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Equip Managers to Conduct Effective Pay Conversations

Prepare managers to effectively communicate compensation discussions.

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  • Dr. Elena Belogolovsky, Assistant Professor, Cornell University, Department of Human Resources Studies, ILR school, Cornell University and co-author of “The Impact of Pay Secrecy on Individual Task Performance
  • Samantha Harak, CCP, Manager, Compensation at Softchoice
  • Syma Khan, CHRP, Senior Manager, Compensation at Loblaw Companies Limited and Director, Total Rewards for the Peel Chapter of the Human Resources Professional Association
  • Dr. Anita Orozco, Director, Human Resources, Sonneborne LLC.

Your Challenge

  • Compensation is a sensitive topic. A lack of clarity around compensation structures and decisions can be demotivating and even lead to turnover.
  • Managers often don’t fully understand compensation philosophy, principles, and compensation plans themselves, which can lead to unclear communication with employees.
  • Managers find compensation conversations difficult and tend to fall back on “that is what HR told me to do” to avoid conflict rather than taking on a leadership role in compensation discussions.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Managers play a key role in compensation communication. Managers must understand and be able to clearly communicate the compensation philosophy and structure, and effectively communicate compensation decisions.
  • Clear up the confusion around compensation by upskilling managers. Provide managers with the necessary training so that they are comfortable having effective pay conversations. Reduce confusion and wasted time by ensuring that the first conversation is clear.
  • Remind managers that it is not all about base pay. All too often managers and employees think only of base pay. Emphasize the entire Total Rewards package from variable pay to non-cash benefits to recognition.

Impact and Result

  • Improve managers’ understanding of pay practice and how compensation decisions are made.
  • Increase managers’ comfort level in having compensation conversations with staff and improve the effectiveness of those conversations.

Research & Tools

1. Equip managers to conduct effective pay conversations

Increase the effectiveness of compensation conversations with staff.

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Module 1: Equip Managers to Conduct Effective Pay Conversations

The Purpose

Hold training sessions for managers on effectively conducting pay conversations.

Key Benefits Achieved

Customize McLean & Company’s Manager Training Deck to facilitate manager training sessions.




Make the case to managers.

  • Managers understand that effective pay communication has many organizational, team, and individual benefits.

Outline the organization’s approach to compensation.

  • Managers are well-versed in the organization’s compensation philosophy.

Train managers to conduct effective pay discussions with their direct reports.

  • Managers are prepared to lead pay discussions with employees.