What is Project FAIR and where did it come from?

by Ishbel McWha-Hermann

GOHWP board member Morrie Mullins approached me after the recent SIOP conference in Orlando to see if I would be interested in sharing some details of Project FAIR with the GOHWP membership, as an example of an HWP-related study that is being undertaken. FAIR stands for Fairness in Aid Remuneration and the project explores the ways international NGOs are structuring their reward systems in an effort to balance the desire to reward local and expatriate employees equitably with the need to attract and retain skilled employees.

The project developed from previous research which looked at the impact of dual salary systems (where national and international workers receive vastly different reward packages) on motivation and performance of both groups of employees. The previous study was carried out across six lower and middle-income countries, and the results largely suggested that disparities in pay and benefits had a negative impact on employees, particularly local employees who tend to receive much smaller packages (see Carr, McWha, MacLachlan & Furnham, 2010, for more details). In 2014 we held a workshop in London to share the results of the project with HR and reward managers from many international NGOs, and overwhelmingly they agreed that the results made intuitive sense, but what they wanted to know was what they should do to address them. Project FAIR was a first step along the path to helping figure out the answer to that question. We interviewed 18 HR and reward managers from 13 international NGOs of varying size and scope, and developed some insights into the different approaches to reward that are being undertaken, as organisations try to find ways to make their reward systems fairer. A full report on the project findings is available on the website www.project-fair.org.

Project FAIR speaks to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular it clearly links to SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), which includes the sub-goal of ‘equal pay for work of equal value’. The momentum behind Project FAIR reflects the current situation in which many international NGOs (as well as other actors within the aid and development sector more broadly) recognise that while they are clearly promoting the SDGs externally through their projects and activities, they also need to look internally to their own policies and practices to ensure they are meeting the SDGs in the ways they operate. Project FAIR is just one example of the great potential I-O psychologists have to contribute to many of the SDGs through the work that we do, be it looking at fair working conditions, equality and inclusion, wellbeing, gender, justice, or much more.

Project FAIR is an ESRC-funded international collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, CHS Alliance, Birches Group and Massey University.