When it comes to business transparency, is there such a thing as too much? Does it vary based on our role—whether we are a consumer, employee or job applicant? What do people have a right to know when it comes to organizational information?
Transparency can be tricky to define in business as it varies among industries. Take the company Buffer, the social media tool that schedules out social media posts, for example. They believe in their company value of “Default to Transparency,” where Buffer “uses transparency as a tool to help others.” From making employee salaries public to Buffer’s product pricing breakdown within the organization, Buffer isn’t afraid to share and promote their very transparent organization. Co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne explains:
“I believe that transparency has such a unique potential to empower and inspire a team that it has largely transformed how we run Buffer. One key reason transparency is such a powerful value for a company’s culture is trust: Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork.”
Though that mindset might not work for every business, Buffer has shown how transparency can enhance corporate culture, productivity, employee and client relationships, and job applicants—especially among Millennials.
In fact, Millennials value openness within their jobs since it’s a part of their current lifestyle. As a social media generation, they are used to getting not only the news on social media applications, but having a direct line of communication with an organization. This transparency leads to trust and helps Millennials stay loyal, engaged and gain empowerment with an organization. And this sense of empowerment is vital among the growing demographic.
For instance, in a recent survey taken by Millennials around the world, researchers found that 40 percent or more of the respondents from North America, Western Europe and Africa said they wanted “managers who empower their employees.” By instilling a culture of openness and sharing information, it shows Millennials their value within an organization—which can lead to better overall work engagement.
On the other hand, companies can be too transparent, harming their public image and employee relationships. As Ethan Bernstein, Assistant Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the Harvard Business School explains:
“Here’s the paradox: For all that transparency does to drive out wasteful practices and promote collaboration and shared learning, too much of it can trigger distortions of fact and counterproductive inhibitions.”
Too much business transparency can hinder a company’s competitive edge, be subject to negative press and expose/devalue employees and the organization overall. The last thing organizations want is job applicants discouraged and unwilling to apply to an organization because of their overuse of transparency.
How to Find Balance
When finding the right transparency balance, consider these simple ways to incorporate transparency within a company:
- Enhance your business’ social media presence and share your current news, content, events, etc. with the public.
- Set boundaries and accountability within your teams, departments and the company overall on what information and feedback can be shared and what should be kept private.
- Learn how to share information better, that will, in the end, foster better employee engagement—employee evaluations and feedback should focus on employee productivity and improving skills, not critiquing mistakes.
All and all, with the right amount of business transparency, it can enhance company culture and business as well as help employees become more productive, grow within their careers, and keep them happy.