By Dr. Giulia D’Anna
Transparency is a term of diminishing linguistic value in the realm of business. Fanatically overused, the word has become a marketing tool that persuades consumers to trust the seller. The cut-throat nature of the business world seems to demand that transparency become a principle of theory rather than practicality. But should transparency just be a superficial value for us as women in business? Or is there merit in chasing after true transparency in your company?
In my 20 years’ experience, as a business owner and medical practitioner in both the dental and cosmetic industries, being honest and open with patients has been invaluable. My conscious transparency has meant that everyone who walks through my door feels that they can trust me. Why true transparency is crucial to a successful career is an important question for all women in business to consider.
WHAT IS TRANSPARENCY?
First, let’s think about true transparency. At first glance, transparency could be described as pure honesty, but this is rather simplistic. Rather, transparency is as about the timing of an organisation’s honesty as much as it is about the honesty itself. It is quite useless to disclose crucial information about someone’s health, a product’s quality, or financial losses months afterward! True transparency is the timely and full disclosure of information.
However, so many businesses struggle to deliver this. Why? Here are a few reasons that I’ve come across:
- Compensation : Bonuses are a great incentive to help create hardworking employees, but it also acts as an incentive for misinformation. Workers put under the pressure of a commission or generous compensation are naturally more tempted to falsify or omit information that makes your company less transparent. It may also create a culture where options offered to a client are limited to those of higher value, and not necessarily the best suited to the client. Think carefully about how you compensate your employees and create a culture of security and honesty.
- Superior/inferior mentality: “That’s above their pay grade” is a common expression that raises suspicion about the transparency of an organisation. Employers often only share information on a need-to-know basis. If company information is compartmentalised, it can lead to employees and clients feeling paranoid, uninformed, and sometimes betrayed, or not feel part of the team at all. In order to drive a business forward, each team member needs to have all the information. Without transparency, it is like trying to drive a car to an unknown destination without a map. It simply cannot work.
- Unclear expectations: Often in the buzz of running a business, general expectations can be overlooked. Uncertainty among employees is the thorn in the side of businesses striving for transparency. I have seen one moment of innocent ignorance from an employee that has caused a ripple of mistrust and resentment through the employee body and clientele, because everyone else is picking up the pieces.
Full disclosure of company information can seem like a daunting and unintelligent move. This leads businesses to commonly view timely honesty as a burden and to use transparency as a mere communication theory rather than practice. But it is this attitude that is a core problem for so many businesses.
Why is Transparency Important?
The main reason a company will sacrifice its transparency is that it is often under-appreciated or under-valued. Once you understand the purpose and benefits of corporate transparency, you will see how crucial it is to succeed.
Building trust is at the core of business transparency. In my experience as a medical professional, business is nearly impossible without my patients feeling like they know what is going on. In fact, I cannot proceed with any treatment until we have achieved a clear understanding between my client, myself, and what my company stands for. In the medical arena, for true consent to be achieved, honest and open communication is at the heart of transparency. Without it, my business would cease to exist. Corporations and businesses are usually not perceived as naturally trustworthy by the general population, with a large percentage of people suspicious of corporate greed. For this reason, it is necessary for us to work even harder at being transparent to ensure that consumers are satisfied. For me, this means explaining every element of a procedure, or warning patients of all the risks involved in treatment options and procedures.
As well as customer satisfaction, there is a range of benefits to having a transparent culture in your business. Here are my top three:
- Employee happiness: Studies have shown that transparency had a correlation coefficient of 0.94 employee happiness, making it the number one factor in workplace satisfaction. This is not surprising, considering that we have already established that trust is crucial for healthy business relationships, and transparency breeds, trust. Investing in good relationships with your employees with transparency means keeping them up to date with company strategies, events, and decisions. Being open about these will create a culture of teamwork, value and connection that is vital for efficient business. I have seen the benefits of having a workplace culture that puts employees at ease and of feeling trusted and valued, which in turn makes my patients more comfortable!
- Level the playing field: A fixed company hierarchy, created through the privatising of information, is a thing of the past. The top-down approach to business has been exposed as an inflexible and inefficient way of running a workplace. Transparency helps to create a flatter leadership structure that encourages information sharing and continuity to your business. Some of the best ideas come from the team members that run operations on a day-to-day basis. We need a culture of information-sharing to remain vital and dynamic to our clients’ needs and wants.
- Realistic goal setting: There is nothing worse than the feeling of falling short of a goal. This is often a result of unrealistic expectations, goals, or attitudes. Transparency and access to all information make the creation of attainable goals easy! Employees will be encouraged by the impact of their work, while executives will be satisfied with workplace output and business owners will rest easy knowing that they have made the most of their fiscal year. I can attribute many of my own achievements to the realistic goals that a transparent business model outline.
Ensuring your business is transparent (from a business owner like myself that makes it a crucial part of daily operations).
Now that we have thought about what transparency actually is here are a few practical tips that have helped me remain transparent.
- Don’t fake it – It’s obvious: Businesses often go for a transparent aesthetic but are not ready to put in the authentic work that true transparency takes. Don’t do it. Clients and employees can tell when your honesty is faked. Admit your mistakes, ask for help and be humble. Being authentic in your business will create a culture of trust for everyone who you work with and for you.
- It pays to be honest: Hiding your mistakes can seem like the safest choice, but as soon as they are exposed your entire business will be compromised. Keep everything out in the open, the good and the bad. Even omitting information can lead to the downfall of your company. Don’t risk it. Besides it is so much easier to keep it real.
- The early bird gets the worm: If you’re playing the waiting game, you’re playing the wrong game. Use every means necessary to address problems and concerns early. Just like the saying, trust is a fragile thing. It is easy to break, easy to lose and one of the hardest things to ever get back. Being transparent will help keep trust safe. Conversing continuously with clients and employees ensure that you are always transparent, always honest, and always trustworthy.
Integrity is always based on honesty and transparency. As professionals, maintaining high standards of ethical conduct goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to excellence with our treatment results.