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Is Transparency an Out-Dated Concept in Businesses Today?

Transparency is described in one online business dictionary* as the “lack of hidden agendas and conditions accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.” Describing the way a business operates, this term has been bandied about rather excessively in recent years. And for many people it has lost the power of its meaning and consequential effect on the operation, approach, and character of a business. Regrettably, many have come to question the reliability of those who use transparency in much the same way that one raises an eyebrow when an individual commonly declares “trust me” as part of their normal vernacular.

Perhaps, it is time to remember that the use of the term transparency in business is actually a means of conveying the business' guiding principle of honesty. That is honesty in the internal organization and operation as well as in the external functions of the company as it relates to employees, customers, regulatory bodies, community, and business partners.
There was a time in the history of negotiations and dealings that a persons’ word was “his or her bond” and a handshake would seal a deal. People could be counted on to stand by their agreements and promises, even if it adversely impacted them. Honesty was the bedrock of the trust and confidence that enabled relations and transactions to succeed. Admittedly, life and the principles that govern conduct and choices has changed dramatically; but, the underlying precept of honesty in our interactions and transactions is still crucial to all forms of relationships—business or personal.
Honesty and transparency is seemingly becoming a rare element these days, especially as one listens to the verbiage of our many public figures that are reported in the media. There is dishonesty in politicians’ promises, corporations’ advertising campaigns, social media offerings, and even in relationships where one traditionally held expectations of trust and loyalty. Given the prevailing climate of distrust, dishonesty and deceit is becoming a social norm; it is not surprising that there is wariness—and perhaps weariness—when a business claims transparency as an operational principle.

Business transparency must be more than a slogan, especially when an owner considers the company that they operate as a means of earning a profit as well as an extension of one’s own personal character and reputation. When the Owner/CEO of an organization is transparent, there is a higher likelihood that the workplace, its employees, and its customers all adopt the same standard and reap the benefits. Honesty fuels trust and confidence; it promotes healthy working relationships; engenders greater accountability; encourages vested interest in joint success; cements a shared vision; and improves overall performance. All of these benefits ultimately impacts growth and increase ROI which—in the final analysis—is the success that every business is working to achieve and its raison d'etre. Below are 3 ways to foster a culture of transparency in business:

  1. Adopting an open-door policy to staff relationships, and encouraging respectful, but honest communication between all staff members. This includes recognition, implementation, and appreciation of suggestions/contributions that improve outcomes and output.

  2. People who come into contact with the business should feel treated as unique individuals and given an opportunity to experience authentic interaction with the people delivering/purchasing services or goods.

  3. A business is meant to bring added benefit to the community in which it is located and welcome community participation, feedback, and other reciprocal actions as a good neighbor.

Transparency is a principle that businesses should applaud and promote in all areas of operation both internally and externally. It is never outdated to be honest; after all, as the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. This is especially true when a business is relied upon and trusted to play an integral role in the lives of its employees, customers, and community. Such a business will inevitably maintain its place as a major contributor to the well-being of society’s economic and social landscape.


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