The announcement of the merger between LIV Golf and the PGA shocked everyone. Both had been locked in a bitter court battle with LIV Golf suing the PGA for allegedly using its monopoly power to influence the media, vendors and others to avoid working with LIV Golf. The PGA countersued, claiming that LIV Golf had interfered with contracts for its players.
Even before the multiple lawsuits, tensions were high between the PGA and LIV since its inception as professional players were forced to pick a side. Some vigorously defended the PGA, while others were attracted to the large payouts of LIV. Adding to the drama was that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund backed LIV Golf, creating further rifts and controversy.
Perhaps the most shocked by the announcement were the players of both organizations. None had been asked about the upcoming merger or even told about it. Most learned of LIV Golf joining with the PGA at the same time everyone else did when every major media outlet broke the news. This fact understandably led to considerable blowback from the players and was a move that didn’t sit well with anybody.
Even if you are not a golf fan, there are some hard lessons to learn from this debacle. One of the biggest is that transparency should play an essential role in any business. Why? Let’s dig in and explore the reasons why transparency in the workplace matters. In this article, we will discuss the following:
- What is transparency
- The critical role it plays in companies
- How transparency can create loyalty, trust and accountability
- Why it is crucial to employee performance
WHAT IS TRANSPARENCY?
To understand transparency, we first must define it. There is a surprising number of definitions of transparency with lots of variations. The clearest and most to-the-point definition defines transparency as “the practice of sharing information among people on important matters externally and internally. It is the process of having active and effective communication channels across the business’s various stakeholders.”
Effective communication and the sharing of information are the core components of transparency. Those are qualities that any brand would want to have among its workforce. Therefore, being transparent is as simple as ensuring everyone communicates and the correct information is shared, right? Yes and no. A surprising number of companies achieve it only to see transparency fade away. Transparency is a relatively easy concept to understand, but implementing it takes continuous effort.
TRANSPARENCY BUILDS TRUST
It is not hyperbole to say that the PGA’s announcement destroyed a lot of trust among its players. Imagine vigorously standing by the PGA for the last two years only to find out it merged with the organization you were defending it against. And worse off, the PGA didn’t even have the courtesy to tell you first. Would you now feel the PGA was looking out for your best interests and still trust it? That is doubtful.
Trust is a two-way street, and a lack of transparency shows employees that you don’t trust them. Sure, you can’t tell your employees everything, and nobody expects you to. But constantly keeping your employees in the dark shows you don’t trust them. And trust should be a key pillar of your company culture. Check out our blog post on why company culture is your most important secret weapon. Beyond showing that you value your employees, trust also significantly impacts performance. A recent analysis of data from 55 independent studies by Emerald Insight found overwhelmingly that as trust increases between team members, so does performance.
IMPROVES EMPLOYEE “BUY-IN”
Employees want to know why their company is doing something as much as what it is doing. Ideally, employees are part of the decision-making process. But even if they can’t be, being transparent with them and explaining why the company is doing something is critical. If you don’t have a communication strategy in place to justify your actions, it is harder for employees to believe in what you are doing. And that lack of “buy-in” will definitely hurt morale.
The recent mass layoffs at Twitter are a perfect example of this. There was no clear communication strategy, internally or externally, about why the layoffs were happening. Only the occasional media interview or tweet from Elon Musk gave any insight into the reasoning. And even then, there wasn’t much explanation or detail. The lack of transparency made the layoffs look like they were being done on a whim instead of with a clear-cut plan. Of course, it is possible that they were, but not explaining anything to Twitter employees has completely torpedoed morale. And productivity usually follows morale on a downward spiral.
FOCUSES ON GOALS
Maintaining a focus on company goals can be extremely difficult without transparency. Ultimately, transparency is about having active and effective communication with all your stakeholders. A big part of that communication should focus on a company’s goals. After all, it is pretty hard to achieve goals if nobody knows what they are. And even if they do, it is easy to lose sight of those goals if there is ineffective communication at critical times.
The PGA and LIV Golf merger perfectly illustrates what can happen when a lack of transparency obscures goals. When reached for comment by ESPN for a recent article, one player who chose to remain anonymous said, “Is the moral of the story to just always take the money?” He is no longer clear on the PGA’s goals and probably no longer believes in its mission. And it is doubtful that he is the only player that thinks this way. A clearer and more emphatic communication strategy could have gone a long way to prevent this. Give our blog post a read to understand the important role empathy can play in business.
Transparency plays a significant role in accountability, and it is hard to have one without the other. Owning up to your mistakes or those of your brand is impossible if they are hidden behind a veil of ambiguity or secrecy. Expecting employees to be accountable without transparency doesn’t work either. “Owning” mistakes isn’t easy, but building transparency and making it an integral part of a company’s culture starts at the top. Only then can all employees be expected to be held to the same accountability standards. And the best employees won’t avoid accountability either, as it improves feedback and helps them to learn from their mistakes.
What is another reason being transparent is integral to accountability? The answer is found in the previous point. Transparency helps clearly convey and keep the focus on company goals. Once everyone is clear on those goals, they can work toward achieving them. And they can be held accountable if they are falling behind, allowing for course corrections. But remember, employees should also be given credit for a win, as accountability’s sole focus shouldn’t be punitive. Instead, accountability is about empowering individuals to recognize their mistakes, taking action to get past them and giving them the help they need to do so.
CREATES AN ETHICAL ENVIRONMENT
Some people only think of transparency as being something internalized within a company. It is important to remember that it is external too. How you communicate with your customers, vendors, shareholders and the public matters. While you can’t share everything externally, nobody likes a company that seems to be trying to hide something or spin a completely false narrative. Being transparent as possible shows everyone outside of your company that ethics matter at your brand.
External transparency is impossible without internal transparency, however. Most will eventually see through a company that tries to portray itself as transparent and ethical when it really isn’t. But the good news is that transparency and ethics go hand in hand. Creating a transparent environment will also lead to establishing an ethical one. And having transparency and ethics as major pillars of your company culture will translate to them being critical externally as well.
WE CAN HELP
Transparency, like trust, can take a while to establish but be quickly destroyed. That destruction can often happen from a misstep at the worst possible time during the middle of a company crisis. At Kahn Media, we are skilled in crisis communication that is ethical and transparent. We can help your brand navigate a crisis and minimize any damage. And we offer a full suite of other services, including public relations, experiential event management, digital marketing, social media management, content creation, influencer relations, and video and photography services. Contact us to see how we can help your brand.