When the issue of gender disparity is mentioned in a work context, it’s usually related to pay, a lack of career progression or incidents of sexual harassment, highlights Tanya Jansen.

But there’s another element to the issue which is often forgotten – feedback and how it is delivered.

According to research from compensation management specialist beqom, the vast majority of employees want more feedback. In fact, 80 percent of employees would welcome more regular feedback and 74 percent believe that constructive or growth-oriented feedback is more useful than praise.

But as Harvard Business Review has shown, there is a noticeable difference between the nature of developmental feedback given to men and women, with men encouraged to set the vision, while women are told to focus on delivery. Beqom’s research also found that one in five women are less likely to receive actionable feedback.

If organisations wish to tackle this ‘feedback gap’ and, more broadly, the way that they treat and communicate with their male and female employees, they should begin by adopting a transparent and impartial approach to all facets of the employee experience, beginning with pay.


The importance of pay equity

Given that a third of employees believe their salary level is set according to what their manager thinks they should earn, rather than their performance, skills or experience, employers would be advised to put the concept of pay equity front and centre in their business strategy.

Our research shows that employees take the issue of pay equity very seriously. Half (51%) of those we surveyed either do not know or do not believe that their employer or manager is taking clearly defined steps focused on closing the gender pay gap, while almost three quarters (73%) think that all companies should be legally required to disclose their gender pay gap figures. In addition, a similar proportion (70%) of female employees would prefer to work for an organisation that discloses its gender pay gap data annually.

Employers would be well advised to act as early as possible to reduce any pay gap that exists within their company, particularly as beqom’s research also found that employees perceiving such a gap suffer a 16 percent decrease in the likelihood of being retained by their current employer. And it is incumbent on employers to be seen to act of this issue, because employees would rather look for a new job than discuss pay with their manager.


Taking action to reduce pay gaps

Employers perceived to be reluctant to reduce pay gaps risk causing a damaging effect on their employees’ morale. In our experience, not only would the majority (68%) of a company’s workforce be willing to accept a lower salary in exchange for greater pay transparency, but 63 percent would be prepared to move to a company that disclosed its gender pay gap each year. The desire for greater pay transparency would also see more than half (58%) of the workforce consider moving to another organisation that discussed pay in a more open manner.

The good news for employers is that there are four simple steps they can take to address the pay gap within their organisation and regain their employees’ trust.


Evaluate inequalities and tackle the underlying causes

Employers should start by conducting a wide-ranging and clear assessment of any existing inequalities at their organisation and then identify the corporate forces at work which enable and reinforce those inequalities.

For example, employers can review the current rates of promotion within their company to check whether there is a gender imbalance in the number and speed of promotions each year. When they do so, they may find that certain groups often hit a glass ceiling and fail to progress beyond that level of the organisation. They may also discover that women tend to join the company at a lower level of pay than their male colleagues and that there is a noticeable difference in the rate that men and women leave the organisation.

To tackle these issues, employers should determine whether there are any aspects of pay, such as starting salaries or bonuses, that differ by gender. They should examine average performance scores to check whether there is an obvious difference between the scores awarded to male and female employees. And then they should ask themselves whether they are doing enough to help part-time employees, who are more likely to be female, to progress within the firm, as well as offering sufficient parental care support equally to both men and women.


Teach communication

The second step organisations can take to reduce their gender pay gap is to ensure that they have established an open channel of communication with their workforce that addresses pay inequity before it becomes an issue. A good place to start here is with performance management and feedback.

Beqom’s research has found that 70 percent of employees would welcome feedback on a more regular basis as they believe that it can be more helpful than development interventions. Instead of an annual or biannual performance review, most employees would prefer feedback delivered several times a year which aligns their specific role with the company’s vision and is focused on being actionable and productive for the recipient. By doing this, employers will be better able to identify, evaluate and pre-empt inequities before they take hold.


Make a real difference

To effect lasting change within their organisation, employers can use regular reviews and check-ins to praise good work, learn about issues of bias and take on board employee feedback. But that is only half the battle – they must then be seen to act upon that information.

Increasing employee engagement requires employers to provide clear, realistic goals to each member of their workforce, using metrics that are transparent and allow employees to easily understand how well they are progressing.

Equally, removing bias from decisions related to compensation by clearly demonstrating to employees that their financial reward is fair and deserved will help to boost engagement.


Use data when hiring

Finally, organisations can ensure they increase the diversity of their recruitment by using market benchmarks and internal assessments to guide the process in a data-driven way. Casting the recruitment net more widely and considering the top 10 percent of talent across each desired attribute will help employers to hire the most suitable candidate for the role, the one with the right skills and attributes to add value to the business. At the same time, it is important that employers create targeted development plans to ensure talent is receiving equal development opportunities.

By taking the four steps outlined above, organisations can help to reduce their gender pay gap, while identifying any other gender, or other inequalities that exist within the business and tackling their causes through concerted action.