Tips to improving workplace transparency

Lucas Deal

October 31, 2013

How well does information move through your dealership? Is communication second nature or a constant chore?

If you answered the latter, you may be dealing with a lack of workplace transparency.

In business, transparency is the idea of creating an open line of communication within an operation that allows for the free flow of information.

Simple as it sounds, building true workplace transparency is an extremely difficult task. Transparency isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it business plan. You have to work at it every day.

Here are four tips to improving communication and transparency in your operation.

One company, one goal

Think about the popular rowboat analogy here; if everyone isn’t paddling in the same direction you’re not going anywhere.

Everyone in your operation should be on the same page.

This can be done by publicly stating and posting goals for all levels of your organization. All departments should have clearly defined goals and strategies for achievement, and all of that information should be available for your staff. Employees like to know they make a difference, and by displaying how their work moves the needle you can keep them motivated and focused on the task at hand.

Your value proposition and mission statement also should be prominently visible and promoted within your business.

These are the ethos of your business — they are why you exist and what you hope to provide your customers — says Tom Marx, president at The Marx Group. Employees should be able to identify them at a moment’s notice, he says.

Information starts with ‘inform’

Don’t shut out your employees. When your business makes changes, from an operational or strategic perspective, inform your staff.

Transparency helps workflow and morale.

Employees are much more receptive to changes when they are adequately informed by leadership when they are made. Workplace confidence develops from an open and honest relationship between management and staff, says Bill Wade, managing partner at Wade & Partners.

Speaking on crises and workplace mishaps, he says “You really have to sell your employees that you know what you’re doing and you’re doing it.”

And while Wade says you don’t have to tell your employees about absolutely everything, when a significant change is made it is your best interest to let them know. Change isn’t always bad, but employees can fear the worst when information is not properly communicated, he says.

Stay on the beaten path

Be consistent. Develop a plan for communicating with employees that works and use it every time.

This can be done through staff or department meetings, emailed announcements, publicly posted memos, etc. You can choose any method of communication for your dealership, but once you define what technique is best, it’s important to use it regularly.

Don’t inform your employees of changes to your healthcare plan via email if most get their news from department meetings. Tell them what they need to know when you know you’ll hear you.

RELATED: Helping your employees manage Obamacare 

It’s also important to make sure you have a strategy for employee feedback and questions, and make sure that medium also is clearly defined, Wade says.

Transparency is not just about your willingness to share with your employees; it’s also important to make sure they are able to respond. Communication lines must be open going in both directions.

Think like a CFO

This has the most value in your relationship with your management team. Teach your managers to think about the financial impacts of all business decisions.

Just like the employees they supervise, managers want to know what they do can make a difference in your business. They want to be able to directly help push your dealership in the right direction.

If you can train them to use critical thinking and cost-benefit analyses to evaluate their ideas, you will see a greater willingness from them to offer their thoughts and suggestions. By doing the work in advance, they know the value of their opinions, and that breeds confidence and a willingness to speak.

It also creates a level of transparency throughout your organization in how other employee suggestions are handled. By teaching every department head to look at decisions from the same perspective, you can easily filter out poor decisions and identify possible moneymakers.

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