Ann Bares had an interesting post the other day about the trend toward providing employee data transparency ---- specifically open views of salaries, bonuses and performance appraisals.
Data transparency may create difficulties with U.S. employees, but with overseas employees it's even more problematic.
As companies become more global, a move toward greater openness seems inevitable. Employees travel internationally now, and global virtual teams collaborate on various projects. There is more cross-border communication in general, and employees have greater opportunities to share confidential information.
On one hand:
Data privacy laws govern the kind of individual employee information that can be transferred cross-border (all methods) without taking some rather stringent precautions. The EU countries as well as an increasing number of other countries around the world have privacy laws, and U.S. companies have to meet certain requirements before being able to transfer data. It takes time and effort to meet these standards including getting Safe Harbor certification from the U.S. government. (Posting limits don't allow me to go into details.)
In addition there are employee representative groups in many countries---- much like U.S. unions --- that have rules for the workplace. These rules vary by group/country and some may not allow transparency.
On the other hand:
U.S. based companies are already sharing U.S. benefits to all employees worldwide via their intranet. Try it with your company intranet. Go to “Benefits”. I bet a fair amount of money that nowhere on that screen does it say “Benefits for U.S. Employees”. Just the word “Benefits”. And all employees in your company see this. True, this is not salary information that’s being shared but it does give semi-confidential information. Because benefits are different by country --- it can upset more than a few employees when they do a comparison with their own benefits.
There are a lot of issues to consider. Given the time, effort and money it takes to implement employee data transparency overseas, global companies might decide to limit it to the U.S. only. That would open another can of worms. Overseas employees would likely become upset because of being treated differently ---- just one more case of "us" versus "them". AND it wouldn't stop cross-border communication.
I would like to suggest an alternative that would work much more smoothly as well as educate employees with regards to total reward practices. Instead of sharing data at the individual employee level, share data at the country level ---- not just overseas employees but U.S. employees as well.
Some companies may have already educated employees on how various total rewards components are developed and why there are differences among countries. My guess, though, is that few companies have.
Sharing data on employee benefits for each country would be a good first step. There would be less employee sensitivity involved and no data privacy issues for countries outside the U.S.
Here are some suggestions.
First, hold some information/education meetings with employees face-to-face at each site. Communicate why benefits are different by country and how decisions are made as to what benefits are offered. Due to various communications issues (which I don’t have space to explain) it is best to convey this information face-to-face. And yes, I know face-to-face meetings cost money.
Second, configure your company intranet to have separate screens showing employee benefits for each country.
As employees become educated about benefit differences by country, perhaps a next step would be to share job titles and salary ranges. The primary benefit would be that employees understand how pay plans are developed. This eliminates the big “black box” perception among employees. A secondary benefit might be that this opens up a separate discussion between employees and managers regarding career paths and requirements for promotion.
In the end, global companies might decide to never share information on an individual employee basis. But the effort to offer any kind of transparency --- if only at the country level --- would provide evidence that the company wants all employees to understand total rewards data worldwide.
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Her true love is working with local national issues. Jacque has the following certifications: CCP, GPHR, HCS and SWP as well as a B.S. and M.S in
Psychology and an MBA. She belongs to SHRM, Human Capital Institute and World at Work. Jacque been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications.
Creative Commons image "Hiding Behind Her Fan" by bimurch