There was a time where organisations could keep their dirty laundry hidden away without anyone being the wiser. Big brands could exploit worker’s rights, corporate giants could cover up data breaches, and fast-food chains could include unethical ingredients in their “secret recipes” without anyone giving it a second thought.
But in today’s internet era, where whistleblowing sites like WikiLeaks and employee review sites like Glassdoor have the potential to cause a public scandal, organisations are becoming increasingly accountable for their actions. Just this month some of the UK’s largest brands came under scrutiny for their shockingly wide gender pay gap.
With access to a wealth of new information, professionals are more particular than ever about the organisations they choose to work for. According to Glassdoor, the majority of job seekers read at least six reviews before forming an opinion of a company.
Being transparent about your organisation’s internal dealings can be a useful tactic to attract, engage and retain key talent – here’s how:
It builds trust-based relationships with employees.
These days, a number of prominent organisations are choosing to bite the bullet and publicly share all sorts of information, from employee salaries and structures through to supply chain partnerships.
The social media scheduling company, Buffer, went so far as to publicly reveal the salaries of all its employees, including the salary of its CEO, Joel Gascoigne (the firm also released the formula it uses to determine employee salaries).
While this controversial approach is not for everyone, there’s no denying it’s a great way to build a stronger, trust-based bond between the employer and the employee. By being transparent about your organisation’s key problems, successes or opportunities for improvement, your employees are far more likely to see things from your perspective and trust you to make the right decisions going forward.
Transparency is also a valuable tool for attracting fresh talent. According to Glassdoor, 90% of job seekers say that it's important to work for a company that embraces transparency. And interestingly, 85% of employees are more likely to work for organisations that are completely transparent about their workplace benefits.
It reinforces your purpose.
While being transparent with your employees is a great way to earn their trust, it also enables them to get behind your organisation’s purpose.
Why does your organisation exist? What’s your reason for being? It might be to prevent global warming, or to help alleviate poverty, or to disrupt your industry with ground-breaking solutions.
Showing your employees what you truly care about is an excellent way to increase employee engagement - because, chances are, that’s probably something they care about too.
Communicate this purpose to employees at all different levels within your organisation – this will galvanize them to help you achieve it. Once implemented, your purpose should infiltrate every aspect of your organisation, and be the driving force behind every decision, action and result.
This transparent approach is also useful in pointing out areas where there’s room for improvement. Take the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia as an example. Its purpose is to cause no harm during the making of its products, as well as inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
The brand’s Footprint Chronicles initiative shares its global supply chain, from farms to textile mills to sewing factories – and better yet, the brand openly admits to areas where the manufacturing process needs to be improved, and asks people for feedback on how to go about it.
It breeds a collaborative workforce.
Within larger organisations, employees are often pigeonholed into various departments or teams based on their job function and area of expertise. This often results in employees becoming experts in one specific area, but having very little idea how other aspects of the organisation operate.
But there’s a growing number of organisations that are doing away with rigid team structures and corporate hierarchies; instead, investing in collaborative and agile work environments where innovative ideas are actively encouraged and opportunities for development are abundant.
This workplace environment is particularly effective when combined with a “fail fast, learn fast” mindset. When an organisation is completely transparent about its own shortcomings, employees will be more inclined to share the mistakes they’ve made, the challenges they’ve faced, and the obstacles they’ve overcome, which in turn helps the organisation to learn and develop as a whole.
While there is much more to employee engagement than transparency, being honest and open with your employees about internal goings-on makes it clearer for people to understand who you, what you stand for and where you want to be.