New generations entering the workforce are looking for companies with a strong sense of community and a culture of transparency. Across the board, companies are making transparency a core aspect of their culture.
Luckily, this is a great development for business. Transparent business practices have been linked to both employee satisfaction and productivity. In a survey study by TinyPulse, management transparency was the top factor in employee happiness. That’s right. It’s not ping-pong tables or kegs of cold-brew—honesty, clear communication, and trust are what people value in a workplace.
Not only is transparency making employees happy, but it’s also improving their performance. A study found that when restaurant chefs could directly see dinners, customer satisfaction was 17.3% higher and the service was 13% faster!
Transparency isn’t just a fad to placate employees, but a powerful tool for companies to maximize employee performance and satisfaction.
On the surface, the idea of transparency seems obvious and straightforward. However, creating a culture that’s deeply-rooted in transparency isn’t as simple as speaking it into existence. It requires hard work and thoughtfulness. You have to rebuild communication procedures, change expectations, and earn buy-in from the entire company, top to bottom. Everyone must commit to the new vision.
To that end, we’ve chosen the 6 most effective tools to help you transform your company into a bastion of transparency.
In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People (a must-read for everyone who interacts with anyone), Dale Carnegie wrote about a simple way to earn an employee’s friendship and trust:
MAKE THEM FEEL IMPORTANT
Unfortunately, many employees find their jobs isolating—It’s hard to feel important in a catacomb of cubicles, cut off from co-workers, ignored by management.
Instead, be transparent and keep everyone up to date on new developments. One option is Town hall meetings, which give everyone a voice on an equal stage, and a rare chance for direct dialog. Newsletters are easy ways to send out quick updates, and employees really appreciate it when the CEO or other leadership write open letters about the direction of the company. Transparency also means taking public responsibility for mistakes—better to hear it from a leader rather than through whispers and rumor.
Find ways to encourage honest communication between all levels of the company. Whether someone is talking with a co-worker, supervisor, or company exec, both parties should feel comfortable being candid with one another.
In highly collaborative atmospheres, this is especially important to success. When team members are honest and transparent with their opinions—especially their disagreements—the end product evolves organically and is charged with the team’s collective creativity. This also helps you avoid the pitfalls of isolationism and myopic vision.
However, honest communication needs to be tempered with the ability to give constructive feedback. I’m sure we’ve all had someone ask “How does it look?” and every time the answer is “Good!” But how many times have you actually meant it?
In business, if someone presents an underdeveloped idea you can’t afford—literally—to say “It’s good!” just to protect someone’s ego. Sometimes, though, that screaming, chest-pounding monkey buried in our DNA commandeers our brain and our first thought is “That sucks” or “What were you thinking?” The truth can hurt, but more often I think it’s not the truth that hurts, but the packaging.
Good constructive feedback means you can still be transparent and honest without being hurtful.
To use an example from our own experience, last spring our Helix House team decided to have constructive feedback workshops every other Friday. We had been working at a fever pitch on several big projects, and as they wound down everyone was a little frayed. But even though there now was much less work, our interactions were becoming a shade curter and tense, and people were doing a lot more ‘telling’ and a lot less ‘asking’.
Running workshops and training sessions for our team ended up being remarkably easy and effective. Using free feedback exercises we found online, as well as one session with a professional, revamped the whole office, boosted our productivity, and re-calibrated cortisol levels. Learning to give and receive constructive feedback takes some effort – and an abandonment of ego – but working through it with your team is definitely worth the time.
Company culture won’t be redefined with a single speech, punchy new motto, or inspirational posters.
Take initiative and be a visible leader at the vanguard and captain the change you want to see in the company. Integrity earns respect, and respect earns loyalty. If you’re enthusiastic, motivated, and genuinely committed to building transparency, people will be energized to follow your lead.
Be the first person to ask and answer the difficult questions, admit shortcomings, or ask for help, and be the last person to make excuses or withhold information. Rather than lessening your authority, seeing company leadership exemplify vulnerability inspires change from the top down.
Even when all your company’s cogs are now running smoothly and an internal culture of transparency is thriving, the relationship with the client needs to be the primary focus. An agency thrives on long-lasting relationships with clients, and these relationships are built on trust and loyalty. At the end of the day, this is the goal of transparent business practices. If the client is confused about your process, concerned about poor communication, or nervous about their expectations being met, they won’t be sticking around for long. This hurts your brand’s reputation, which is hugely detrimental to future business.
If you can bear it, clench your teeth and think back to the last group project you did in college. Why were they so excruciating? So dreaded? So rife with anxiety?
Probably because it wasn’t much a ‘group’. Did everyone communicate every step of their process? Update the whole group on their progress? Ask for feedback? Or did they upload their work at 11:57pm, change parts without asking, and complain about everyone else in the process? Even if you ended up getting an A, you aren’t going to trust your project to those people again.
A client should never experience that kind of anxiety because of a lack of transparent communication.
Instead, the company and the client should be on the same page every step of the way. You should know exactly what they expect, and they should know what concrete steps you are taking to achieve results. Successes, setbacks, new developments–the client should be updated every step of the way. If you withhold setbacks to save face, or take the project in a new direction because you don’t know the client’s expectations, you can count on them taking their business somewhere else, regardless of the results. If instead you communicate transparently and build trust, you can expect a long, healthy, and profitable relationship with that client.
One way marketing companies can use to leverage transparency is Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Tracking KPIs for your client is not only necessary for maximizing performance, but for earning trust and creating accountability. Our blog on KPIs goes more in-depth on the tremendous benefits of this powerful tool.
The values of a new generation are often a response to the generation that came before, continuing the natural cycle of cultural evolution—question, change, adapt. All business owners will eventually adapt to the changing culture of transparency. It is the maverick leaders, however, who first question the status quo that implement unique strategies for company transparency that match their vision and attract the attention of employees, media, and other businesses.
The tools on this list are tried-and-true, safe bets for establishing healthy, trustworthy transparency. The beauty of change, though, is the opportunity to be bold, innovate, and create something that’s never been seen before.
Elon Musk (Tesla) open-sourced all of his technology; Rand Fishkin (SEOMoz) publicly posted his own performance review; Jason Fried (37Signals) made public a ‘Happiness Report’ which shows how well their last 100 customer interactions went.
Even if you don’t own a multi-million-dollar company, novel ideas like these can not only excite and motivate your employees, but can also earn you publicity. These CEOs new transparency strategies both boosted their employees happiness and productivity, and drew the eyes of local and national media. For local and national companies alike, some extra media attention never hurts.
Traditional, opaque hierarchy is collapsing into more lateral power structures and transparent business practices—and it’s awesome! Employees are happier, productivity is rising, and trust is flourishing in the companies that champion transparency. Real change, and for the better.
At Helix House, we are committed to transparency, both in the office and in serving our clients. If you are interested in working with a talented and reliable agency, contact us today!