In today’s turbulent economy many employees are anxious and distracted. Are layoffs coming? Will the company survive? Most high-level executives have a good picture of the state of their industries and the health of their companies but aren’t sure how much to tell their employees.

The answer here is “the more the better.” This article explores the insights of bestselling author Quint Studer, whose latest book Straight A Leadership: Alignment, Action, Accountability touches directly on this issue. Mr. Studer is a disciple of transparency, reminding us that, “We share information with employees for a couple of reasons: one, it’s the right thing to do, and two, it’s good for business. And most companies can use every possible edge these days.”

Readers learn that employees generally assume the worst if they don’t hear from leaders. Without knowing what executives know about the sometimes volatile forces that affect the company and its bottom line, the actions they take can appear to the troops to be ill-advised, unfair or quite simply inexplicable. A communications vacuum will always create speculation to fill the void, sometimes offered by those with hidden animus toward particular managers or to the company itself.

Transparency, on the other hand, allows for a controlled, consistent message to reach employees, customers and other important constituencies. Employees then can begin to understand what’s required of them and why, and the energy that once was wasted on harmful speculation and anxiety can be redirected toward collaborative effort fueled by a shared sense of urgency. Transparency also results in greater retention of a company’s innovators, who are particularly averse to atmospheres of secrecy and uncertainty. These high-performers want to be respected and valued for their problem-solving abilities and they often have other workplace options even in the worst economies. Best of all, notes the author, employees are the very people most likely to come up with solutions, for which, of course, they’ll have instant buy-in.

The article ends with a caution that “transparency is a way of life, not a stop-gap measure.” Fed by openness and constant communication, transparency shapes a company’s culture for the better and drives results in the best and worst economies.

Source: Victoria Everman, Author Advises Keeping No Secrets From Employees, The Enterprise, March 22, 2010

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