Today’s young workers have grown up in a world of perfect information. They have been able to find answers to most of life’s questions at the push of a button.
Then they get to work.
Suddenly, many of them say they find themselves in a world of “need to know,” places where older workers and bosses seem to horde information, where everyone assumes new hires should know how to do their tasks without proper training.
At work, if people can’t find the information they need, they often don’t get started.
A senior leader I spoke with recently told me she believes this younger generation can give more productivity than any generation in history—but only if they have the right information to get started. As such, she encourages her new people to seek out knowledge. “I give each of my new hires a list of five people they need to meet in the company and the core knowledge those people have. They are supposed to set up meetings, meet with them face-to-face, and interview them. Then they come back and give me a summary of what they learned. That’s led to some really rich discussions.”
She is among the leaders who are transforming their workplaces from need-to-know cultures to “need-to-share,” where privacy is being replaced with permanent transparency.
In our personal lives, most likely because of social media, more of us are living in the open than ever before, and this is transferring into work cultures. Secrecy from management, once considered the accepted norm in business, is now largely anachronistic. Who would have ever believed that employees would get to rate their bosses in public, which they can on Glassdoor and Indeed—or their customers—encouraged in places like Airbnb and Uber.
Today’s younger workers have grown up with the belief they have an inalienable right to participate and have their voices heard wherever they find themselves in life; and smart managers are encouraging their people to find their voices at work. It’s leading their teams to be more collaborative. Participating in decision-making tends to reduce stress, increase trust, and create a culture where people are more likely to own challenges and solutions.
We instinctively know how important this kind of transparency is in our personal lives. We wouldn’t fall in love with someone if they were secretive. As hunky as James Bond might be, most companions would not put up with his clandestine behavior for long. Similarly, in our work lives, we don’t create a connection with a manager who keeps everything close to the vest.
There’s a propensity to think of transparency as something to do when a mistake has been made. While that is an important part of the process—fessing up when we mess up—proactive transparency is the idea that is taking root in progressive companies. For example, consider why so many hip restaurants nowadays allow customers to see their chefs at work in the kitchen, and the cooks to see their customers. Is this simply for better ambiance? Hardly. A study by Harvard Business School researchers found a 17 percent increase in customer satisfaction with food and 13 percent faster service in open kitchen restaurants. In this literally transparent world of dining, customers feel as if they are part of the creative process, and workers seem to be more thoughtful and precise knowing that they are observed.
Transparency about who is doing what tasks, and how the team is going to tackle challenges, is fundamental if team members are going to assist one another. A few questions a manager might ask about the amount of transparency she’s fostering in her team are:
- Do I openly and regularly share our team’s strategy and challenges as they evolve with my employees, or do I find myself keeping information secret that doesn’t need to be?
- Do we have a clear way to share our team goals and performance levels for everyone to see?
- Am I consistent in involving my team members in decision-making with challenges that affect their work?
- Do my team members have a say in setting goals that affect their jobs?
- Do my team members have real avenues to raise ideas, questions and concerns?
- Do I regularly express gratitude to my employees for their opinions and ideas, letting them know their voices are valued?