A Revolution in Transparency is Just Beginning

Thanks to the radical transparency made possible by a world that is connected 24/7 in real-time, businesses exist in glass boxes. Outsiders can easily see inside. Sure, not always with 20/20 vision. But, they can see the people, processes and values at work. And, companies that are not living up to stated values and brand promises get exposed quickly and mercilessly.

Perhaps the most extreme example in 2018 is, in a word: Weinstein. In a hashtag? #MeToo. A New York Times article revealed multiple abuse allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein sparking a global conversation about patriarchy and gender. In 2017, Uber’s culture of sexism and bullying was exposed when one staffer’s blog post went viral, resulting in the ousting of founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. Meanwhile, an ‘anti-diversity manifesto’ by a Google employee shed light on the issue of gender diversity in tech companies.

But, this trend is about far more than the crimes and misdemeanors of big business and high profile CEO’s. Connectivity has turned every business into a glass box. It’s also magnified the power of those who have been wronged to find each other, organize themselves and respond in unison as one big transparency wrecking ball.

So, how can this affect your small business?

First, your internal culture is part of your brand and you have to live your values. Setting core values, and then failing to abide by them, is worse than not establishing any values at all. This is especially true in small, tight-knit companies in communities where people all know each other. Here are a few tips for incorporating core values into the everyday fabric of your business:
• Live and lead by example
• Incorporate the values into hiring (and firing)
• Teach the values through orientation/training
• Reinforce the values in all communications
• Recognize and reward values-driven conduct
• Incorporate your values into the sales and service process

Second, be transparent about everything so you can build trust both inside and outside your company. Be transparent and up front about the price — what does it cost, what do you get and how do you get it? Be transparent about guarantees. Be transparent about successes, failures, even changes to your business. Be transparent about everything you believe your employees and your customers care about.   

Third, no one is perfect. Make an objective assessment of your organization; look at yourself from the outside. Engage your team to address issues proactively but also to create — or reinforce — an atmosphere where it’s okay for staff to speak up if they’ve been wronged. Ensure they are heard, that their story will be respected and action will be taken. 

And, if after all this, a transparency wrecking ball still hits you sometime in the future, take prompt action and be totally transparent about what you are doing to put things right. After all, a culture of transparency is the way business ought to be done.

People Trust Companies Who Are Transparent

Transparency produces trust. Who can trust a company or person who doesn’t disclose information, who keeps everything close to the vest, who doesn’t share anything?

There are very few ways to build trust, but one of them is to be transparent. The opposite of transparency is secrecy, which only serves to erode trust. Entire organizations exist for the sole purpose of encouraging transparency. Why? Because a culture that is more transparent can build trust. Trust defeats corruption.

Transparency wins, because transparency engenders trust.

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Fast Company Magazine | The Future of Work (10.09.14)