Moving into 2021, progress on gender parity, as it relates to employee rewards, has been unfortunately a bit slow. This doesn’t mean that there has not been progress, however. Just recently McDonalds publicly committed to a 50/50 gender balance among its corporate employees by 2030. This definitely stands out as an optimistic step forward being taken by a trend-setter in the business.
However, traditionally, these types of statements ultimately end up being empty gestures, as often Human Resources departments are under-informed about the realities of what the payment landscape truly looks like. If companies, including McDonalds want to see the real change they claim to strive for, then it is going to take a shift in how data is collected and reported.
Real Data Gets Real Results
Practically speaking, in order for meaningful change to occur, then decision-makers need to have access to reliable and recent data. Currently, most reporting systems on employee rewards only compile their statistics once per year. Furthermore, reporting firms often end up having to create generalized conclusions based on data collected from the entire industry. This of course has the effect of glossing over many of the realities that are happening on the ground.
If corporate leadership looks at an annual report that shows over the last year their specific sector has improved by 1%, then they may believe that since general progress is being made, they must be doing something right. This is perhaps not surprising, but it is of course not sufficient to satisfy the type and speed of change that is actually being called for.
CEOs, Human Resource Directors, and other policymakers need to know how their company is doing in near real-time. If McDonalds wants to hit its goal by 2030, for example, they’re going to need to know how they’re doing every step of the way. Anything less and it seems unlikely that these changes will become reality, despite good intentions.
Solid Data is Currently Not Being Collected
All of this sounds good in theory, but of course, there are immense challenges. The word “rewards” means many things, not simply a regular paycheck. It also refers to bonuses, benefits, stock options and more. Even if both genders are given equal pay, are they given equal compensation in all of these categories? Not to mention, what does that even look like across a variety of roles and responsibilities within a company? These are admittedly difficult questions to answer, but they are the exact places that systematic sexism can easily hide.
The complexity of the situation is exacerbated by the fact that most companies simply do not have the means in place to collect this data. For example, we’ve found that nine out of ten firms have no systems in place whatsoever that can report on all forms of employee rewards in real-time. In fact, over three-quarters were found to be guilty of exactly what we just lamented: merely performing their equity audits a single time per year.
How are any of these companies supposed to make progress if they’re basically flying blind? Considering the staggering amount of the industry that is unprepared, it seems terribly optimistic to think things will be much better when the 2021 annual reports roll out than they were for 2020.
It’s Time For Companies to Step Up
What if highly accurate data, updated daily, were available to recruiters and CEOs concerning their current rewards landscape? The latest numbers on compensation attached to every employee would be readily available, and key decisions about how to redistribute resources and what to look for in new hires could be accessed in seconds. Completeness and immediacy of data is the key to balancing out the inequality. Averaging data by department simply won’t cut it.
In this case, there would be far more immediacy in a company’s ability to course-correct, as numbers wouldn’t merely be compiled once a year, leaving leaders to simply hope that the latest reports show at least marginal improvement.
Furthermore, aggregations from an entire year also are woefully insufficient. When employees are being hired, promoted or otherwise compensated, decision-makers need access to the latest numbers to be factored into their final conclusions. This means access to reports that show an accurate snapshot of the company, updated as frequently as daily.
Anything less than this simply sounds like more of what businesses have been doing for years, and with pretty unsatisfying results. McDonalds may well find its way to complete gender equality by 2030 after all, but if they aren’t implementing a major overhaul in how they collect their data, it’s hard to imagine how they’re going to achieve it.