The word transparency is used a great deal these days when discussing organizations and their communication with investors, clients and the public. For transparency to really work though it must stretch beyond the marketing messages that an organization is sending out and extend to its very business culture and its employees. Companies need to embrace a transparent culture that is based upon trust, honest and direct feedback and a feeling that no one is being left in the dark regarding their place in the organization, the direction of the organization and the stability of the organization. Transparency is the foundation to happy employees who are engaged and excited to be there.
First, organizations and leaders should be transparent themselves. There is often a sense in the C-Suite that the control of information and the messaging that surrounds it is part of their job. Ask Hillary Clinton’s campaign if that’s true. Communication cannot be controlled. Things always get out and the lack of information often communicates as much as any memo or press release. Leaders should work to be transparent with their employees, their clients and especially their investors. The larger the organization the more others will feel you are distance and uncommunicative. So, engage. There are many ways to let others know who you are, what’s going on and why you are credible. Get on social media and begin interacting with customers, other leaders and those around you. Lead open town hall meeting with your employees. Walk the floor regularly to engage one on one. You can hear what’s going on and provide insight to your teams at the same time. Transparency means your employees know the company’s vision, goals and expectations. If they are kept in the know, they will be on your side if hard times ever come your way.
Second, companies need to be consistent and committed to their transparency. It won’t always be sunshine and rainbows when it comes to honest and open feedback. That’s true when it comes to dealing with investors, employees and customers. You won’t like what they have to say at times and they won’t like what you have to say. It’s tempting to reel in the social media accounts when the complaints start being posted on pages or shut down the open management meeting that allow investors and employees alike to listen to the status of the organization and voice comments or accolades. Don’t do it. Negative feedback will happen regardless of your level of transparency. If negative feedback is shut down, people will stop trusting you. If you have been transparent then the feedback might provide valuable insights. But even if it doesn’t, if people feel they are not heard, you lose in the end. Disgruntled customers can be replied to and your attempts to placate them are able to be seen by all rather than just a negative review left hanging out there for all to see. If your company is struggling through a rough patch than a meeting with investors or employees might just provide valuable advice that can turn things around. Problems are seldom solved by ignoring them. A meeting of the minds can be a powerful tool instead.
Finally, make sure that everyone feels empowered to keep the lines of communication open and know where and how to communicate. Is there a place to anonymously voice concerns? If an employee feels a manager is struggling, can they talk to HR? What about social media? What are they allowed to post? Is there an internal communication system in place that allows everyone to share questions or ideas easily? Reading through a sea of emails can be difficult for a salesperson that works remotely but an app like Slack can allow them to open up the channel for the packaging design their client is looking for and see that the design company has a question regarding colors or artwork. The transparency in that is that the salesperson, the marketing team, the design company and the packaging team are all plugged into the group and receive updates at the same time.
A transparent culture is one where everyone has a voice, they have value and they trust in the organization and those around them. They don’t feel as if they need to watch their backs constantly or that they might be left floundering without an answer. Find out more about improving your internal communication and transparency by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.