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There is a lot of discussion these days about the tight labor market and, specifically, how it’s affecting small businesses. I read one story about a restaurant that’s offering one free meal a day for a year to anyone that refers a successful candidate.

Businesses are taking extra (and some may argue, necessary) steps to attract qualified candidates; higher salaries, training + continued education perks, and flexible working are all on the table. Larger companies are feeling the squeeze to attract and place candidates as well. Some are even enacting a more lenient drug policy or criminal record policy in order to fill open positions more quickly and easily.

As a recruiter, of course I think these kinds of changes are positive. The companies that are able to be thoughtful about employment and make themselves more accessible to quality talent are the ones that will set the pace, and possibly new trends, in employment.

But as I reflect on all of these perks, and the high price tag (and potential risk) that come with some of these hiring ploys, I am reminded of the strategy that has provided the greatest draw and the greatest ongoing motivation in my career, and didn’t cost the organization(s) anything.


The Benefits of a Transparent Culture

Transparency is the company culture strategy for the 21st century. Transparency informs your employees and arms them with the knowledge to make lasting contributions. It also empowers them to not only imagine new ideas but to share them freely.  

In each of my last 2 roles (and including my current role) the start-up atmosphere and the small size of the leadership teams meant that we were often putting our heads together as an entire organization. Our leaders shared important information with us often. We knew where the business was financially, and we were kept very aware of our successes (and yes, our failures too).  

For me personally, I don’t feel simply like an employee in a transparent culture. I feel like an owner. I try to think and strategize like an owner. I trust my employer and it drives me to constantly contribute to the bottom line and work hard.

There are so many ways to build a culture of transparency. Below are a few ideas to get things going. But keep in mind, no culture initiative is effective unless it’s genuine, consistent and practiced on all levels. You have to put an intentional plan into place to make a real change before you can execute.


Share Financials Often

I know at any given point where we are in revenue for the year. Colleen holds regular team meetings where she shares our numbers and discusses our financial picture. It is a part of our natural communication and has built enormous trust within the team.

It also keeps us entirely focused on reaching that next goal. We understand not only where we are but where we want to be, and we all work darn hard to get there.


Open Door Policy

There seems to be a shift in this general direction among the majority of organizations these days. The CEO or President is no longer the equivalent of the “Great and Powerful Oz” pulling the strings behind the curtain.

Having at least some access to the leaders of the company can make a dramatic difference to employee engagement and trust within an organization. I’m not suggesting that the CEO keep her/his doors open everyday. Here are a few ideas to give employees access to their managers and other leaders on a regular basis:

  • Set and advertise a weekly slot of time when the CEO and other executives will be available to visit with employees, either in their office or another location that makes sense (a conference room, the break room, etc.)
  • Make sure that the leadership team walks the office, eats in the breakroom, answers the phone at reception on a regular basis. The key is accessibility and interaction.
  • Hold regular open format meetings with the entire team. The Executive team can share financials and discuss what’s happening in the organization. And more importantly, the employees can ask questions, share ideas and address concerns.


Spend Time Together

It’s revolutionary, I know. But the simple truth is that team building has great long term benefits. People want to work with people that they like. Forging relationships among the team doesn’t have to come in the form of the annual company picnic that no one really wants to go to anyway; team building can be learning together through seminars, conferences and trainings. It could be regular group lunches (potlucks?), or happy hours. It could be identifying a cause or organization to get involved in (food drives, volunteering, etc.). Simply having time together, time not spent discussing work, brings teams to a new level of respect and understanding. And there is absolutely no drawback to that.


2019 is approaching fast. Whether you’re truly struggling to attract the right candidates, or you just sense that your organization is in need of an awakening, try focusing on the transparency piece as your first step. It will take time to build, but the payoff will be extremely gratifying.