I joined my former company when they were in startup mode. Having worked for several of the federal contracting mega-giants in my prior jobs, I was genuinely excited to be on the ground floor of what I believed was a great opportunity. I was working for people that I admired and respected, and we had a shared enthusiasm that made it exciting to go to work every day.
When I began recruiting people to join our company, a standard question that I asked every candidate was “What attracted you to our company?” Almost without fail, each person answered that it was the ability to be a part of something where their voice mattered, and where they weren’t just a number.
As our company grew, we worked hard to make sure that our employees’ voices were heard and we enjoyed growth and profitability while maintaining a fun, employee-centric culture. As in any growing company, though, there were times when tough issues forced us to make unpopular decisions, and we learned what you probably already know – the larger a company becomes, the less likely it is that the decisions you make will please everyone.
So, what is most important when making decisions that may seem to favor the needs of the business over the wants of your employees? Transparency, and honesty. Simple, but I believe it really is true. Decisions need to be thoughtful, they need to be communicated properly, and company leaders need to be able to explain the “why.”
When it comes to employee commitment, “Transparency isn’t just a public-facing practice. Allowing employees to see where the business outperforms and in which areas it’s weak binds each employee more closely to the company’s strategic goals. Openness and trust (two effects of transparency) create a comfortable environment that spurs innovation and experimentation and reveals early failures or oversights. The more a company trusts [its employees] with its wins and shortcomings, the greater [their] personal connection to the company is and the harder [they] want to work...”
What people really want is to be treated fairly. They want to believe that you are telling them the truth, and that you have thought through each decision carefully. The way company leaders handle difficult decisions and explain them to their employees can make a huge difference between acceptance and discontentment, which could lead to attrition. Unpopular decisions can be tough to communicate, but being transparent and honest is your best bet. Your employees may not like it, but they will respect you for it.