Management Transparency. A Leader's Challenge.

Let´s face it, it is 2017. Todays employees are a whole new breed of people. Regardless of age group, profession or education level. As a top management team or c-level executive, we have to realize that we are dealing with a group of individuals that have altered their views on how business management should be done, and moreover, how it should be communicated. To them.

Clearly, with the rise of the silicon valley billion dollar companies with thirty-something CEOs – amongst them Tesla,  Google, Facebook, Uber and for that matter, Apple –  employees on all levels suddenly have reference points of how others are conducting employee management. And these reference points create benchmarks that you may not be ready for.

Googles fun offices and incentive programs, Zappos unique experience management, Facebooks “change the world” attitude and Apples innovation harvesting are all good and very unique initiatives that make employees stay and “love” the brand they are working for.

However, there is one defining factor coming back from employee responses from hundreds of brand audits we have done over the years: People want to be involved – in the greater good, the overall strategy and long-term leadership plans. Because they feel they matter. Every single one of them. Being just a number in a big equation does not cut it anymore (and has not done so since the late 90s)

Today´s employees want transparent leaders, that care. And communicate. 
 Now, how are we going to make that happen? We have put together some simple but very effective implementations that can help leaders and employees to create that winning culture.
Here are five of the key C-level implementations that can secure a holistic and employee-driven brand:

1. Transparency

A buzz word since the beginning of the century, essentially famed due to the large financial scandals that blew up a decade ago. However today, it has to be a leadership philosophy. Once C-suites are confronted with transparency requirements it becomes clear that leadership is not about the boardroom with the locked door anymore, it is about communication, sharing of facts, emotions, challenges and opportunities. It is about being as transparent as you can – at all times.

2. Involvement 

A small company in the middle of Scandinavia decided a few years ago that they wanted to harvest their employees ideas, thoughts and suggestions. They started involving their employees (100 at the time) in everything from ten-year planning and strategic development to deciding on the colors of the benches in front of the offices. With that, they created two amazing traits:
  • They build the company knowing what their employees are able to do, what they believe in and what they want. And how they would do it.
  • They created a culture of involvement, with open doors, thought exchange and arenas for personal growth.

They are 920 employees today.

A leader that shows interest in the opinions and thoughts of his or hers employees will be perceived as strong, insightful and motivating. Remember good old Steve:

However, if you never ask, how will they ever be able to tell you?

3. Visible Actions & Management Communication

Within transformation projects, feedback from top management often results in the wrong assumption that their actions are clearly visible and that all employees see the great work they are doing every day. “But we are already doing that” or “We told them in the last memo we sent out” are sentences we hear “A LOT”.
Top Management requires to be reported to, however very few report back.
Think about it, 10.000 employees report upstream, to their line managers, country managers and in the end to the C-Suite and the CEO. Then the CEO reports to the board and the cycle moves on. Where is the feedback to the 10.000 employees that report upwards? What if we would turn the tables and required downstream reporting from top management? Wouldn´t that change a culture? Wouldn´t that create something unique?
Communicate your actions, make them visible, on all levels. And do it often. And ask for feedback. Not once a year. Once a day.

4. Feedback Loop

Employee Satisfaction Survey or Index. Yes! Let us ask our employees, once a year, how they feel and what they think about us, their great managers. Find the red button and press it hard.

In todays fast-paced environment, where we connect, build relationships, communicate digitally and are generally expecting things to happen when we want them to happen, how can organizations let a year go by before getting feedback from their most important assets? 365 days in the life of business and people is a very long time today. If leadership does not have their eyes and ears on the very pulse of the organization, how can they possibly know what or who they are leading?

Imagine Blackberry employees when Apple launched the iPhone and they understood that their industry benchmark suddenly became a relic of history. What if Blackberry management would have waited another year to get the organizations pulse?

Enable feedback loops, beyond employee surveys and one-on-one conversations. Use the digital tools available and create an open culture for feedback, good and bad, and communicate what you are doing with it. You are already doing it with your customers service centers, why not with your employees?

5. Ambassadors

Develop brand ambassador programs, develop a set of super DNA employees that love the company and truly care about its future. Develop them to becoming the organic link between top management and the employees, give them tools, power and help them succeed. Well functioning brand ambassador programs can change the face of a brand – from the inside out.