In our recent blog outlining the impact of presenteeism, we noted how 43% of workers who participated in an Aviva study felt business performance was prioritised over their wellbeing. Too often we see a lack of open and honest communication in organisations—leading to high stress levels and poor mental health in employees.

So, in light of stress awareness month this April, this blog is going to look at how building a culture of trust through pay transparency can help you on the mission of tackling workplace stress.

Be open from the outset

First things first. Organisations should be able to build trust by helping employees understand how and why they get paid. A salary range (or lack thereof) is usually the first thing people notice—and the deciding factor—when they are applying for jobs.

If we’re not open and transparent at this crucial first stage then we’re already building this working relationship on poor communication. It’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to develop a desirable level of trust by doing so.

A PayScale survey even demonstrates that while people who are underpaid had a 40% job satisfaction rate, this increased to 82% when they were treated like adults and were simply told why the organisation was paying under the market rate.

Because people felt valued and appreciated, a significant amount of stress and uncertainty dissipated. Being able to have these open conversations from the start can build trust and improve an organisation’s ability to attract and retain talent.

Sense of purpose and pay transparency infographic

Tackling the unknown

Uncertainty is often another contributing factor to high stress levels. While we may have to deal with this outside of work too, employers can tackle it in the workplace with pay transparency and effective communication.

Employees who don’t understand how their role fits within the business can develop misleading perceptions. For example, a lack of defined salary ranges can cause people to believe that they’re paid less than they deserve. The feeling of being undervalued and unappreciated is going to create a stressful environment.

However, if we’re transparent and implement pay ranges, for example, employees have a clear view of where their salary sits within the organisation. This addresses uncertainty with reassurance and clarity.

On the other hand, we also need to think about how employees’ priorities change during their work lives. After a while, salary becomes less of a motivating factor and people usually stay loyal to an organisation where they feel they are treated fairly.

As we continue to navigate a cost of living crisis, the main things people want to know are—am I being paid what I deserve and will I have a job tomorrow?

While there are still so many organisations not being transparent about pay, it’s no wonder employees are worried about the stability of their roles.

By creating a culture where people are able to be open and honest, we can approach some more difficult conversations. Communicating clearly to employees about how and why you make salary decisions will likely address most of their uncertainty and put their minds at ease.

The important thing is that employees and managers feel safe in their environment to have some difficult conversations. This doesn’t mean that everyone should talk about pay. Inevitably, some people won’t want to and that’s perfectly fine. But those that do should have HR and line managers to approach that carry the skills and the knowledge to be able to respond empathetically and honestly.

Difficult conversations

Part of our responsibility as HR professionals is to provide line managers with the tools and the skills to have pay conversations. If managers aren’t offered support and resources, they will likely do one of two things:

  1. Give the employee incorrect responses – This will only cause more uncertainty and break the trust between manager and employee.
  2. Simply pass on the responsibility to HR – This prolongs and complicates the means of finding answers, increasing stress levels and reducing engagement.

While pay conversations can cause obvious stress for employees, they can also be stressful for line managers. In fact, this is why a lot of them decide to pass the responsibility to HR. Many will have never had to tackle these conversations before. If they don’t know how to respond appropriately, it makes sense to avoid them altogether.

If we can provide managers with adequate resources, it could significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels for both parties when navigating pay and salary conversations.

For example, an FAQ document outlining common employee pay questions would be useful. But also offering advice on how to respond to them could turn a difficult 10-minute conversation into a far more productive and two-sided engagement.

Instead of avoiding these difficult conversations, we can turn them into a beneficial part of employee communication. Having the support and knowledge to do this can have a significant long-term impact on reducing stress and building trust through pay transparency.

Empathise and provide answers

Building trust through open communication about pay, as well as fair and equitable pay practices, can help to reduce uncertainty and stress related to salaries.

Employers who prioritise open and honest communication can help employees feel more engaged and motivated, which in turn can lead to increased productivity and higher morale. By communicating clear expectations, goals, and a transparent understanding of how their pay is calculated, stress can be reduced and job satisfaction increased.

Our mission is to help organisations create a culture of trust through pay transparency. So, if you’d like to kick off stress awareness month on the right foot, get in touch with the team today.