The onset of the digital era has changed the ways in which we consume information, breaking down barriers and rendering the concept of confidentiality all but obsolete. For businesses, this evolving approach to transparency flies in the face of conventional wisdom; surely opening your company’s books to the general public – warts and all – makes bad business sense? Should Amy in accounts really know what her boss is earning? Should your competitors know what mark-up you’re making on hard costs? How much is too much when it comes to information?
Some companies, including social sharing start-up Buffer, have chosen to employ a policy of radical transparency, sharing details of everything from employee salaries to company finances in the public sphere. Yep, anything you want to know about Buffer, you’ll be able to find on their website. But is this no-holds barred approach really good for business?
According to organisational psychologists, it might just be. Turns out that, whilst it might feel uncomfortable to give the world at large access to your books, transparency can be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to initiating positive change within your business.
Not only does a policy of complete transparency instill and reinforce trust within your employee base, but it also helps to position you as an employer of choice amongst an increasingly picky millennial workforce. The idea that your company is accountable not only to its employees, but also to the general public, carries enormous weight in a culture driven by peer reviews and social sharing, and consequently puts you in a prime position to take your pick from a pool of talented and driven individuals.
But what about the salary issue? Surely the fact that two employees with similar experience and standing within the organization earn vastly different incomes would be cause for concern and resentment. Naturally this type of issue can’t be avoided entirely, but by managing your open-door policy correctly from the get-go, you’ll be able to mitigate the umbrage and instead use the open flow of information to motivate better performance across the board.
So how can you go about making your business more transparent and bolstering your work culture? Here are a few tips to get you started:
Overcome Your Fear
Any form of change is scary, but it’s important to think of transparency not as a form of unnecessary exposure, but rather as a tool to bolster engagement and solidify your employer brand. Sure, you might encounter some resistance at first from employees who don’t want their salaries revealed to the general public, but it’s a small price to pay for an entirely accountable culture. Ultimately, the fact that you run an open-book business will instill trust across your workforce as well as your client base, reassuring all stakeholders that they’re part of an above-board operation, and one that takes their interests seriously.
Don’t Take Half Measures
If you’re going to be transparent, there’s no point in taking half measures. After all, you can’t simply reveal the fact that Mohammed out-earns Melissa by 3 to 1 without offering up legitimate justification for it. Remember, this isn’t an exercise in facts and figures – it’s a cultural transformation, and as such, you need to constantly enable and facilitate the flow of information, allowing employees to fully understand the reasoning behind your business decisions. That way, you’ll help to inspire and motivate rather than isolate and discourage, and give employees the tools and knowledge they need to further themselves within the company and increase their earnings accordingly.
Hire Transparent People
In order to effectively promote a culture of transparency, you’ll need to bring on board the types of people who are willing to live and embrace it. There’s absolutely no doubt that you’ll encounter some resistance from existing employees when you opt to take your business dealings public, but by making sensible hires and using new recruits as ambassadors for this new approach to transparency, you’ll soon start to see things take a positive turn. Culture isn’t something created from the top down – it’s a natural evolution that occurs within the workforce – and as such, it’s important that you populate yours with the types of people equipped to facilitate positive transformation.
Equip Yourself With Sharing Tools
If you’re going to share your affairs externally, it’s important that you mirror this approach to business within your walls. Digital project management platforms like Trello or Slack enable you to open up the flow of information within your office, allowing all employees to keep track of projects and receive updates from team members regarding developments within the company. Not only do these tools boost collaborative efforts within the workplace, but they also give your employees a big-picture view of the organization, affording them additional perspective and allowing them to see the part they play in achieving broader business goals.