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Disability Solutions

The Pay Equity Fix


Think empowering organizations to solve the gender and racial pay gap, cutting costly unwanted attrition, reducing bias in employment decisions, and improving true engagement and collaboration was something you couldn't quantify? Think again. That's why Chad & Cheese grabbed Syndio's CEO and Chief Data Scientist, Zev Eigen, while at UNLEASH in Paris to dive into the topic of pay transparency. The technology around the issue being developed is fascinating, making this a must-listen.


ICYMI listen to our Pay with Equity episode with Maria Colacurcio.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

Disability Solutions works with employers each step of the way as consultative recruiting and engagement strategists for the disability community.


INTRO (0s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.


Joel (20s):

All. Oh yeah. What's up everybody? We are back live from Unleashed World in Paris, France, and we are just giddy to welcome Zev Eigen.


Chad (31s):

Eigen, Eigen.


Joel (32s):

To the Spartan. He is founder and what Chief Science Officer. That's very, very official at Syndio


Chad (40s):

Founder though too,


Zev (41s):

Right? Yeah, I'm the founder.


Joel (42s):

For those that don't know Zev first welcome to the show. The chubbier less hairy version of me apparently from what he explained.


Chad (50s):

No, no, no, no, no, no. He's the less hairy version of you. He's the chubbier version of me.


Zev (56s):

I'm the after picture for you Chad. And then I'm


Joel (60s):

The before picture for me.


Zev (1m 2s):

Maybe. I don't know.


Chad (1m 3s):

The hairless version.


Zev (1m 4s):

I don't know. I'm trying to help you guys out. Come on man.


Joel (1m 6s):

It's way too early with the time change. We don't know what the hell's going on.


Chad (1m 10s):

You'll remember Syndio kids as we actually interviewed


Joel (1m 13s):

And if not, go to the archives.


Chad (1m 17s):

Maria Colacurcio. I never say that, right? But it's, I try.


Joel (1m 19s):

You can still give us an elevator pitch. Pretty amazing.


Chad (1m 22s):

I know We definitely want to, she's the CEO. You actually said to me off camera.


Joel (1m 27s):

I'm the smart one. I think that's what he said.


Zev (1m 30s):

That's what I said?


Chad (1m 31s):

You said the smart one. Yes.


Zev (1m 33s):

No, she's the smart one.


Chad (1m 35s):

That she was your best hire.


Zev (1m 36s):

We have a lot of great hires. Maria's one of many, but yeah, very.


Chad (1m 40s):

She fucking smart. Yeah.


Zev (1m 41s):

Maria's amazing.


Joel (1m 41s):

You can't put him on the spot like that.


Chad (1m 43s):

Of course I can.


Joel (1m 43s):

Okay. I guess you can.


Chad (1m 45s):

That's what the podcast is for.


Zev (1m 46s):

As you know. I will be honest with you. But Maria for sure. There's nothing to hide. She's amazing.


Chad (1m 52s):

Yeah.


Zev (1m 52s):

Amazing leader. Amazing hire. I'm so excited that she's our CEO.


Chad (1m 55s):

So let's just dig into that just really quick. She was at Starbucks. She helped them get to pay equity, right? She actually, I mean her program


Zev (2m 5s):

Kind of, so the connection there.


Joel (2m 7s):

Can we get the elevator pitch before we get?


Chad (2m 8s):

Not yet. Not yet.


Zev (2m 8s):

You want that first? Oh, you want this first? Sure. Right. So founded in 2016 and we were doing a CEO search in 2017 and at the same time I was pitching to everyone, including Starbucks and I knew Rob at Starbucks and was trying to get him to become a licensee, you know, buy our software on behalf of Starbucks.


Chad (2m 31s):

Yeah.


Zev (2m 32s):

And at the time we were an ONA tool, an Organizational Network Analysis tool. And we had a nascent pay equity tool. And I said, I showed Rob the ONA tool and I said, Hey, let me demo this pay equity software. We got, it's new. Unbeknownst to me, he and Maria were conspiring. So Maria and Rob were both at Starbucks. They were conspiring to start their own startup that did pay equity. And the story goes, and I'm not, this is secondhand, so I don't know, but I was told, Maria told him, ah, don't worry. Like this guy's a lawyer. He is not, they can't make products that are are useful or good. Like don't worry about it, we're just gonna see it.


