy and quick is, is another good way.
[00:15:33] Brandon Fluckiger: Have an attractive website. have an attractive social media presence. just, put yourself in a job seeker shoes and find out what ways you can show off your employer brand and your culture in other ways. There’s a lot to.
[00:15:48] Garrett Jestice: But at the end of the day, it’s still important and valuable to put, even if you’re below market rate, to put what that salary or hourly rate is. Because again, of what we were talking about before, if you don’t, you [00:16:00] know that there’s plenty of data out there that shows that you’re gonna get fewer applicants because of that.
But if, but if you’re holistic in explaining this is one component of working here, then it still helps you to add it even if you’re below market.
[00:16:14] Brandon Fluckiger: Hundred percent. It actually could end up hurting your employer brand if you don’t include it. That shows off like you’re hiding something. Especially with more and more, employers choosing to, to be transparent about pay and you don’t, applicants are gonna think, yeah, they’re, they’re paying less or the culture is about, you know, not being transparent.
It’s about hiding and secrecy. You know, whether or not that’s true, that’s what they assume. Candidates make assumptions about it, and, and you, you don’t wanna take that risk.
[00:16:44] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, this is good. Let’s take one other example if we can, real quick. So that’s more of an external example that we talked about, but internally, I know one of the,pushbacks that often we hear from, you know, business owners, especially small business owners, is, That it’s gonna cause drama among employees.
Like maybe [00:17:00] this person doesn’t know what the market rate for an engineer is, which is different than what you know is significantly more than what they’re making. Or there’s certain roles and things like that that can cause drama and friction between employees if they put that information out there.
Internally. So if you, were consulting or working with a business owner who had that concern, who’s more internal focused there, what would be, your response or what would you try to help them understand?
[00:17:30] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah. So yeah, that, that, that’s a really good question. Probably one of the, the more popular ones,a big principle here is if you’re shooting for pre pay transparency, Knowing all the benefits, you know, and the pros of doing it, the cons of not, you still need to wait to do it until you’re ready, cause it will eat you from the inside out.
This drama can get really ugly if you’re not ready to be transparent about pay. the idea is what, what ready means is when you have, kind of what I was hinting at. [00:18:00] Objectivity in your salary decisions, you have a, a solid compensation strategy. You know exactly, why you’re paying each individual, why you are.
you have, descriptions for each pay band. Maybe you even have separated, your compensation package into different job families, pay bands and all these things. You can get really deep into it. But, the message, I think the solution here, you gotta be ready to be able to receive the complaints and have a rock solid justification for your decisions.
[00:18:31] Brandon Fluckiger: Otherwise, yeah, it, it’s, it’s gonna go down to people assuming bias and, and discrimination and fairness and all that. But if someone comes to you and says, Hey, so-and-so’s getting paid this, I’m getting underpaid. you’re gonna be able to point to the piece of paper, not your own opinion, you’re gonna point to the strategy.
And say, actually, you know, you meet this qualification, this qualification, so and so is in this position because of this and this, this is what you can do to get up there. And, and this same policy applies to everybody [00:19:00] at the organization. And they’re gonna go like, oh, okay, that makes sense. I’m gonna shoot to get there.
so yeah, you may still get a couple complaints, but when you’re ready for it, you can shoot ’em down. and everybody’s gonna be on the same page in the end. If, if you’re ready.
[00:19:12] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. So really, really good points. So I guess the, the question that actually comes to mind then is, it seems. Having a a process that’s that robust. I could see small business owners saying, well, we’re just not there yet. Like, it seems like it’s a mid-sized, larger company initiative and we just don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to what roles we need and the salaries and the bands and everything else.
So is it something that small businesses should still consider or is it something. is probably better as a company Gets a little bit bigger.
[00:19:49] Brandon Fluckiger: It’s something you could definitely just dive miles deep into. There’s, there’s compensation specialists with doctorate degrees, you know, that, that could give you all the different [00:20:00] formulas and, and, and slopes and stuff to, to try and aim for all these things. But for a small startup with like 20 or 30 employees or.
the principle is the same. Yeah, I think, you c you should still shoot for transparency. In fact, it’s, it’s gonna be a lot easier to have,to, to be transparent about pay from the beginning when you’re still small than when you’re, you know, 10,000 employees plus, you should still shoot for it.
