Since new state legislation has required employers to post pay on job listings, connectivity company DISH Network has learned by doing.

DISH Network had a big opportunity — one that would change its whole hiring strategy. How would the company implement salary transparency? 

Company Profile

  • Company: DISH Network
  • Headquarters: Englewood, Colorado
  • Size: 14,000 employees
  • The challenge: New Colorado legislation requires pay transparency for all job postings.
  • The question: How would DISH interpret this new law to benefit both the company and its candidates? And how would it handle the effects internally and externally?

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DISH is based in Englewood, Colo., and in 2021, the state legislature passed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which requires employers to provide salary ranges and benefit information in all of their job listings. It also mandates that employers publish a job listing for every position they hire for, regardless of its seniority level. The goal of the new laws was to ensure that employees, no matter their salary history, sex or ethnicity, are paid a fair wage for their work. For employers in Colorado, it was an unprecedented initiative, but potentially a fruitful one: Job seekers are 75% more likely to apply for a position if the salary range is listed in the job description.

In response, DISH built out a strategy and supported its teams throughout the shift. The process wasn’t simple, but salary transparency has been a winning strategy. David Scott, EVP and chief human resources officer at DISH, foresees salary transparency becoming widely required — either by law or by the influence of job candidates “voting with their applications.” In the meantime, he says, DISH is voluntarily expanding its efforts to non-Colorado locations because of the success it has seen — hiring processes are streamlined, employee morale is up, and company culture is improved. “We’re proud of the rates we pay,” Scott says. “We used this as an opportunity to improve our recruiting and retention practices.”

As more U.S. states and cities implement laws around pay transparency, New York City will be following in Colorado’s footsteps on November 1, 2022 by requiring companies with more than four employees to post salary ranges in job listings.

For business leaders who need — or want — to implement salary transparency at their organization, Scott has some guidance based on his own experience. 

Make adjustments before new policies or regulations kick in

DISH had already been doing the legwork at its Colorado headquarters for a full year before the legislation went into effect. If pay ranges for a particular role hadn’t been updated in a few years, DISH tackled that first. It also performed a pay-equity audit across the organization to check for inconsistencies and gauge whether salary ranges were competitive. What if yours aren’t? Raise them so they are.

According to Indeed data, 82% of workers say they’re more engaged with and fulfilled by their work when they’re paid fairly, and 81% say they’re more productive and loyal to their employers. Auditing your organization for pay equity and market competitiveness can lead to a big boost in morale.

Define, define, define

Define whether your company will do partial or full transparency. Define what a job listing is. Define what pay ranges will be. 

DISH considered whether it would show a full salary range for each role, from the lowest possible salary to the top of the salary range, or if it would show the middle range. DISH decided to start off by posting the lowest-to-average salary range, a strategy it later had to rethink (see below). 

Use transparency to create incentives

For junior-level jobs, DISH listed the hourly rate and promotion timelines, and detailed pay increases year-over-year. “We know that that audience is compensation-motivated, and we know that incentives drive positive behavior at that frontline, entry-level area,” Scott says. New hires could also see the salary ladder they might climb once they joined.

What’s more, in 2021, DISH promoted 5,000 of its 14,000 employees. Because there were many opportunities to move up internally, employees had visibility into the promotion process. “Basically, people could see their colleagues rising in the company,” Scott says.

Consider more than one recruiting strategy

The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act required employers to publish a job listing for every open position, even those most likely to be filled by internal candidates. In the past, DISH posted only for opportunities below the executive level. If there was an open SVP position, for example, Scott says he wouldn’t have posted on a career site. Now that he was required to, he had to tackle questions like, “How much do I share about bonus or equity structures?” He says that, “oftentimes, those are individual executive decisions.”

When the time came, DISH developed two recruiting strategies. It recruited externally for non-executive level candidates and developed an internal ad board for executive roles and openings ripe for current employees to be promoted to. The dual method satisfied Colorado’s legislation.

Think about internal morale

DISH approached this effort as an opportunity for better pay parity for the entire organization. “We can feel a lot more confident as a leadership team when we are paying all individuals appropriately for the role that they’re in,” Scott says. “Certainly, as you look at underrepresented groups, this is an important factor. They want to work for an employer that is transparent, equitable and fair. Pay transparency helps you establish that.”

Still, it can present a conundrum. Show a salary too low and risk not appealing to quality candidates; show a salary too high and risk internal dissatisfaction. Scott did not want to disappoint employees who might see their salary on the lower end of the range. Because of that, DISH showed conservative figures but knew they could be adjusted in practice. “The way the legislation is written, we have the ability to go above or below the range that is listed as long as we could document the exceptions,” he says. Which leads us to…

Don’t be afraid to make adjustments 

Not long after implementing salary transparency at DISH, the market changed — drastically. “What was a relatively calm job market fired up in a big way, and we quickly realized that our conservative pay ranges were causing applicants to not even click through the application process,” Scott says. The Great Resignation meant that candidates could be choosier. Remote work meant that attractive employers in places like New York and San Francisco were competing for talent everywhere, including Colorado. Leadership reevaluated their approach. By mid-2021, DISH began listing its most attractive salaries to remain competitive, up to 100% of the range. 

It also adjusted employee salaries to keep up. “I’ve done more internal pay adjustments than I’ve ever done in my 20 or 25 years of HR practices, in an effort to maintain strong talent,” Scott says. “We are moving employees through the band at a much faster rate than we traditionally would.”

Even today, almost two years after the legislation took effect, his team is still looking at the data to adapt their tactics. “We’re continuing to revisit it, day in and day out,” he says. “In this market, it’s complex.”

The big takeaway

Like many business leaders, Scott used to think that withholding information about compensation gave the employer more room to negotiate with candidates. Implementing salary transparency has challenged this belief. It added an administrative burden to his team, but in the end, “all ships will rise with the tide,” he says. And his team is becoming better for it. “We’ve learned that there are benefits to laying your cards on the table. It can be a win-win situation.”