Chad (3m 2s):

It's a good point.


Zev (3m 3s):

We'll just do our own thing. Don't worry about it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the short version of story is I demoed the product for the early version of the product for Rob and Maria and was trying to, at some point work with both of them in any way. Right? Any way possible. Maria came on as a consultant to help with marketing and positioning and messaging, cuz her background is in comms. And I really, really liked her from the start. She's a hustler. She works incredibly hard and I think she has all the qualities of what we really need in a CEO, every company needs a leader like Maria. Truthfully, she's great. So when we were doing the CEO search, we did a formal search. We were looking at people with lots of CEO experience. Maria's never been a CEO before. And several of us on the board were lobbying very hard to give Maria a shot, which was I think a very smart move.


Zev (3m 46s):

And I think we've hired a lot of people at Syndio like that who didn't have their past role or past whatever in that exact role. But you look for qualities, look for things that matter and less indexed on like, oh, were you a CEO for a company before then? You can be a CEO now. Nonsense. Like there are plenty of CEOs for companies that I would never hire in a million years. So why should that be a requirement for this job?


Chad (4m 9s):

So now the genesis of what is Syndio right?


Zev (4m 11s):

Sure.


Chad (4m 11s):

Give us the genesis of Syndio.


Zev (4m 14s):

Yeah. So we're a workplace equity platform. That's the short version. And,


Chad (4m 17s):

That's big right now.


Zev (4m 19s):

Well, I hope so. Yeah, I mean, we've been growing a lot and we're very good at seeing around corner. So, we've been building to where the puck goes in that famous Wayne Gretzky quote.


Chad (4m 28s):

Very nice, very nice.


Zev (4m 29s):

But the idea is there are only three levers you can pull if you're trying to treat your people at your company consistently, objectively, fairly equitably. So coffee C-O-F-E only three levers. You've got comp so you can fix how you're paying people, you can adjust your headcount, your people, you can, you know, hire more people in certain roles or levels and policies, you can adjust policies. So we help companies identify which lever to pull and how to pull those levers in a way that's optimal, fair, equitable to help companies comply with laws and regulations that are always evolving. There is an HR component to this, so how you attract and retain your top talent. And then there's a PR component. We have lots of companies who are either afraid of negative press or want to be heralded as doing the right thing.


Chad (5m 10s):

Yeah.


Zev (5m 11s):

And, of course there's just ethics and I think there are a lot of leaders, especially now with ESG like we were talking about before, where it's a board component. It's a kind of component of how they need to be as a company. Like that model of being like capital no matter what at all costs and screw everybody, screw the employees are just a resource, like the resource to be destroyed.


Chad (5m 30s):

Gordon Gecko baby.


Zev (5m 30s):

Like I don't think that model's a good one. And you see it with this tight talent market. That's why it's a big thing because


Chad (5m 36s):

yeah


Zev (5m 36s):

you can't get away with that kind of business model these days, I don't think.


Joel (5m 38s):

Whether you like it or not, it's coming. And I want to talk about the pay transparency piece and we talk quite a bit on the show about whether it's government regulation around salary has to be on job postings or at least a salary range. We talk about Indeed, you know, putting a range on there, whether you put it on as the employer or not.


Chad (5m 60s):

Forcing the issue.


Joel (6m 1s):

What are you guys seeing from your vantage point in regards to employers embracing this, hating this?


Zev (6m 5s):

Yeah.


Joel (6m 5s):

What's your take?


Zev (6m 6s):

And by the way, now you have EU regs, you know, we're sitting here in in Paris.


Joel (6m 12s):

Yeah.


Zev (6m 13s):

They're EU regs on transparency that are really, really increase the enforcement regime for that and require employers to share a lot of information. Look, I I'm a big fan of transparency. Syndio is a big fan of transparency. The thing that I find fascinating about this is just like anything else, you talk to recruiters who say this is impossible. We can't do this, we can't recruit if we have to have these constraints. And then sure enough, they start complying, they start doing it and amazingly it actually improves how they can attract and recruit people.