[00:20:24] Brandon Fluckiger: But yeah, you don’t need to dive miles deep into it. You don’t need job families and job grades. You don’t need all these things. You’ll probably need job descriptions. I think that’s a good base. have an organizational strategy. Know, how many people you need to hire Weld, you know enough, know how many people you need to hire where, have, a bit of a strategy and, and plan for your organization enough to be able to have job descriptions for each of your different, positions than including the job description, the different pay bands and the different levels and yeah, different, different levels of pay that you can get in that role.
[00:20:55] Garrett Jestice: Love it. Yeah, I think that’s, that makes total sense. So, if I’m a small business [00:21:00] owner and I have this desire to implement trade pay transparency at my small business, but I have. Haven’t done anything yet. Where do I start? Like what is it? What steps does an employer need to take to really start down that path?
Especially one of those small businesses that just hasn’t made very much progress or done much on it at all.
[00:21:18] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah. definitely if, if you have a side hustle HR consultant friend, reach out to them, see if they have any suggestions for. but yeah, I mean, you first have to be ready for it, right? So you gotta assess your current workforce, do some research and, and find out where you’re paying according to the market.
There’s plenty of free resources out there. salary.com. Glassdoor, indeed is starting to dive into this little bit, look at a few different resources and find out exactly where you’re at. You also need to decide where you want, to pay. Relative to the market. It’s called the comp ratio. it’s, it’s all about a compensation strategy and, and figuring out where you want to be.
and then from there, yeah, you decide where each job is going to sit at the different levels within a job,and, and what you can get paid. That’s, that’s [00:22:00] what I would suggest.
[00:22:01] Garrett Jestice: So it starts with what are the jobs, what are the job descriptions, and then what are the kind of salary bands? And you, there’s plenty of free resources like you mentioned out there to kind of help you with that. But you know, ultimately, you know, probably the best way is reaching out to someone like you who can kind of help you think through this process systematically and set it up and, and really that’s where it starts.
And then it’s a matter. Maintaining and evolving and updating that over time because pay is something that, you know, that evolves a lot as, with the economy and the markets and everything else, right?
[00:22:33] Brandon Fluckiger: Yeah, I, I think that’s a really good point, Garrett, to stay on top of it. Yeah, economy’s always changing. Job market is always changing. This isn’t a one and done thing. you gotta update your justifications and your comp strategy every year according to what things are looking like in your business as well as externally.
[00:22:49] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, it’s awesome. Well, Brandon, this has been such a great conversation. I think that there’s a lot of really good stuff in here that hopefully will help some businesses think about why they should implement, pay [00:23:00] transparency if they haven’t, and hopefully help them know where to start. And so we appreciate you being on the show and sharing some of your thoughts with us.
I know we just scratched the surface. We probably could have gone, you know, a lot longer on this massive topic, but I think that it was a great conversation today. So thank you for being with us. If there are listeners who want to get in contact with you either to learn more about this topic from you or learn about working with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
[00:23:26] Brandon Fluckiger: LinkedIn is, is always a great place. I’ve also got a website, culture and capability.com is a good place where you can reach out to me and learn a little bit more about what I do. I also, a while ago, Kind of prompted all this, published a LinkedIn article called Why Employers Aren’t Posting Salaries and Why They Should.
It kind of summarized, you know, all the different thoughts that I tried to put here. I, I think that’s a good place to go as well.
[00:23:48] Garrett Jestice: Perfect. And we will drop links to all of those things, in our show notes. So if you’re listening and wanna find any of those things, go check out the show notes and you can find out how to connect with Brandon, find out where his article and website are. [00:24:00] So Brandon, thank you again for being with us today.
Hope you have a great rest of the day.
[00:24:04] Brandon Fluckiger: Thank you so much, Garrett. I appreciate it.
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