Modern Business Doesn’t Happen in a Silo: Using Transparency to Build a Better Work World

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If there’s one thing businesses should prioritize in 2021, it’s transparency.

Transparency is good for everybody. It leads to more efficiency and more diversity, and to a world that is more egalitarian and more connected. It’s also good for business.

As founder and CEO of a growth-stage tech startup, I quickly realized the power of transparency for my own company. My team has insights into all legs of my business, from our values and culture to our processes, strategies, technologies, and more. I truly believe equipping my employees with this level of knowledge has led to a more connected and effective workforce. Once I began to talk to others about how I was harnessing transparency to strengthen my company’s footprint, I noticed that most business leaders want to harness that same power for their companies as well. People want to be recognized, and businesses want to be trusted while getting credit for their wins.

People Like Working for and Buying From Transparent Companies

According to a recent study from Sprout Social, 86 percent of Americans believe transparency from businesses is more important than ever before, while 58 percent feel companies have a moral obligation to be transparent. Furthermore, 73 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for products that are transparent.

Brands that prioritize openness in their social approaches earn consumer trust, increased sales, and improved brand reputations. While many organizations have public team pages on their websites, most only showcase founders, executives, or board members. They don’t celebrate their entire teams. It can be time-consuming to keep a detailed team page updated, but sharing this level of detail with the public is a great first step toward transparency (and it can even help companies attract and retain new talent).

Some organizations, like GitLab, have already gone the extra mile, sharing full organizational charts on their websites. Social media management company Buffer is another great example of transparency in action: At this moment, you can look up a Google Doc to see the salaries of every member of the team, from the CEO on down. Unsurprisingly, Buffer was named one of Inc.‘s Best Workplaces of 2018, and the company has high brand awareness.

Highlighting and celebrating an entire team, and not just the big names, makes the corporate world a lot more accountable and personal. Businesses also want transparency to help tell their company stories and promote a sense of trustworthiness, which in turn helps bring in stronger, more loyal customers. In a world full of misinformation, data breaches, and privacy concerns, it’s understandable that consumers have started to demand more transparency from the companies from which they buy. People shop and consume information with a healthy dose of skepticism, aware that what they see online is often not the whole story. The more open a company is about what it values, the easier it can be to connect with consumers who hold the same values.

Transparency Exists Across Various Company Facets

Aside from being transparent with employees and customers, businesses need to incorporate transparency into multiple facets of their organizations. Here is an overview of how companies can do just that:

  • Transparent Technologies: Modern businesses are not built in a silo. Companies use a whole swath of outside technologies to help power their operations, but they often don’t share the tools they’re using. By keeping those technologies hidden from each other, we’re thwarting the development of a more collaborative, efficient ecosystem of innovation. Making our tech stacks more transparent is a good way to start changing this. For example, if software companies can analyze what tools a large company like Airbnb uses, they can then tailor their offerings and products to fill in the blanks.
  • Transparent Processes: As a user, there is almost nothing more infuriating than falling in love with software, learning its ins and outs, and then waking up one day to find an unexpected large-scale design overhaul. Instead of feeling excited about the upgrades, you feel blindsided. Companies that are open and honest about their processes, like the collaborative design tool Figma, can eliminate that dynamic by making what they’re doing and why they’re doing it clearer.
  • Transparent Roadmap: Keeping a company’s roadmap secret can create division both internally and externally. If employees or users are left in the dark, they become much more resistant to change, making flexible innovation much harder than it should be. Instead, take a page from GitHub which released a public roadmap to encourage feedback on what it’s building.
  • Transparent Numbers: Every company in the world has experienced setbacks, and it can be hard to admit those failures. Keeping a drop in revenue close to the chest is the natural reaction, but companies that are transparent about both their successes and failures have a much greater chance of earning and maintaining brand loyalty. Take Tettra, an internal knowledge base business. By publishing and explaining Tettra’s monthly numbers, cofounder Andy Cook has made the company seem more human and relatable.

Businesses Will Always Evolve, but Transparency Should Always Remain

Businesses aren’t built to be stagnant. They will experience many internal and external changes throughout time. Despite these transformations, however, transparency should always remain a core component of any business strategy. By adopting transparency, businesses will find more success in attracting new talent and customers while building stronger organizations.

Christian Wylonis is CEO of The Org.

By Christian Wylonis