The 2014 Global Human Capital Trends report by Deloitte found that 78 percent of business leaders believe engagement and retention of employees is a top priority. Meanwhile the 2013 TINYpulse Employee Engagement Survey found company transparency to be the top factor when measuring employee happiness and contentment with their jobs.
Workers are simply more engaged when they understand the goals, challenges and overall health of the company. Too much secrecy is a guaranteed way to feed resentment, suspicion and force valuable people to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Transparency is a balancing act that can be accomplished if all levels of management are on the same page.
Qualtrics, a Utah-based software firm, states that radical transparency was the key to growing from a hopeful startup in 2002 to receiving $150 million in Series B funding this past September. Mike Maughan, head of employee Insight Marketing, wrote that radical transparency lets employees know how their contributions impact the company. This keeps them engaged because they fully understand the big picture as it pertains to them individually.
Companies should provide workers information about profits and overall financial health. This will keep them focused on their work, as opposed to searching for what they’re looking for. The CEO and upper management team should regularly send company-wide emails to everyone. Let them know about promotions, firings and anything else that might pique their curiosity. Jack Dorsey, CEO of San Francisco-based Square, Inc., told CNet he even sends out board meeting minutes to all employees to keep them in the loop.
Another solution to consider is utilizing a cloud-based storage system that is accessible to anyone with the proper credentials. You can update internal documents and memos in real-time so all the latest company information is neatly organized in one place. This puts control of information in the hands of employees and reinforces trust in the company.
Popular Isn’t Necessarily Effective
A 2010 survey by the International Facility Management Association found that 70 percent of offices in the U.S. have adopted open office floor plans. This entails removing the traditional walls from cubicles and eliminating assigned seating.
Ilya Pozin, founder of digital marketing firm Ciplex, wrote for Forbes that his company uses an open office floor plan to foster transparency. It’s easy for everyone to see what the other is doing and it helps with collaboration on projects. Open office plans works for some companies, but there are caveats.
A 2014 study published in the journal Ergonomics found that open office workers are more likely to take sick days than those with private workspaces. Another study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found open office workers are less productive, less motivated and report lower job satisfaction. The study cites noise and lack of privacy as contributing factors.
Despite good intentions, it’s best to gauge employee interests in this type of plan before enactment.
Dane Atkinson, CEO of data analytics firm SumAll, told ThinkProgress that he has learned something new about company transparency every time he starts a new business. One omnipresent issue regardless of company is workplace stress associated with compensation and the mandatory secrecy most companies enforce. So one of the first policies he enacted with SumAll was full disclosure of all salaries to everyone.
Atkinson said many quantifiable benefits have resulted from the policy, including a higher degree of trust, better productivity and lower turnover. Some companies, like social media startup Buffer, are taking things a step further. Not only does it disclose all salaries internally, but also makes them available to the general public. Both companies pointed out that adopting this type of policy can be expensive and can be challenging when getting everyone on board. But they also agreed that the benefits far outweigh any potential detriments.
Transparency is vital to keep workers motivated and retain top talent. Some policies are more radical than others. But discounting transparency altogether is no longer an option for sustained success.