Rosemary has been the President and CEO of Lovell Communications since 2014, and she has spent the past 25 years working in PR, communications and marketing. Plorin's career has included a wide spectrum of private and public sectors, including healthcare crisis management. Now that Plorin is in charge of a PR, marketing communications and crisis communications firm, she has made transparency part of her central focus. I spoke with Plorin to learn more about the ins and outs of transparency and why it has become so important for employee morale and retention.
What do employees really want?
There's a significant body of research that indicates employees want to understand:
1) What their company does--who it serves, how it makes money, how it succeeds, etc.
2) How they personally contribute to the company's success
3) That they personally share in the company's success
You mention transparency. How does transparency in the company help encourage productivity?
Transparency is best paired with a well-articulated bonus program and clear employee goals. We undertake an annual goals-setting effort in which employees and managers work together to set individual SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals that relate directly to company strategic goals. Making the connection between an individual employee's work and company goals can help encourage productivity and teamwork.
How much transparency is motivating? How much is too much?
This is a hot topic these days, and every business owner has to identify her or his own intestinal fortitude for sharing financial information. Conventional wisdom used to be that sharing individual compensation information is too much - very few people want their salary information exposed. Though some companies, like Buffer, really embrace salary transparency, the jury is still out. There's plenty of evidence that while senior employees' high wages can be motivating for some, it's demotivating to others.
For business owners who want to increase their transparency but may not be ready for an all-in, open book approach, sharing top line growth can be a starting point.
What's the biggest business mistake and lesson you've learned from it?
The biggest mistake we made regarding transparency was keeping employees in the dark. For years we participated in an annual survey by our local weekly business newspaper and reported annual revenue figures--yet we weren't sharing those same figures with employees. Crazy.
Any reason why you choose not share those figures internally?
We had concerns about the impact that those figures would have, both on employee morale and future wage expectations. What we have learned, though, is that offering wage transparency sets more realistic expectations and helps motivate people to reach for the top of the ceiling in their particular role.
What should business owners really focus on?
Understanding that employees want to feel that they contribute to their company's success, it is key that employees be exposed to the company's strategic goals and objectives. Why is the company focusing on certain products or service lines? Why are certain geographic areas more important than other areas? What is the importance of reducing waste/duplication, increasing add-on sales, avoiding production line shut downs? Employees understand that the company wants to make more money and be more successful, but helping employees understand how they contribute to that success is key.
How do you engage with employees so that they can share in your company's successes?
The previously mentioned SMART goals are an integral piece of employee engagement. We set company and individual goals at a quarterly and yearly level, and everyone is given the opportunity to review all of these goals in order to see how they all fit together. This provides transparency because each employee knows exactly how the work that they are doing will impact their entire team. Everyone can also help hold their coworkers accountable for meeting each goal so that the company becomes more successful. Tying this process into bonuses ensures that everyone remains engaged on a daily basis.
You speak about employee engagement and contribution. Can you give our audience here some personal examples of transparency to your employees, and the ensuing results? No names needed of course.
When we first rolled out the SMART goals approach, some employees were struggling with the concept of breaking their annual goals into achievable quarterly segments. There was also some pushback on sharing their goals and progress with the entire company. Therefore, I stepped in and personally walked everyone through my goals and made it a point to speak openly during SMART meetings about each goal I had completed or missed. Being transparent in this way, along with showcasing the fact that some goals need to be restructured over time, helped the concerned employees feel more comfortable and confident in the program.
Lovell Communications has joined a long list of companies that now embrace the transparent approach, and studies have shown that this can make a big difference in employee satisfaction. In fact, transparency combined with other employee engagement techniques can help reduce the staggering 70 percent U.S. workplace dissatisfaction rate. If your business is not already focusing on transparency, this may be the best change to make for positive growth.