Transparency: The Ultimate Corporate Communication Power Tool

Mike Kohler

Mike Kohler, Online Faculty

Transparency. With an abundance of it, senior leaders make their employees happy and the organization more profitable or, in the case of the public sector, more productive.

Lack of transparency? Almost a 180-degree reversal. Lack of transparency breeds suspicion, distrust, gossiping, insecurity – you name the symptom of organizational discord, and you can likely trace it to a lack of transparency.

Which is a shame because even a small investment of transparency leads to significant ROT – Return on Trust.

I’ve had business owner clients ask me “How transparent should I be?” So I answer their question with questions of my own:

  • Do you hire smart people?
  • Do you hire people you trust?

 So if an organization’s recruitment strategy includes hiring smart, trustworthy people, why would they forego the tremendous financial benefits derived from ROT?

Here’s how transparent any owner or CEO should be. They should be not only willing but eager to literally open up the financials to all employees and regularly discuss the financials in regular team meetings.

Yes, there are reasonable limits. Matters of individual compensation and other personal information are no one else’s business – ever. However, everything else about the business should be open to scrutiny and discussion, unless there is something to hide.

Let’s look at an example. One of my best bosses ever had ascended to the CEO role after a stint as CFO. She set the tone of her leadership at the start by publishing our financial statements, encouraging all employees to look at them and mapping out a schedule of business topics that would be discussed at all-employee meetings.

The results were astounding in terms of both employee morale and improvements to the bottom line. One meeting would have focused on our collections group and our collections policies and procedures. By inviting not only that department but their peer co-workers as well to contribute to the brainstorming, our company turned a functional area that was previously considered “the salt mines” into a customer-focused, problem-solving group.

That and many other open discussions of business improvements underscored the obvious – that all the best ideas come from the people doing the work. All it takes is asking them.

Remember? That’s why they were hired in the first place!

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Mike Kohler is a member of the online faculty of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 10 courses (20 months) and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.