In the wake of the recent economic downturn, corporations and organizations began to reveal some of their internal practices, speak about what they were doing, where they were going, and why. What grew out of an effort to regain the trust of consumers, is now embraced by successful organizations of all sizes.

This transparency in business is the sharing of information internally and externally about the organization. It has become more than just a marketing ploy for some companies and is fully embedded in the culture and ideals of the organization as a means of sustainability. These businesses choose to be transparent with employees as a means to grow and retain talent, and to be transparent with their community to garner trust from consumers.

In a recent article published on Glassdoor, Rob De Luca of Bamboo HR writes “transparency creates trust between employers and employees, helps improve morale and lower job-related stress while increasing employee engagement and boosting performance.” It is not hard to comprehend that when open lines of communication exist employees feel supported and in turn more dedicated to their organizations.

Some business owners might be wary of transparency fearing that vulnerability could lead to over-exposure or increased competition. You don’t need to publicize everything all at once. First, start internally and define transparency for all employees. Set out what you will share, what you expect employees to share, and the kind of behavior that will not be tolerated. For example, acting in the spirit of transparency does not give employees the right to harass or personally criticize.

For an organization to be successful in setting a culture of transparency, employees at all levels need to practice transparent, constructive communication. Some of the other areas to prioritize transparency include:

  • Hiring and Salary Policies
    • Publish diversity and inclusion data
    • Have open communication about growth and goals in the interview process
    • Be transparent in how salaries are set and how employees can progress
  • Evaluating Employee Performance
    • Skip the yearly review and opt for more regular feedback on what is working well and where an employee can improve
    • Try peer review. Encourage teams to review the work of their colleagues in a constructive manner
  • Growth, Performance, and Revenue
    • Speak openly with employees at regular intervals about the organization’s performance to reduce anxiety and/or speculation
    • Discuss why decisions were made
    • Provide employees with the full picture – this enables them to help find solutions and leads to greater innovation and growth for the organization

Transparency extends outside your organization into your community and customer base. Just as being transparent breeds trust internally, being transparent publicly also generates trust and buy-in from your community. Consumers want to support organizations that mirror their values. You might start with something small such as informing your community about a new change with the organization and why this change is occurring. Or, you might implement a long-term change; some suggestions include:

  • Review System
    • Encourage customers and clients to complete a review of your business/services/products
  • Social Media
    • Use social media to interact with your community and consumers and give people a view into your world
    • Keep them engaged by letting them know immediately of new updates and breaking news
  • Questions
    • Invite communities and consumers to send you a message about any questions they might have regarding the organization

As we all move toward more equitable and sustainable organizations, transparency is a tool to get us there. An organization that values transparency internally and externally demonstrates to employees and consumers that it is concerned with more than just a profit.

Do you have a strategy or process in place? Look to your role models, look for companies that are enacting the very ideals you prioritize. And, come to one of SMSBF’s upcoming events to network and learn from other local organizations.

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