Joel (6m 42s):

Yeah.


Zev (6m 42s):

Why? This idea of blind bidding in a negotiation process as a person who's looking for a job is bananas bad? It's so bad. Think about this. So if I hold all the cards, I'm hiring you, right? You're a prospect. I'm gonna hire you. I know exactly what the range is for my job. Like you're gonna be an engineer, the range is between a 100 and 150. I know that. You have no idea what that nut range is. Right? Right. And I say to you, what'd you make at your prior job? Now that's a fraught question. And no matter what you say, it's gonna be like you have no idea what my range is. Yeah. What if I ask you for expectations? I say, what's your expectation? Blind bid? What's your expectation of this job? Now you're hoping.


Joel (7m 16s):

What's your requirement?


Zev (7m 16s):

What you're gonna get within my range? I don't, you know, I know my range. You don't.


Chad (7m 21s):

Oh yeah.


Zev (7m 21s):

So no matter what you say, it's a bad situation. Let's say you come back and say 140, I go offer accepted. Offer accepted. You got it. You walk away going, oh my God,


Chad (7m 29s):

How much money is on the table? Yeah.


Zev (7m 31s):

You have no idea what the range is. Yeah. Now what if you say 200, I go, Ooh, greedy, greedy, greedy. No, no, no. Now you're like, oh my god, they hate me. I'm greedy. I'm a jerk. I over bid, there's no conversation you've ever had or anyone's ever had where you're asked that question. Blind bid where you walk away feeling good. Why are you trying to make people you wanna hire feel crappy day one? It's the dumbest thing conceptually.


Chad (7m 53s):

It is.


Zev (7m 54s):

People don't get it. Yeah. So I think transparency is great.


Joel (7m 57s):

But companies do it. Why? To get a better deal, to get, why to get 150 for 180.


Zev (8m 1s):

Well some of it's a better deal. Yeah. Some of it's status quo. This is how they've done it in the past and I've heard recruiters say it's a way of avoiding wasting time. This is wrong. The better way to avoid wasting time. And by the way, you can look at Syndio's website, we do this.


Joel (8m 12s):

Yeah.


Zev (8m 12s):

We say the range for the position is between X and Y. We base the difference in that range on A, B and C criteria. Like how many years of experience you have or your educational, whatever it is. Legitimate things.


Chad (8m 22s):

Ah-huh.


Zev (8m 22s):

So if you come in and think, okay, I want to interview for this job, you know what the range is. So now if I ask about expectations or what you think or why, you know how, it's not a blind bidding situation, that's all it is. It's just switching the timing of the questions from blind bid to like having some information to then have a conversation. All the difference.


Chad (8m 41s):

That's step one. And that's for anybody coming into the organization. What about all the inequity that's already happening in the organization?


Zev (8m 46s):

So that's where math helps, right? Because, well this is what Syndio does, right? So we help you figure out where the problems are and fix the problems.


Chad (8m 52s):

Okay.


Zev (8m 52s):

Find and fix. And then in terms of maintain.


Chad (8m 53s):

Yeah.


Zev (8m 54s):

So we've got a product for, I mean I'm trying to sell the software, but like we built a product that's called Pay Finder. It helps you identify precisely what the range is that's optimal. That's both internally equitable.


Chad (9m 5s):

Yeah.


Zev (9m 5s):

And optimal from like a market perspective. So, I mean, software helps.


Chad (9m 10s):

So yeah, at that point a company can actually start to focus on the equity piece.


Zev (9m 15s):

Yeah.


Chad (9m 16s):

So that you can start like if you have females that are getting paid $10,000 less per year, you can start to at least try to make that up.


