Internal transparency is hard, it is also necessary.
Transparency has been a buzzword in business for decades and everyone has a different idea on how to do it. Hundreds of thousands of books, articles, white papers and blog posts have been written about this topic. And they do a good job of making the case for external transparency toward customers. However, we are more concerned with internal transparency. Why are we concerned, you ask? Because a recent survey found that only 14% of workers understand their company strategies, goals and direction. And while 44% of workers are familiar with company goals, they can’t specifically name them. This translates to a majority of people in business are unclear on the goals they are working to achieve. Ouch.
And why exactly does this matter? It matters because 90% of your company’s work is done below the executive level. This means that, at best, executives can only see 10% of their company’s alignment with goals. Yeah that hurts.
So, what can you do if you want ensure your company culture is more transparent and aligned with business goals but you aren’t going to ditch your cubicles and post everyone’s wages? We think a good first step is simple: open up your meetings. Many companies do an annual “all hands meeting” and that is great – but we have witnessed the problem-solving, innovation and buy-in that happens when it is done much more often.
One of our clients, a $100+ million dollar franchise, opens up nearly all of its meetings to the full staff. They create an intentional meeting space so that their task forces or committees have an intimate space in the center for discussion and decision-making. They also create a space around the periphery for the rest of the staff to come and observe if they choose (or participate if the committee needs additional perspective).
This doesn’t just happen in big companies. A regional moving and storage company headquartered in the midwest holds a monthly all-staff meeting for 50+ truck drivers, movers, support staff and managers where they disclose:
- financial statements including salaries, expenditures and profit-sharing
- company-specific metrics: delivery times, fuel costs, turnover rates, etc.
- problems identified anonymously by staff and proposed solutions.
This is the kind of transparency we are talking about. When metrics are shared, costs are shown and staff feedback is responded to regularly, employees can align their duties with the goals of the company and track how they are doing as a team.
Bonus: when there is increased increased internal transparency – employees are actively aligning their work with company goals. They know their value and are correcting issues in real time. All of this means increased engagement. And an engaged workforce is:
- A. more productive (engaged employees take 4 less sick days/year) and
- B. less-costly (Tip: If you multiply the average salary at your company by 43%. That is the full cost of each disengaged employee on your team.)
How this might look in your company is different from the next. You have to do what works for your team and your business – but the investment you make and the trust that you develop will be crucial to the longevity of your company. And that is worth every minute.