Slow release inspiration - a reflection on #cipdACE

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time on this year’s BlogSquad at the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition (ACE for short) on 7th and 8th November.

Every year the conference is jam packed with inspiring and thought-provoking sessions and this year was no different.

I am still reflecting on the opening keynote by Rachel Botsman.  She addressed a capacity crowd to explain why trust is, in her view, any organisation’s most valuable asset.  She was highly engaging and I spoke to many people over the course of the conference who were turning the content of the session over in their minds.

Employers talk of “building” trust but this makes it sound far easier than it actually is.  Trust must be earned, and despite our increasingly fast-paced decision making in other areas of life (she described as a “swipe right” culture), trust in working relationships still takes time to develop.  She explained that many change processes fail because there is insufficient trust to act as a bridge between the known and the unknown and that trust is basically a confident relationship with the unknown.  I have seen that first hand in organisations and I agree with her completely.

But there was one aspect of her talk which troubled me, and still does.  She believes that organisations make a mistake when they think a way to increase trust is transparency.  Moreover, if an organisation feels the need to be transparent, it has given up on trust.

This does not sit well with me when it comes to pay, a subject highly relevant to my work as an employment lawyer.

For women who know that they are still in many cases paid differently because of their sex, despite over 40 years of equal pay legislation, and when so many employers have betrayed the trust placed in them by women who have discovered pay discrimination, pay transparency would help to build trust in an area where it can be lacking in employers generally.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether Botsman’s stance on this does work, but only where an individual goes into an organisation in a neutral trust state and the actions of the organisation either boost or deplete the trustometer with its own actions.

But where there is, shall we say, “baggage” from outside that specific organisation because the issue of equal pay is so prevalent, the level of trust is depleted from the outset, not by that specific employer but by all of the ones who have been found to discriminate on pay we see reported in the news.  Women cannot be blamed for going in mistrusting any employer on equal pay, but hoping beyond hope that the mistrust is unfounded.  How will they know if their employer can be trusted to pay them equally to men for the same or equivalent work, if pay scales and rates are shrouded in secrecy, and so many other employers have fallen short?

Surely transparency would in those circumstances help to build trust, not replace it, as Botsman suggests.  It would be a very interesting study, to explore the correlation (if one exists, as I believe it would) between levels of pay transparency and trust in organisations to treat its employees fairly and equally.

As you can see, my conference experience is still fresh in my mind and being worked into my day job!  That’s the beauty of a good conference with top quality speakers.  It’s a slow release of inspiration that stays with you for ages once you’ve left the venue, sometimes for the rest of your career.  It’s why cipdACE is a sell-out every year.  If you didn’t make it this year, make the case and get there if you can in 2019.  You won’t regret it, I’m sure.

Life's too short to litigate