Zev (9m 22s):

I would say first level to playing field, like best practice would be to identify those groups where you have that historical inequity, identify that, figure out who is, who are the right people within that subpopulation who need to be fixed, right? Yeah. You're comp fixed. Yeah. And then after that, now you have a level playing field. Now when you're hiring, you know the range, we can show you mathematically the range that's safe for you to hire people in. And by the way, we say this all the time to companies. Let's say you gotta hire Joe, he's the hottest technician on the market. If you don't hire him today, the business is gonna collapse into the ocean. And he's demanding your range is like a 100 to 150. He's demanding 200, but you gotta hire him because otherwise he's gonna go to competitor and screwed.


Chad (9m 59s):

Yeah. Yeah.


Zev (9m 59s):

Hire Joe. I'm not saying don't hire Joe, but there's a cost model there. So if you're hiring Joe and he's above that range, our math will show you what that does to other people. And maybe in certain circumstances mathematically, maybe there are three or four women in that group who also need to be brought up.


Chad (10m 10s):

Yeah. Yeah.


Zev (10m 11s):

Cause that's not fair to say, oh Joe, you're gonna come in doing the same job as these people.


Chad (10m 16s):

Right?


Zev (10m 17s):

You're creating inequity. So it's just a cost model. Right?


Chad (10m 20s):

And that goes along with negotiation. So we've always seen research that men negotiate better than women. Women just do not want to negotiate. They just want the job. Right. Men are not to mention they'll apply for things where they're not even close to qualified. But anyway, it's the being able to level the playing field for people who just, they just don't wanna fucking negotiate in the first place.


Zev (10m 39s):

Well also, here's the other question. So I've been at conferences where they subdivide pay equity conversations between like the employer stuff that they can do to fix problems and helping train women, people of color to be better negotiators.


Chad (10m 49s):

That's bullshit.


Zev (10m 50s):

I taught negotiation. I love teaching people to better negotiators. I'm a big fan of the research line you mentioned Cheever, but here's the problem. This is the only area of law that I'm aware of, please tell me if I'm wrong, where we put an onus, even even an assumed onus, on the rights holder to negotiate for their rights. Like think about overtime or wage an hour.


Chad (11m 7s):

Yeah.


Zev (11m 7s):

We say, Hey migrant farm workers, you know what the problem is? You know, you're not getting overtime, you're not good at negotiating. Why don't you go to your boss and be better at negotiating for time and a half.


Chad (11m 16s):

Yeah.


Zev (11m 16s):

No, it's legally mandated. You get time and a half. No one, no one said, no one legislative has ever said, as far as I know, hey, we should put the burden on the rights holder in wage an hour claims to be better at negotiating for those rights. This is the only area of law where legislators say, Hey, we should have training for women to be better at negotiating for this. Nonsense. I mean, great, I want people to be better at negotiators, but that has nothing to do with the employer getting this. Right.


Chad (11m 39s):

Not for this. Not for this!


Zev (11m 41s):

Great negotiate, please negotiate, get better at negotiating. I taught negotiation, please get better. But if you, if your right is to be paid equitably, the employer is the sole burden holder to find those problems and fix those problems.


Chad (11m 50s):

Yeah.


Zev (11m 51s):

Not the rights holder.


Chad (11m 53s):

Yeah.


Zev (11m 53s):

That's bananas.


Chad (11m 54s):

Yeah.


Joel (11m 54s):

So one of my initial thoughts when you were saying that was unions. You need unions. Where are you with unions? Do they have a place in the future? Do they have a place in pay transparency or is it all going to technologies and government setting the standards?


Zev (12m 10s):

So full transparency, I was a labor lawyer for a while. I was in-house council for 20th Century Fox in the labor relations group.


Joel (12m 18s):

Was that pretty popular with the girls?


Zev (12m 20s):

I wanna say no.


Joel (12m 21s):

Okay. Alright. Moving on.


Chad (12m 22s):

You can see me in the credits. I'm all the way at the back. Yeah.


Zev (12m 26s):

But you know, labor organizations in Europe are very different than they are in the states. In the states, their roles have, I mean I wish they would play a bigger role. I feel like sort of this, as the saying goes, they don't miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This is one of those things where I'm like, I feel like they could have done more and been more forthright. They've done some work in this space, but not a lot.


