Why Are So Many Companies Missing the Boat on Corporate Transparency?

By Andre Lavoie

SAN FRANCISCO (TheStreet) -- Transparency is important to ensure your best people are moving in the right direction. Yet many companies erect barriers between their best people and put up roadblocks obstructing company goals from view.

"Corporate transparency" doesn't refer just to what investors and activists will see in a filing with the SEC; it also means having a clear line of sight through your company, so upper management understands the allocation of their people and employees understand the purpose of their company.

True company transparency isn't easy to attain, but it can save your bottom line. Consider the average company with only 100 employees -- hardly a large business -- spends up to 17 hours per week just clarifying communication. In dollars, this translates to an annual cost of $528,443 in miscommunication and lost productivity.

This doesn't even take into account employee engagement, which is at an all-time low. When employees can't see how their work contributes and don't understand their place in the company, they disengage from their efforts. According to Gallup, low employee engagement costs the economy upward of $550 billion a year.

Missing the boat on all kinds of corporate transparency is costly. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your team stops working in a fog:

Trust that transparency works.

The No. 1 reason to foster transparency in your company? It works when it comes to engagement, productivity and your organization's bottom line. After all, if transparency didn't work it wouldn't be a buzzword, nor so rapidly adopted by so many companies.

For an example, just look at startups and tech giants embracing the open office floor plan with equally open arms. These companies hope setting up their office in a transparent way will help improve organizational transparency.

Take social media company Buffer. The company has loudly and repeatedly explained how its focus on transparency has helped engage employees and drive workflow. At Buffer, all salaries are public and employees use real-time tracking to keep work aligned. The company is making more than $1 million annually now and executives attribute its success in part to a transparent organizational structure.

You might also want to consider technology retail giant Best Buy. The company noticed the importance of employee engagement -- at an all-time low with 70% of American employees disengaged from their jobs -- and implemented employee engagement initiatives. Tracked carefully, the results found a 0.1% increase in engagement translated into more than $100,000 in one store's operating budget.

Engagement matters, and having a transparent organization in which employees understand their value drives this engagement.

Focus on goals.

To increase engagement, you first need to clear the cobwebs from your large-scale organizational goals. A recent study called How Leaders Grow Today found that while 43% of employees were familiar with company goals, these people could not name what these goals actually are. You need your employees conversant in the broad view and the specifics of your goals.

If you want to achieve organizational transparency, you need to start with goals as a building block. Goals are the foundation of your company, but many employees are too far from this on-the-ground mission statement to be familiar with what their work accomplishes.

The further from goals your team finds themselves, the less likely they are to be truly engaged in their work. By connecting daily workflow to organizational objectives, you're empowering your best people with the value of their own contributions.

Track in real time for greater accountability.

Like Buffer, if you want to make your organization more transparent it's time to start tracking in real time. Why? Real-time tracking leads to greater accountability for your workers without meddlesome micromanagement.

Employees can take ownership of their work by tracking their own progress, which also allows the team to understand the whole instead of just the parts. Now your best people can connect their day-to-day tasks to larger goals seamlessly, while also understanding what coworkers are doing to accomplish these same goals.

From an executive perspective, real-time tracking allows your employees to take ownership of their work while allowing you to understand your team's productivity. This can help you provide more valuable feedback to employees and stop small problems from snowballing.

Best of all for your workforce, it allows you to reward the right people and make an example of a job well done. No longer will toxic office politics damage the company culture you've worked so hard to establish. With real-time tracking, you can be sure you're rewarding the hardest workers.

Make communication continuous.

Communication is how you reinforce goals and take information from real-time tracking to make it count for your company. Yet far too many organizations are falling down on the job when it comes to continuous communication. How Leaders Grow Today found less than 6% of companies communicate goals on a daily basis.

More damaging still is the fact that employees don't feel heard. While 70% of respondents to a survey from Fierce, a communication training and leadership development company, said they would be willing to approach leaders candidly with feedback, less than one-third felt leadership would actually change policies based on this feedback.

You need to make communication a daily process, and you need to encourage its movement in both directions. Using real-time tracking, you can focus on employees who need extra help and might need to be played to different strengths. Meanwhile, find your superstar workers and ask them for feedback, advice and creative solutions to problems. If employees feel heard and appreciated, they'll see your organization as more transparent.

Transparency is important in many facets of your organization: to your culture, to your engagement, and ultimately to your bottom line. By focusing on goals, communication and tracking you can get your best people moving in the right direction.

What do you think? How do you encourage transparency? Share in the comments!

Andre Lavoie is the CEO of ClearCompany, the first talent alignment platform that bridges the gap between talent management and business strategy by contextualizing employees' work around a company's vision and goals. You can connect with him and the ClearCompany team on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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