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Tips for HR Communication During Change - Especially for Pay Transparency & Compensation

, | Apr 11, 2023 2:15:00 AM | By

When the business going gets tough, and tough HR professionals get going, communication can easily fall by the wayside, especially when talking about compensation, pay equity, and pay transparency.

In the most recent episode of High Growth Matters, we spoke with seasoned operator Dawn Raagas about the architecture of effective relationship- and business-building communication. Dawn is currently VP of People Operations at Daasity, a hybrid organization that cares a lot about pay equity and pay transparency. 

This blog has been adapted from that conversation and covers:

  • 3 areas HR communication usually falters 
  • What good listening looks like in HR
  • Communicating effectively in the digital age

To hear the full episode, visit this page, or subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Don’t miss the full episode: Communicating with Clarity During Change

3 areas that HR communication often falters 

Dawn’s experience across numerous roles has informed her ability to assess and align communications across an organization. While much of her experience comes from learning and developing in these positions over time, she also emphasizes the importance of learning from mistakes — your own and others.

Throughout her experience in roles such as operations, accounting, Chief of Staff, people operations and program management, Dawn found one thing unites each sector: communication. And there are five major areas that cause communication to falter in fast-growing businesses, especially when discussing salary ranges, compensation, and pay transparency: 

1. Assumptions

Anyone in a fast-growth, remote environment knows that change happens — quickly and frequently. In the midst of such change, people often make assumptions that disrupt progress.

“We assume the information that we share lands,” Dawn says. “We assume others understood exactly what we said and will relay that information to another team. That’s not always the case.” Especially when discussing hot topics like salary ranges and pay equity, confirming definitions and assumption is key.

2. Failing to establish rapport & trust

When you fail to build rapport with employees, often because you haven’t taken the time to slow down and build trust, or because you are on a small team with extensive responsibilities, you fail to build trust and alignment.

Establishing a positive relationship with new employees right away can improve communication and collaboration across the entire team. When employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions, they're more likely to contribute to the company's success.

Trust is critical for any team and is an essential ingredient for success in all organizations. But it’s particularly vital in high-growth environments when discussing compensation, pay equity, and pay transparency. Without trust, employees often will not feel safe enough to communicate honestly and effectively.

3. Not meeting enough

How often you meet with your team will likely change depending on your location, responsibilities and goals. But according to Dawn, finding the right cadence for your environment is essential to maintaining effective communication. For example, pay transparency requires repeated meetings about the same topic, allowing teams time to reflect between sessions.

“If you’re not meeting enough, you're likely not providing enough context around assignments,” Dawn says. “You're not giving them clarity, so they understand where you're headed as an organization.”



What good listening looks like in HR

No matter how much time you spend perfecting your public speaking or chiseling down your message, you cannot be an effective communicator without knowing how to listen. Moreover, you have to listen well.

According to Dawn, the root of good listening is your intention.

“Often, individuals listen to respond. We listen and wait to provide feedback as opposed to listening to understand,” she says.

Rather than entering into a conversation with a response prepared or simplly waiting your turn to speak, you must listen to others to understand. Only after you’ve understood the speaker's intentions and the implications of the information being relayed should you respond.

When listening, we must also remember that perception is reality, says Dawn. Each person has a vastly different experience, so everyone's perception will be slightly different. Keeping this top of mind can help improve listening and effective communication.

The last key to listening well is empathy. Joining a conversation with the intention to understand will provide a foundation for meaningful conversations. This is particularly important when discussing remote pay and salary data, as different team members will be motivated differently — and have divergent starting baselines of what they understand about compensation.

“Really practicing empathy — that truly is at the center of what has really helped in the times of change and challenge,” Dawn says. “Come to conversations with an empathetic mindset.”


Communicating effectively as an HR leader in modern times

Economic uncertainty. Hybrid and remote work. Leaps in tech and a million other factors have complicated how we communicate in the modern world. While things are always changing, communication relies on several concepts that can translate across modes and environments.


When meetings take place largely on a screen, distractions bombard you as an HR leader from every direction. When speaking with team members, focus on the conversation. Turn off Slack. Silence your phone and place it upside down. Minimize the distractions around you to stay tuned into the conversation and pick up on discrete social cues.

Use mirroring

Mirroring and matching are communication skills often taught for navigating in-person exchanges. But it can be applied on video calls too. This practice requires HR to stay in tune with the cues and content of a conversation and affirming you’re on the same page or flagging when you’re not. 

“Maintain eye contact. Nod in agreement,” Dawn says. “If you’re unsure of what is being said, have more of an unclear look on your face and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Leverage tone of voice

Communication only begins with the words being said. Body language, facial expressions and tone of voice are critical to communicating a message and intention. 

Tone of voice can be particularly useful when communicating with people in a different emotional state, which can happen when discussing pay equity, salary ranges, and compensation. For example, you can maintain a calm, clear tone of voice when communicating with an individual who is passionate or upset during a conversation.

Confirm your understanding

“Restate what you've heard,” Dawn says. “Don't paraphrase, don't change words, restate exactly what you heard the person say.”

When you confirm what a person is saying, you express interest and understanding and ensure that you are listening well.

These conversations have the power to shape the collaboration on your teams, increase success across your organization and create a better, more effective workplace culture. 


To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The High Growth Matters Podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for The High Growth Matters Podcast in your favorite podcast player.

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