Chad (12m 44s):

Yeah.


Zev (12m 44s):

As far as I I I can tell maybe I'm wrong, but for sure they have a clear place here. In fact, in the EU directive, there are three objectives for the EU directive on pay transparency. One of them is literally enumerated in the statute to increase representatives, the dialogue between the employer and workers representatives about this issue. So I think here in the EU, when I say here I'm talking about the EU, you have way more opportunity for workers, representatives and works councils.


Joel (13m 11s):

Yep.


Zev (13m 11s):

Where they already have a place really in this conversation. In the states, I feel like it's like unions miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.


Joel (13m 20s):

One of the things that you didn't mention in terms of what goes into calculating salary is location. Certainly in a work from home world, we're in Paris right now. A lot of companies are very specifically.


Chad (13m 30s):

Oh here comes.


Joel (13m 31s):

You know, where you live and it doesn't matter. We can employ everyone. And Chad and I go back and forth on this, you know, a developer in Toledo, Ohio shouldn't command the same wage as a developer in Silicon Valley. I feel like the world is moving to Chad where it doesn't matter where you live.


Chad (13m 52s):

The job is the job, is the fucking job.


Joel (13m 53s):

Where are you on this issue in terms of geographic location and pay equity?


Zev (13m 57s):

I'm sad to report, I don't have much of a dog in the fight on which is the correct thing to do. I think it is dammit, employer specific. Right. Like I feel like it really is, I hate to bail on that issue, but, I feel like it's employer specific. Like look, if you're running a retail establishment, you're running a restaurant or a hotel, you can't, like, you have to pay attention to market and cost a living. Right. Because if you're hiring people to be your front of house manager in Ohio.


Chad (14m 24s):

Yeah.


Zev (14m 24s):

It's different than your your FoH manager in New York City, right?


Chad (14m 27s):

Yep.


Zev (14m 27s):

Like you can't hire like you have to account, so certainly there's variation by jobs. If I'm hiring a developer, why do I care if you're in Palo Alto versus you know, a small pueblo in Mexico, like who cares? You're doing the job, the job's the job. Yeah.


Chad (14m 46s):

Yeah. But, we just did a story on a little organization called Freshie in Canada.


Zev (14m 51s):

Yeah.


Chad (14m 52s):

Where they're actually using iPads for order takers right behind the register. And those order takers are in Nicaragua.


Zev (14m 59s):

Anywhere?


Chad (14m 59s):

Oh geez. So they're paying them $3.25 an hour when obviously


Joel (15m 3s):

It's Canadian healthcare.


Chad (15m 5s):

Much more for them.


Zev (15m 7s):

Yeah. I feel like that's a global policy problem, right? Like this is the problem with having. Like really low rent wages in developing nations and technology allowing you to do stuff like that. But this is also true with tax, like tax regimes. Like you have this similar problem with like favored nations issue with taxes, right? Cause like you, you know, some countries have like really, really low or no taxes and of course they become tax shelters that empower organizations to be tax free and have an organization like in one of those countries, but then operating in the United States where the tax rate would've been much higher to avoid taxes. It's the same kind of concept that's a policy like regulation issue. I think. Like, I don't know how to fix it. Probably there is no way to fix it.


Joel (15m 45s):

All the crystal balls are telling us that the economy is going to shit soon. Or if it hasn't already.


Chad (15m 53s):

He's such a bright shining star.


Joel (15m 54s):

I just keep it real for the listeners. How does that impact pay equity? Do companies care less when they're laying people off. Like we're gonna pay you whatever the hell we can't, you know what we do. It's, you know, suck it up. It's a bad economy. Like where does that all play out with Syndio's technology and where you look at the world?


Zev (16m 10s):

Yeah, that's a good question. So obviously we track these things pay attention to a very carefully, we just did a survey that's, I think, you know, a report you can download from our website or something that shows like 50 something percent of companies still care and are increasingly caring about pay equity even in this economy and looking forward. So I think again, it's the confluence of pressures. If you think about the confluence of pressures, you've got legal compliance, transparency is part of that. You have HR, so how do you attract and retain talent? And that's a big component of it. Cuz if you have a tighter talent market, how do you keep the people you love and then the PR, like if you have ESG and pr if you're not doing those three things, I think those things together make it such that even in a down economy, maybe for some organizations you have to pay attention to this even more.


