Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Culture of Openness

A few years ago I got a call from a client after her first day at her new job. She had spent several years after college working for non-profits and was just experiencing her first days of life in Corporate America. She had hired me because she wanted help adapting to life in this new world, so I was anxious to hear about her experiences. But when I asked her how her first day was, her response surprised me.

“It was weird,” she said.

“What do you mean, ‘weird’?”

She was working for a privately held company with about a dozen offices across the country. The company was headquartered back east some place, and on her first day on the job they were being visited by the CEO on day 1 of a trip to every location in the company.

“He talked to us about the former executive,” she said. “Apparently he had embezzled a lot of money from the company before getting caught and the CEO was telling us about it.”

I was intrigued.

“What did he tell you?”

“He told us how much money the guy had embezzled, how he had done it, and who had helped him. He also told us about some new accounting controls that were being put in place, and about a new auditing department that was being formed. I don’t know what to do. It was a lot to absorb on my first day.”

Digging deeper she was impressed by the open way the CEO had spoken about what had happened and how they hadn’t tried to cover things up. The other employees, she observed, had asked questions and probed the CEO, but none of them seemed to be overly concerned. This had also impressed her, but the fact that she was starting with such bad news had left her somewhat concerned.

Flash forward a few months and we were talking again and I brought up the issue of her work and her company.

“It’s really an amazing place,” she said. “Each month we get a note from the CEO telling us how we are doing in revenue against our plan, what big projects we are bidding on, which one’s we have recently won and lost, and anything else he thinks we might want to know about. It’s really pretty amazing.”

And how did this openness in the organization affect her and her fellow employees?

“Everyone trusts the CEO to tell us the truth and everyone knows what is going on. The openness from the top permeates the organization and there just aren’t any secrets. Our Office Manager takes the note from the CEO and adds comments on how these things affect us directly and what we can do to help. I really wasn’t expecting this kind of honest communication, but we all feel like we’re part of the team.”

When I pressed her for how this had impacted her productivity, she told me that she considered herself a professional and didn’t think she was necessarily working any harder than she would otherwise.

“But,” she said, “I love this place so much I’m not sure I ever want to leave. I just want to stay here and keep learning more about the business and find new ways to help. That has to count for something.”

You bet it does.

A culture of openness, like the one my client has been experiencing, reduces employee turnover and, therefore, holds down your costs. It also encourages employees to want to learn about new parts of the business and grow with the company. And while these things aren’t easy to measure on the Income Statement, they definitely impact the long-term growth of your company.

How can you implement a culture of openness in your organization?

It’s really pretty easy once you know how. It’s about communicating with your employees on a regular basis, being honest about the company’s business, and sharing news and upcoming plans. As I’ve written about before ( and as my client found out personally, this kind of openness builds an undeniable trust within the organization – among the employees, among the leaders, and between the employees and leaders – that will take your organization to the next level.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors:
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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