Do you ever feel like you employ a bunch of zombies?
Hopefully your team isn't snacking on brains in the breakroom. But they might resemble the living dead in other ways: catatonic stares when dealing with customers, getting to the office late every morning, and a general sense of apathy about your company's mission and values.
If this situation sounds familiar, don't worry: you're not alone. Disengaged employees are something of an epidemic in US workplaces. In Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report, only 33 percent of employees reported being engaged in their jobs. More than half (51 percent) said they were actively looking for a new job or watching for openings.
In order to create a high-performing business, you need to build a high-performing team around you -- and this simply can't happen unless your staff is motivated and engaged. This requires more than just a paycheck in today's ultra-competitive job market -- your employees also want a sense of meaning and purpose behind the work they do.
As Funding Circle has grown, we've been intentional about creating a mission- and values-driven company culture. One of these values, "Be Open" is all about transparency, and is key to employee engagement. Openness and transparency build stronger relationships and enable better collaboration and problem-solving. Plus, this value ensures that employees have not only the information they need to do their jobs properly, but also the "why" behind that job existing in the first place.
Here are three things you can do to promote transparency in your business:
1. Encourage candid conversations.
Greater transparency doesn't just mean more communication. That's the first step, but this communication must be purposeful and frank to be effective. As a leader, you can help create an environment where this happens in two ways -- by proactively discussing difficult topics yourself and demonstrating that you're open to tough conversations when they're needed.
One thing we do at Funding Circle is host a monthly Q&A where employees can submit questions to senior leaders. This is in addition to our weekly all-hands and quarterly updates (not to mention other smaller meetings). Your mileage may vary, but it's important to show that you're open to having candid conversations, which will set the tone for the entire company.
2. Provide context, not just access.
Opening a floodgate of information isn't enough. While you should offer a clear view across departments and functions, the sheer volume of data in some cases might be intimidating, confusing, or otherwise counterproductive. Information must be provided along with context, commentary, and clarity around what it actually means for different people.
You can start by asking employees what they want to know, and then setting up processes to deliver that information in efficient and digestible ways. For example, you might set up a scoreboard in the office to display your sales in real time, but pair this with a regular deep dive to explain what this means in the context of your long-term targets, and what's being done to improve performance.
3. Proactively share bad news.
Employees want to be kept informed about important issues, changes, and problems. If something is up, your team probably already senses it, and if they don't get the information from you, they'll try to get it through the rumor mill... or assume the worst. Sharing bad news goes a long way toward building trust. If you only share good news, people will think you're looking at the world through rose-colored glasses or being purposefully misleading.
The big challenge here is being upfront and honest without provoking unnecessary alarm or distraction. Work with a small team you trust to define your narrative around the perceived problem, use discretion on the best channel to deliver the news, and be sure to explain how you're addressing the issue. In my experience, teams that openly embrace mistakes as learning opportunities are less likely to be disrupted by setbacks in the long run. Trust is earned: by being transparent even when things aren't working, you can go a long way to ensuring your team believes in the company direction and understands how and why decisions are made.
Transparency may not come naturally at every company, or for every leader. But there are small things you can do to make it a habit in your organization, and these can ultimately have a big impact on your company's long-term success.