Zev (16m 53s):

There's nothing more personal than how people are paid. Like it is a primary exchange of work. Like people are saying, your time is valued at X amount. Tell me any exchange in this life that is more clearly an empirical valuation of how much you're worth. Like it's literally saying time is the only thing you can't exactly make more of. Jeff Bezos can't buy himself more. Well I guess he can buy himself a little more time on the earth. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But like


Chad (17m 14s):

Him and Walt Disney.


Zev (17m 15s):

Other than transferring your conscious to like a robot or something like this is it, I got like x number of years,


Joel (17m 19s):

The Venus rocket is going to bend time and space.


Zev (17m 21s):

It's gonna bend time and space. But until that moment, and I'm working on a time machine, I'll let you know when I get it done. But like until that moment, like how much I get paid for my time is so personal. It's so personal to everybody who says work is not personal is lying. It's personal. And how do you retain your talent if you're not paying people equity? The the thing I always mention to people, just observationally. If I told you, and you can ask anyone this, think about yourself. If I told you, Hey, you're at your job now I have bad news, you're paid under market, what's the reaction to that? Some people react by going, oh, okay, that's not great. But like, I don't like that. Maybe I'll look at LinkedIn for another job.


Chad (17m 59s):

Ah-huh.


Zev (17m 59s):

If I tell you, Hey, I have bad news, you're paid 30% less than people at your job because of your race or gender or ethnicity. Most people when they hear that are posting their job on they're on LinkedIn that day.


Chad (18m 9s):

Oh yeah. Yeah.


Zev (18m 9s):

They're like, burn this place down, they're looking for a box, they're quiet quitting, they're out. They're mentally out or they're checked out or they're angry or they're looking for a plaintiff's lawyer. That's a different reaction. So internal pay equity, if you're trying to attract and retain talent in a bad a down economy.


Chad (18m 25s):

Yeah.


Zev (18m 26s):

There is no better way than doing it and then showing that you're doing it right.


Chad (18m 29s):

Okay. So I agree a hundred percent. I think that the time is the key. You're a hundred percent right. Doesn't matter how rich you are, there's still only 24 hours in a day.


Zev (18m 36s):

Exactly.


Chad (18m 37s):

It doesn't matter. Right. That's the only thing that's constant.


Zev (18m 40s):

But like these ideas that you're gonna like win people over by putting a pool table in or having a pizza party. Like anything I see on social media is so reacting against that. It's like, thanks for the pizza party guys. Like, I'm way underpaid.


Chad (18m 52s):

Why's everyone hating on pizza parties? Man, I love pizza.


Zev (18m 55s):

I mean you love pizza,


Chad (18m 57s):

But who doesn't like pizza?


Zev (19m 0s):

I just think people would prefer to get like paid fairly and equitably before they think about having two slices of pizza.


Chad (19m 11s):

Well I'm gonna switch gears entirely. This industry has never been so fucking noisy ever.


Zev (19m 15s):

Hr?


Chad (19m 15s):

Yes. Yeah. So many point solutions. So much ai, ml, every fucking acronym that's out there. But there's a lot of this shit that is just, it's total bullshit. It's based off of, you know, shit that just doesn't make sense.


Joel (19m 27s):

Vaporware.


Chad (19m 27s):

You've watched this industry. Give us your take on some of this.


Zev (19m 31s):

You know, I used to love going to conferences and this is like maybe five, six years ago, walk down the halls and talk to vendors and they'd say we have proprietary ai. Like what is it? I'm a data scientist. Like tell me like little more detail. They're like proprietary. It's proprietary. Cool. Finally you get to the bottom of it and it's like just a random force, it's like something literally that's like on Wikipedia. And I've been at conference where I pull up my phone on Wikipedia. I'm like, is this, what's your proprietary thing? And I show up my phone. It's like