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How to Include Transparency in Your Business: A Conversation and #bufferchat With SumAll

4 min read Bufferchat
Nicole Miller
Nicole Miller Director of People @ Buffer
How to Include Transparency in Your Business: A Conversation and #bufferchat With SumAll

What are the keys to including transparency as part of your business or brand?

We’re inspired by the efforts of many companies who emphasize transparency. SumAll is one of those on the cutting edge of transparency, sharing all the team’s salaries and much more.

SumAll’s Olivia Wainwright joined us for #bufferchat to talk about transparency and how this can be part of the brands that you manage, too.

Highlights from the SumAll #bufferchat are below, and you can catch the full recap here.

How would you define “transparency” in business?

bufferchat 5.6.15 Quote

From SumAll:

  • Transparency is a not a principle but a tool to be applied wherever both employee and employer can benefit.
  • We employ transparency as a tool to increase trust, empower employees, & widen information flow.
  • For us, we make sure all relevant information is published and easily accessible through an internal wiki.

From the community:

  • “Transparency in business is pulling back the “curtain” and establishing a culture built on trust and openness.”@stevedinardo55
  • “Transparency is the shortest distance between what you say and what you do.” @beymour
  • “Transparency removes the veil between a business and the consumer thus changing the relationship and increasing trust” @tigga7d6

What are the benefits to transparency?

From SumAll:

  • The benefits of transparency boil down to putting more responsibility and power with employees.
  • Transparency allows for better negotiation, better career planning, more clear idea of what teams are doing.
  • Ultimately knowledge is power. If you know there’s a problem you have to do something about it.

From the community:

  • “Transparency creates trust. That trust is only built from the actions you take and not just the words that you say.” @edagoodman
  • “Those that engage with you are part of your journey and know where you are going and will support you more fully” @J_rouser
  • ” ‘If you empower people but don’t give them information, they just fumble in the dark.’ -Blair Vernon” @calbachand

What are some considerations to be aware of with transparency?

From SumAll:

  • Employing transparency requires more judicious appraisal of the ‘state’ of information and wording.
  • Information that gets shared before its fully baked can end up being LESS accurate and therefore less transparent.
  • Transparency is a tool. It’s not good or evil and it can be used for either.
  • If you don’t establish your unique definition of transparency, then you’re not actually transparent.
  • Salary transparency can be uncomfortable, but also levels the playing field.

From the community:

  • “Very important internally. I think @WholeFoods has wage transparency. That would be a big help sorting out equal pay issues.” @steven_paul
  • “There is still a need for professionalism when being transparent” @thatskeely
  • “Honesty is the best policy, however, revealing too much too soon could alter expectations, thus altering the objective.” @brighthausgroup

How might transparency impact other values held by a company?

From SumAll:

  • We’ve found that adding Transparency invites all manner of critique upon whether a value is being upheld.
  • It’s easy to see how that could be a good thing and less obvious how that could be a bad thing.
  • Again, transparency translates very quickly to responsibility, especially in a semi-flat org like ours.

From the community:

  • “Reading these I’m seeing relationship between transparency, consistency, and accountability. All part of a positive culture.” @elizabethmkray
  • “Transparency not only builds customer trust, but builds a positive culture within the organization” @MarshaCollier
  • “Transparency means you don’t try to hide the times when you fail to live up to company values. You accept & improve.” @jacksondame

Why do you think there’s been an upward trend in transparency in the past few years?

From SumAll:

  • We hear almost every week about another transparent company or a company adopting transparency.
  • All of our biggest press has been about our transparency and I think that’s telling.
  • Our cofounder, Dane Atkinson, is a huge advocate and proponent of transparency.

From the community:

  • “People are more transparent because they have to be. Customers are more savvy and cautious than ever.” @Dbeckno
  • “From a psychological perspective, influence is built by establishing credibility and authority. Transparency *goes* there.” @dustiarab
  • “It builds a committed/loyal group of customers who will back you up in terms of crisis!” @vvbellur

Who are some transparent companies you like to follow along with?

From SumAll:

Buffer, Spiceworks, & Zappos have the biggest impact on our own transparency convos and iterations.

From the community:

What do you think is a good first step toward being more transparent?

From SumAll:

  • First step to transparency: Unlock those salary documents and make salary policy clear.
  • For whatever benefits and pitfalls there are to transparency, the salary openness is the biggest plus.
  • Other steps: centralized wiki, public board meeting, public team meetings, mandate minute-taking.

From the community:

  • “If you’re not already being transparent with your own employees, start there.” @bangner
  • “Start at the top (C-suite). Be committed. Be ready to be vulnerable.” @getspokal
  • “First step build it into your mission & vision statement. Let everyone know what it looks/feels like when it’s working!” @angelapitter

Thank you so much for everyone who joined in on this great chat!

Catch #bufferchat each Wednesday at 9 am Pacific/noon Eastern and join our Google+ community for the latest news.

Do you have any comments or answers to these questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

Image sources: UnSplash

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