An Ode to Transparency
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Advice can be a great thing, but sadly the average entrepreneur receives so much that he or she must become an expert in filtering out the information that simply won’t work. But there is one piece of advice that is worthwhile that works across all industry sectors and types: Have regular, relaxed companywide meetings where members of the team can receive important updates, hang out and wind down together.
Regularly gathering all employees to discuss what is happening and creating a scenario where honesty and ideas run freely can help companies build toward the ideal of transparency.
Before our managers knew it was the right word for what we were doing, transparency was part of my company's culture: At Wix.com, the status of every marketing campaign and product in development is routinely made available to every employee. We've even taken this concept into the physical realm by making sure all our walls are of glass. Regular meetings take place at the team, department and company levels to discuss priorities, challenges and potential new directions.
All these decisions have helped us build a stronger company and these are the reasons why:
As startups mature and grow, they inevitably run into the challenge of transferring the passion for the company to those who weren't there from the beginning. The key to building commitment at a growing company is ensuring that all employees, no matter when they joined the team, are given a voice and empowered to collectively help lead the organization forward.
Transparency plays a critical role. Keeping employees informed of wider company issues, struggles and accomplishments pays off: Any employee could have an opinion or idea that leads to a breakthrough. It also helps break down departmental walls and barriers that can sometimes hamper the sense of company unity. By keeping the full team in the loop, the leaders are showing that every individual is necessary and appreciated, a feeling that will only breed a stronger commitment to working together and furthering the organization's goals.
From the first day, Wix instituted a companywide communication system that automatically informs the entire team about status updates for products, campaigns and sales. Throughout the company, massive screens show any project going on in the company so it can be tracked, replete with the employees running it and status updates about the challenges faced and solutions they are testing.
Beyond serving as an efficient internal communications system for a staff that now numbers more than 700 employees, it also allows for maximizing our most important asset: human capital.
Over the last six years, employees from marketing have developed brilliant ideas for feature updates. Ad campaigns have been initiated as a result of quirky ideas from developers and products dreamed up by the customer-service team.
Not only is important to spend lots of time and energy in hiring and retaining talented and creative professionals. Part of maximizing this talent is giving employees access to information.
A CEO needs to set the vision for a company makes a big mistake by assuming that he or she is the smartest person in the company. Opening up access to information means trusting that the best ideas may come from other places. We've embraced this mentality and because of it our company has thrived.
Companies that don't offer access to information will inevitably suffer from problems of accountability and finger-pointing. For example, one course of action might help a certain project while simultaneously damaging another. Or managers might oversee tasks with incomplete information, with only the senior leadership possessing the ability to put the puzzle pieces together. The result is a team that will constantly and rightfully say, How could I have known?
But when all players on a team understand how the pieces fit together, their actions can be channeled in ways that foster growth and progress.
Giving employees responsibility and demanding accountability aren't harsh realities: They are signs of respect, appreciation and trust. Colleagues will know when they're appreciated, and few things show this more than the willingness to put faith in them.
The effort to conceal information from employees is not only counterproductive. It's exhausting. So a leader might ask, What do I gain by deciding who gets to know what? Transparency, on the other hand, pays off by facilitating a high level of employee involvement and encouraging staff contribution to quality decision-making. It also requires far less energy.