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HR and Legal Experts Share Their Insights on #MeToo, Pay Equity Issues & More

Posted by Lauren Kendall on June 21, 2018
On June 12th, The Bowdoin Group and Marsh & McLennan hosted the fourth event in their HR leadership panel series, Building Cultures of Innovation and Accountability, at Bowdoin’s office in Waltham, MA. Karen Walker Beecher, COO of The Bowdoin Group, moderated the discussion, which was framed around two timely topics: the #MeToo movement and pay equity.

The event featured three inspirational HR innovators from leading companies in the Boston area, accompanied by an experienced legal advisor and litigator who has acted as outside general counsel to many small and early-stage companies in various industries. We wanted to share a few of the insights that came out of the discussion.

On the #MeToo Movement and Its Impact on Business

Change has come for everyone in the workplace as women feel emboldened to speak out against inappropriate behavior and men think twice about what’s acceptable at work. Although these types of behaviors may have been tolerated by some in the past, well run organizations continue to reinforce a culture of zero tolerance. A few key viewpoints from the panel:

  • “Poor behavior should never be tolerated.” – The discussion was kicked off with a live audience mobile poll, asking the audience and then the panel if Tom Ashbrook, WBUR’s nationally syndicated On Point host, should have been dismissed following an investigation launched after 11 current and former station employees filed complaints about misconduct. When asked if they would have fired him, although the panel gave a resounding “yes”, about half the audience wasn’t sure. One panelist noted,”There are always two sides, and getting the whole story is of the utmost importance – but fundamental flaws are hard to change.” The consequences need to be clear and action must be swift. The panel also agreed that inappropriate workplace behavior has always been an issue, but they haven’t seen an uptick in complaints since the #MeToo movement emerged – largely because of the cultures they’ve created and upheld.

Takeaway: HR may be the final stop for poor behavior – but a strong culture tends to nip problems in the bud before they get out of control.

On Pay Equity and Pay for Performance

On July 1, Massachusetts will join the ranks of states that put pay equity into law, providing more clarity as to what constitutes unlawful wage discrimination and adding protections to ensure greater fairness and equity in the workplace. This comes, however, at a time when the surplus of jobs is driving top performers to command higher wages. We wanted to learn how our panelists are dealing with this. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Companies have to comply with the law, which means that, in this competitive marketplace, they have to find other innovative ways to attract and retain top talent. Performing pay audits is an important first step to ensuring your compensation structures are fair and compliant –  while also creating additional compensation mechanisms to reward great performance with incentives driven by employee choice and individualism. From a budgetary view, achieving pay equity presents challenges, but it’s necessary.
  • Many companies have moved to more frequent coaching and conversations, but still utilize some sort of performance rating/ranking system to measure performance. The panelists agreed that no one gets excited about the average 3% increase that normally comes after routine performance reviews, but the reviews ensure alignment, standardize measurement of performance, and enable additional incentives for high performers – a critical key for retention.

Takeaway: Being able to measure performance is an important element if you want to pay someone more for higher performance.

We’d like to send a special thanks to our panelists:

Read highlights from the prior event in this series, learn more here about attending future events, and join the HR Leadership Online Forum to exchange ideas and ask questions of your peers, and receive best practices and insights from the Bowdoin team.