In 2017, the headlines were dominated by scandal. From lingering headlines about Volkswagen's "Dieselgate" to the downfall of media mogul Harvey Weinstein, we've seen an unprecedented number of businesses and leaders held accountable for bad behavior. But this public outcry is bigger than any one individual or company. It's sparked a movement of transparency with the #MeToo campaign, which spans every industry.

So what does this mean for you and your business in 2018? I believe we'll see companies, boards and leaders become more focused on HR and company culture. These shifts are fundamentally good, and here's how I think they'll play out.

1. This year will be boom time for startups focused on workplace transparency.

Until recently, most companies measured the health of their company culture through annual surveys, which were time-consuming to take and only represented a snapshot in time. A number of entrepreneurs are focusing on workplace transparency in response, and I think their efforts will gain serious traction this year.

For example, Claire Schmidt created AllVoices, which is set to launch soon. Full disclosure: I'm proud to be a seed investor and adviser to AllVoices. The platform gives employees a safe way to anonymously report harassment and discrimination straight to the leadership team without worrying about repercussions.

When there's data in the hands of the leadership team, it's harder to look the other way, and savvy entrepreneurs are taking note. This also means that you--whether you're the founder of a startup or a longtime CEO--can have real-time insight into the health of your organization. Rather than solving a culture problem after the fact, you can identify issues early on and course correct.

2. Boards and investors will get serious about company culture.

In the past, only a handful of companies like Ben & Jerry's and Etsy spoke publicly about the importance of company culture and corporate responsibility. This year, however, we'll see more boards of directors get serious about company culture because it's good for business, and it's just the right thing to do.

More board members will ask tough questions about efforts to increase diversity and programs to foster a respectful culture. If you focus on treating employees right, you'll see higher retention and motivation among your employees, putting them in better positions to succeed long term.

We'll see similar shifts in funding, with more venture capitalists prioritizing company culture and diversity in investment decisions. Soon it will no longer be uncommon for a VC to ask about diversity at the top or plans to create a more inclusive workplace. While not every investor will focus on culture and diversity, the smart ones will (and some already are).

3. More leaders will focus on creating cultures where employees thrive.

In the past, culture was often an afterthought for companies. But the tide is changing, and that's a good thing. Pressure from boards and better data means more accountability. In the coming year, we'll see more leaders and employees held accountable for bad behavior.

But we'll also see a really positive shift toward creating great cultures where discrimination and harassment aren't tolerated in the first place. As an effective founder, you have an opportunity to focus your efforts on diversity and inclusion, alongside customer acquisition. If you lead an established business, it's worth codifying or reexamining your core values. As leaders, we should regularly solicit feedback from our employees and engage in tough conversations. These efforts are so important because when employees feel safe and respected, they thrive.

A transparent future is better for all of us.

We're learning how to do this at Zillow Group too. One of our core values is "turn on the lights," meaning we unlock information and bring it to light. We're committed to transparency because it's better for our employees and for our business.

Whether it's adopting HR tech for your organization, asking difficult questions, or focusing on inclusion initiatives, each of us has a role in creating a strong company culture. The future is brighter for businesses of all shapes and sizes when we embrace transparency and prioritize respect within and outside of the workplace. 

Published on: Jan 5, 2018