Most business leaders today say they value transparency. But how do you know when you have achieved it? Recently Kimble Applications conducted a survey and the results were surprising. Less than a quarter of American workers say they have full insight into how their organization is actually doing.
Fully 75% care a great deal about the overall business performance of their employer. But almost the same proportion don’t know basic business information such as the revenue, headcount or profit forecast. And almost half don’t feel that the little information they are given is a fair reflection of reality.
This survey revealed the astonishing lack of effective communication at many organizations today, where transparency is little more than a buzzword. I think this harks back to the structures of the past. Most companies last century were very hierarchical, operating with a rigid management structure in which knowledge wasn’t shared very far.
“Have regular meetings which employees across the organization can learn about the strategy and targets.”
But that model is not well suited to the era of disruption and rapid change. I don’t think you will find many start-ups which grow into multi-billion enterprises while keeping their workforce in the dark. The digital workplace is more suited to autonomous individuals who can take responsibility for their own contribution.
To meet the challenges of rapid growth: taking decisions swiftly, grasping opportunities, people at every level need to be able to see the bigger picture. They need to know what the strategy is for growth and how their role fits into that.
Measure What Matters
I am a big believer in the value of metrics. But they should not be used as as stick to beat people with. Instead, they are the wheel you can use to steer your business. First of all, you have to decide what success looks like. What is your goal? To take a simple example, if your business sells handmade biscuits, you might want to sell more than anyone else in the state. Put a number on that and break it down into bite-sized chunks – to achieve this sales target, you need to a) get your wares into a range of high-end delis; b) score higher than anyone else on taste tests, c) take advantage of seasonal gifting opportunities, and so on. Keep measuring – create predictions and pull out the numbers to see if you are hitting them.
Create an Ownership Culture
Keep everyone in the company in the loop. Have regular meetings which employees across the organization can learn about the strategy and targets. Shine a light on difficult areas. What are the key challenges? What does the competitive landscape look like? Make the information on this readily accessible to all. Make everyone accountable for identifying and solving problems in their areas – let them participate in setting metrics, running budgets, taking decisions. That is the basis of an ownership culture where employees become fully-engaged team members.
Use technology to support staff
Technology provides the tools which can support people to self-manage. They can support visibility which allows senior managers the piece of mind to know they will be alerted to issues early. They can prompt or remind people of certain tasks, offering checklists or templates. And they can give a basis for sharing information across the organization and make it easier for people to step up and give their best.