With the business laws becoming stricter in India and the 'Right-To-Information' Act being enforced in the 'right' spirit, coupled with the hyperactive media & proliferation of social networking websites, the word 'Transparency' has acquired a new meaning in the world of business. Till early 1990s, the word 'transparency' was just not in the business lexicon and today it is a stringent legal, a professional, business and a societal necessity.
Like a coin, the word 'transparency' has two sides. One side pertains to the information that the organization shares with the outer world (like government agencies, investors, business magazines, news channels, and voluntary organizations) for compelling reasons and the other side is about the stuff that the organization feeds or notifies to the employees for the intended reasons.
In the modern world, the staff members are far more conscious and vocal about their rights. In fact, feeding them information is equal to "what the doctor ordered"; give them a little information and they ask for more. Why? Because they believe that the information (like knowledge) is power and more information is decidedly better than no or half information.
Member 1992 (known as Gen x or Gen Alpha) are the blessed ones as they have escaped the era of 'information starvation'. When they were growing up, India was getting progressively liberalized and information was becoming available more easily. Consequently, they became adult with the 'mindset' that they have a (legitimate) right to expect, get and receive information that affects them.
As of now, it seems that the HR profession in India has taken the partial cognizance of this 'info savvy' or 'info hungry' employees and their expectations for the 'transparency' in information sharing (within and from the organization). What information the 'info hungry' staff expect from the management or the company?
Let us explore in a telescopic way, i.e. from the personal level and to the organization level, and look at the instructive list of the information needs.
As an employee - Individual & direct information needs:
- How my compensation calculated and what is is my take-home pay?
- How do I plan for my income tax?
- What are the HR policies applicable to me and what each policy means? Whom should I give feedback?
- What are my entitlements and how & when do I receive or claim them?
- What are the performance measurement criteria applicable to me?
- How will I grow or get promoted and approximately within what time-frame?
- Whom should I speak to in case of any difficulty, personal or professional?
- What are the unwritten but important Dos and Don'ts, behavioral and otherwise, of the organization?
- Who are the key members of my immediate senior management and what are their profiles?
As a team (cross-functional) member - Individual, collective & direct information needs:
- Why I am chosen as a member? Why others are chosen as team members?
- What are the goals of this team?
- Why a particular staffhas been appointed as the chief?
- Whom the team will report to?
- What is the timeline for presenting the outcomes?
- What resources the team has at its disposal?
- Will my job be at stake if the team does not deliver as expected?
- What are the extra privileges available to a team member?
- How the conflicts within the team will be resolved?
- How will my performance as a team member be linked to my annual performance appraisal?
- Who will help if I or the team requires training or other support?
- What if my Functional Supervisor hinders my participation in the team's work?
As a member of the Function/Department/Unit - Individual, collective & direct information needs:
- How my function/department/unit has fared this year?
- Why my boss has assessed my performance as inadequate when the function/department/unit has done so well? Does that imply that the 'sword is likely to be on my neck'?
- Why our function/department/unit is treated like an orphan by the management?
- Why I am not being given challenging assignments?
- What are the key developments in other functions/departments/units of the company?
- Why employees of other functions/departments/units get better or more benefits?
As a member of the organization - Individual & indirect information needs:
- What are the core values of my company?
- How my company has performed during the specific period and what are the central reasons for the performance?
- What are the significant developments (political issues, competition related, mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, government policies, etc.) that affect my company (and therefore, me)?
- Whom should I talk to if I receive unsubstantiated information about my company from the external or internal sources?
- How my company is planning to grow in coming 2-3 years?
Though the information needs become more specific, differentiated, and time sensitive as one moves up in the pecking order, it cannot be denied that the same information can be shared, of course, on a case-to-case basis, in different ways with different levels of the staff member, at the same time or at different points of time. Reaching out to the members at the right time is always a healthier option irrespective of whether the employees have voiced about their information needs. Information shared at a date later than the required, serves no purpose. All staff members do not require all information, but some staff members information. Correct?
Transparency in sharing of information implies 'openness', which is a key constituent of a healthy organizational culture. However, the degree of openness is a subjective criterion and it depends on the workforce's collective perception, which is primarily influenced by the difference between the management's advocated philosophy or business policy and the real practice of sharing the information. Transparency in sharing information is a key ingredient for trust-building between the staff & the management.
The real torch-bearer of the 'transparency' is the HR Head. She is not only accountable to make sure that every employee receives the 'required' information, but also should persuade or even insist when required, that the members of the senior management demonstrate openness and behavioral transparency, consistently.
'Behavior speaks louder than words' and here it means that no member of the senior management should be seen as 'hiding' or 'suppressing' or 'tweaking' the information. Practicing 'transparency' is an art as well as a science for HR the professionals. It is more an art when they have to be transparent themselves and it is more of a science when they have to make sure that the employees perceive the organization as transparent.