Americans want pay transparency. How should staffing firms respond?


A new wave of pay transparency is rippling through the United States, forcing a paradigm shift in traditionally hush-hush salary conversations. Typically reserved for discreet HR meetings or whispered water-cooler chats, salary discourse is stepping into the light, fueled by new laws and the growing popularity of “How much do you make?” content on social media. 

A new USA Today Blueprint survey reveals that nearly half of American workers believe they’d benefit from pay transparency at their jobs. But what about managers — are they on board? How does this impact the broader company culture?  

How Do Americans Feel About Pay Transparency?

A big shift in attitudes toward pay transparency is taking place, particularly among younger Americans. The majority, around 83%, of USA Today Blueprint’s respondents are pushing for full salary transparency across the board. The desire for transparency is strongest among Gen Z, with around 83% unopposed to sharing their salary — compared with around 33% of baby boomers — and a significant portion believing they’re underpaid compared to older generations.

They want to make it official, too: 58% of all respondents advocate for pay transparency to be required by law. Around 12% of respondents would take no action after learning about pay discrepancies. In contrast, about 30% of respondents said they would, at minimum, ask for a raise if they learned they were paid less than their coworkers. Some respondents report they would also lose motivation or even quit their jobs. While quitting might be damaging for employers, this demonstrates that employees are willing to take action to get the salary they deserve.

The data also sheds light on the inverse situation — being the person who makes more than your coworkers, a hypothetical that makes fewer than one in five Americans feel guilty. However, guilt isn’t the only cause of discomfort with transparency, especially among management and higher-level professionals.

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How Do American Managers Feel About Pay Transparency?

Riding the waves of the pay transparency movement, managers are grappling with the idea of their earnings becoming common knowledge among the people they manage. Around 45% of managerial respondents in USA Today Blueprint’s survey are uncomfortable with the idea.  

The generational divide is evident here, too. Over half of Gen X and baby boomer managers express discomfort with salary openness, while younger managers are more at ease with the idea. In fact, 74% of Gen Z managers and 59% of millennial managers wouldn’t mind if their employees knew their salaries.

Despite some discomfort, over half of the managers surveyed acknowledge the benefits of pay transparency for talent attraction and retention strategy. Underscoring its significance in recruitment, a whopping 81% of all respondents say that salary transparency would influence their decision to accept a job offer.


Although 43% of survey respondents worry that full salary transparency might cause jealousy, the majority believe the benefits far outweigh the risks. Almost two-thirds of Americans think introducing 100% salary transparency at their company would improve pay equality, and 45% believe it would lead to higher wages. 

The study paints a clear picture: Pay transparency isn’t just a fringe concept but a rising tide companies need to acknowledge. Staffing agencies, in particular, should take note — embracing transparency can give them a competitive edge in recruitment, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining younger workers. 

As the lines blur between private and public compensation discussions, American workplaces may be forced to rethink traditional compensation norms and embrace salary transparency to stay competitive and appealing to job seekers. Only time will tell if companies start embracing better pay transparency, but as this new wave sweeps across America, one thing seems certain: Fair pay is the ultimate endgame.

Bryce Colburn

Bryce Colburn
Bryce Colburn is a USA Today Blueprint small business editor.

Bryce Colburn

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