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The successful recruitment of a candidate starts long before the job posting. Part of the journey starts with understanding the critical role of transparency in your organization’s compensation philosophy and practices and how they factor into the talent acquisition process. Why? Because it requires your organization to first reflect on what you want to and can offer a candidate as well as what is equitable, enabling you to craft job descriptions and cultivate employee experiences that authentically reflect your values. These may seem like heavy lifts, but prioritizing a partnership between total rewards and talent acquisition teams can create and sustain a compensation approach that also advances equity in your entire talent acquisition process. 

Compensation: Beyond What Your Organization Pays its Employees 

An internal compensation structure—which involves regular market analyses and establishing salary increases and pay bands, etc.— is the strong foundation on which your compensation offer to a potential candidate is formed. After a salary structure is put into place, this is where a compensation philosophy comes into play. A compensation philosophy is the outward statement of your inward practices. It is a statement, to your staff and board, and a commitment to how compensation decisions are made within the organization, particularly how diversity, equity and inclusion are infused in those decisions. In other words, it is a factor of transparency. In creating and utilizing a compensation philosophy as a guide, your organization will ensure equity is at the forefront of your compensation processes, which then impacts your talent acquisition practices. Displaying this statement will allow your organization to foster greater transparency around those practices and cultivate trust both internally with staff and externally with potential candidates, as it is a reflection of internal practices. 

However, compensation doesn’t come in just the form of a paycheck dollar. If you are a small organization with a limited budget, you may offer other incentives as a part of your benefits package. This indirect form of compensation can be effective in demonstrating how your organization values its workforce. For example, offering unlimited paid time off (PTO) or transportation support can be an immense benefit for a candidate. Because ultimately, compensation no longer reigns as the driving force for job seekers. In fact, only 32% of respondents in the 2021 Nonprofit Talent Retention Practices Survey considered compensation/benefits a primary reason to leave a job. While fair and equitable pay is important, candidates are embracing the need to work for an organization in a role that they can have impact in, a place that aligns with their dreams and values. Thus, consider how flexible your organization can be when designing a new hire offer to add this type of value and reinforce brand differentiation as an employer.

Transparency: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

First, there is value in each and every position in your organization—regardless of the market value—and your job postings should reflect that. Posting the position salary range in a job description demonstrates that your organization has done its job in ensuring that staff know the compensation structure in place for each position, where each employee fits within the structure and how equity plays into salary decisions. It indicates that the organization has done the work—and that is an organization candidates want to join. 

If you are a leader, you may have a fear of having transparent conversations around compensation with staff, even if there is an established structure in place, because you are uncertain what the reaction will be. But now more than ever, staff want to know that they’re being paid fairly, and they are often comparing salaries amongst themselves. Thus, outlining how compensation decisions are made and highlighting opportunities for career (i.e. salary) growth are how to keep staff motivated and engaged. Additionally, opening those lines of communication can further build trust.

In essence, transparency is something that organizations should strongly consider, to do otherwise is an expensive pursuit. While talking about compensation may be uncomfortable, leaders set their organization up to thrive when they start removing barriers to previously untouchable topics.

Talent Acquisition and Total Rewards Partnership

A collaborative partnership between your talent acquisition and total rewards teams is especially important because it ensures there is a continuous feedback loop of understanding the structures, practices and processes in place in both areas of the organization. This mutual information sharing can encourage organizational cohesiveness and efficiency.

If your organization has a total rewards team, they understand the salary structures and ranges in place and can partner with the hiring manager to determine specific role ranges and ensure they know how the structures work. How much flexibility does talent acquisition have in the salary range if they want to negotiate higher? And, what will they bump up against? Ensure that your talent acquisition team is educated and kept up to date on any changes that are coming down the line.

As well, it is imperative to assess whether the compensation structures in place are effectively attracting the right candidates your organization is seeking. This is a great way to inspect areas of opportunity to infuse equity. For example, are the salary structures in place sufficiently meeting the needs of staff in terms of the living standard? Are your health plans trans friendly? What kind of structures can be put in place, or needs to be shifted, in order to attract the talent your organization seeks? Keeping a continuous line of communication around these topics can ensure that as an employer, you are meeting the needs of your current employees and remaining competitive in attracting future employees.

Where Your Organization Can Begin

So, how can your organization begin to create or strengthen this partnership? A great place to start is by providing each other resources. For example, consider having your total rewards team create a one pager of your organization’s benefits offerings for your talent acquisition team. This will not only help your talent acquisition team to remain knowledgeable about your organization’s benefits package, but will also help that team properly sell the value behind these offerings to the candidate. Another action your organization can take, at little to no cost, is participating in salary surveys, which will give your organization a baseline of reliable data to begin benchmarking. 

Fundamentally, the goal is to create a symbiotic partnership between each team of subject matter experts. The best possible outcome? The effective operationalization of your organization’s commitment to equity. 

If you have questions about your organization’s compensation and benefits programs, contact Total Rewards Managing Director, Lisa McKeown, at lmckeown@nonprofithr.com

If you have questions  about integrating total rewards into your organization’s talent acquisition program, contact Impact Search Advisors at info@impactsearchadvisors.com.

View the accompanying webinar recording here.

Contributing Authors

Danisha Martin, MBA
Lisa McKeownManaging Director, Total Rewards


Read Lisa’s Bio

Danisha MartinConsultant, Impact Search Advisors by Nonprofit HR


Read Danisha’s Bio 

Eric SalyersSenior Consultant, Total Rewards


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