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Why we need transparency in business

14 Aug 2015 - Blog

Why we need transparency in business

 

With Obama’s Wall Street Reform, Nicola Sturgeon requesting the UK Government be transparent about whether they spied on Scottish politicians and reeling from the fairly recent Fifa scandal, the issue of transparency across the business world is rife.

The organisations mentioned above, including the banking institutions covered by the Wall Street Reform, are incredibly complex systems with many rules and regulations, and vast numbers of people and technology operating them. But, they are no different to any other organisation. They employee people and serve customers, and their lack of transparency is what has landed them in muddy waters.

 

Can we learn from the mistakes of such organisations?

In the banking crisis, employees lost their jobs and ultimately lost faith in the systems that gave them those jobs. Why? Partly because they lost their livelihood – being made redundant when you have a family to support would make anyone angry – but partly because they were left out of the loop.

Tough business decisions that result in people losing their jobs is a difficult time for all involved but, with some careful planning and the right cultural factors in place, it is possible to make the transition easier.

If you are aware of the factors that are contributing to your fate, well before that fate occurs, you can prepare for it. Even better, if you play an active part in deciding the fate of that organisation, you recognise that the decisions made were for the good of the business and the people within it. It doesn’t take away the pain of being out of work, but it certainly softens the blow.

 

What is transparency and why do we need it?

“Business transparency goes beyond the simple idea of “honesty” because it depends on the accuracy and the timeliness of that honesty.” Sarah Burke, Spokal

Being completely transparent might seem scary. But true transparency allows everyone to be on the same page and working towards the same goals – whether those goals are to grow the business or to get it out of financial ruin.

 

Transparency builds trust

For people to be truly engaged in growing a business, they need to know the truth about that business at every stage on the business journey.

“Being transparent should encourage you to conduct your business, from the tips of its toes to the top of its head, in a way that you are proud to display to the world.” Sarah Burke

A few years ago I wrote an article about trust in internal communications with the title ‘Years to build, seconds to break, forever to repair.’ That title still rings true today. But trust isn’t something that develops overnight and it can easily be broken in a few simple actions.

“If people don’t trust you, then you have nothing. And the best way to build trust? By being trustworthy.” Sarah Burke

Trust comes with creating an open culture where people feel informed, involved and inspired. This doesn’t mean that you tell your colleagues something and ask them to give you feedback; it means creating a culture of open dialogue that allows you to co-create plans for the future; making everyone feel part of the bigger picture, and allowing everyone to feel prepared for the good times and the bad.

If employees feel you trust and value them enough to be honest with them, they are more likely to be inspired to stay with you on your journey and work with you towards common goals. If employees feel alienated, they will soon move on to somewhere where they feel more valued.

Transparency starts with being honest about the state of the business and the problems you have. Some people will get up and leave, others will stick with you and help you rebuild. These are the people you need in your business.

 

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