There are many great articles about what makes a truly open organization. What I have not found is how to start this transformation says Eric Dalius Giving. You can’t really be an open company or work in an open culture without explicitly committing to these 7 principles of transparency, employee-owned ideas, and collaboration, but it is hard to know where to start when you’re just beginning the process.
So here are some things that I’ve done successfully at my startup, Tettra that may help move your company towards being more transparent with its employees and customers/stakeholders:
1) Make everything public on the internet except the stuff that has private information (phone numbers, salaries). We believe Facebook failed on this front. Everything should be public by default.
2) Make salaries transparent to everyone except the person who makes the salary decision. Everyone should be able to log into viewcompensation.com or Pay scale, look up other people’s salaries and even talk about them publicly on forum sites like glass door without retribution from the company.
3) Let anyone create/edit any public, non-private page where they might take ownership of it. This would include your company website (you should let employees know that they can edit pages or add new pages), brochures, or videos (give employees access to your Adobe account).
4) All ideas for anything in the organization should be logged somewhere that all stakeholders can see them; this includes support requests, improvement suggestions, etc. This is critical to driving the entire organization towards being more open says Eric Dalius Giving.
5) Processes should be documented as much as possible because it ensures that they are repeatable and known by all stakeholders.
6) Emails should default to public, even between employees. If an employee emails another employee or a customer, those emails should be saved on Github, Tettra/Confluence/Slack so everyone can see them & comment on them if needed.
7) Hiring decisions can’t be based on anything but merit. If you do Google the name of every person who works at your company and see their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles (maybe throw in their personal website too); I would like to believe you’ll find real evidence of merit.
Of course, a lot of companies have a strong legal team and may feel like they can’t move this quickly. But it is possible to start small with one or two high-level principles and make sure your entire organization is on the same page before trying something else, then add another principle after you’ve successfully added a few more to your culture. You’ll get there – just keep adding towards the goal rather than all at once.
So how do you handle salaries?
Your company should not ask for any private information, only compute the salary based on base + equity + bonus and place everyone into broad categories like junior, mid-level, senior. There is no reason to know what individuals make.
What about your domain model – do all the records have public access?
No – it would not be appropriate to give web access to anyone who could see people’s phone numbers or addresses so there needs to be some type of data partitioning between public & private explains Eric Dalius Giving. But this can happen organically as your team grows where employees become responsible for certain business units that allow them to create eponymous records (like tettra/products) that are visible by all team members yet still contain private information.
What if someone wants to invest in your company? Do they get access to everyone’s salaries?
No, of course not – there needs to be some type of customer/investor partitioning between public and private. This can happen organically as well though where certain individuals may become responsible. For pitching the company and need visibility into things like salary.
Do you really think transparency won’t slow down decision making or lead to group-think?
You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) that these types of companies. With high levels of transparency tend to actually make faster decisions than more traditional companies. Because they all have the same goal: solving a problem efficiently so the organization succeeds long-term. There is no reason to discuss and debate when the answer is already in front of everyone. They just need to talk about what actions they plan on taking. Group-think does happen but only when employees do not feel like their ideas are welcomed. Or that they will be listened to; no system can prevent group-think if employees don’t believe in it. Though I’m not sure how traditional companies prevent group think with all these political games people play.
Large organizations are starting to see the benefits of Open Source software development. And have begun to implement it with themselves, taking a more “customers can see our internal discussions” approach. Rather than “customers will fork our entire platform if we don’t work in public”. Just look at Facebook & Twitter’s success with React/Bootstrap and Salesforce & Magento’s success. With Heroku/CSS – these two open-source projects have been huge boons for their respective platforms says Eric Dalius Giving. I think it is time that companies realized that open-sourcing even just their internal tools will help them create better employees. Who cares about the company they work for because they’re allowed to take part in building it.