Age of Aquarius? How About the Age of Transparency?
The last time we had a talent war was in 2006. Only 2 years later, many of us were so distracted by the great recession that we didn’t realize just how much the world of work was changing. Today, while the unemployment figures look great, about half of our workers are impacted by underemployment. And, as task work continues to disappear, many of us have to learn how to change ourselves as part of a new mind and skillset.
Ironically, we are in another talent war today. But, the tables have turned so dramatically, any organization that hopes to secure the best talent is going to have to establish behavior that merits the best. And, the candidates that have developed new skills are critical to organizations that must also meet change head-on.
One of the revolutions that are hitting leaders and organizations like a tidal wave is the age of transparency. Just a few years ago, we were worried about the loss of privacy. Let’s just accept for now that privacy is long gone. What is so striking today is the fact that full-blown transparency arrived without a formal announcement.
With over 250 million smartphones in America, billions of soundbites and videos are recorded by private journalists (probably you) every single day. Security cameras capture our every move. From the news, many of us could assume that we are having a big uptick sexual predators, corporate malfeasance, and financial crimes. This isn’t the case at all. The big difference is that transparency brought on by technological advancement and consumer participation will force improvements in how we work, live, play, and run our lives.
Consider the lengthy lists of business leaders in the shadows preying on women and periodically with men. This is a short example from the last 2 years:
Bill Cosby, Less Moonves, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, and Jeffrey Epstein.
I didn’t have to tell you why they are on this page? That’s because most everyone knows exactly what happened.
For years, organizations went to great lengths hiding business leaders engaged in predatory behavior. Labor attorneys prepared exit packages and human resources, most often other women were required to hush up the problem. But, every one of these cases blew open because victims and concerned individuals spoke up. Where it used to take years to produce rumors about bad behavior, today, the doors fly open and connectivity grows in a matter of hours.
As a former student, vendor, friend, and supporter of USC, the news from the last few years have been devastating. I have sat next to leaders with tears running down their faces. They devoted their professional lives to building the school into a world-class institution. But, when an organization is run with over a dozen separate human resource groups, from simply a mechanical level, a wide range of behaviors are sealed away. Now, the world knows. The only way such an important asset in our community will thrive is by cleaning out the withholds and running every entity with complete transparency.
Transparency is flushing out some of our most infamous CEOs. Elizabeth Holmes raised billions to fund technology that didn’t exist. The event is leading to far greater scrutiny before major investors support medical innovation. But, Elizabeth had plenty of company. CBS, Fox News, The White House, Uber, United Airlines, Wells Fargo, Cambridge Analytica, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, and Volkswagen have been rocked huge scandals they desperately tried to initially smother. The common and unusually new thread there is the transparency revolution is so dominant that we cannot unring the bells.
Transparency is also transforming the world. How does an organization like Volkswagen recover from “Dieselgate?” Here, they lied about emissions to sell enough cars to beat Toyota in the US market. Billions have been paid out to buy back cars. The stock took a royal beating. But the event has led to VW’s amazing new initiative to become a world leader in developing and building electric cars. Next year, look for striking new products from VW, Audi, and Porsche. But, the entire company will have to show the world, they are hiding nothing.
Today, any and every candidate for a job can gather extensive information about the potential employer as well as each hiring manager in just a few hours. We can find out if the company has a great, mediocre or terrible culture. We can learn if the messaging that the organization sends out to the world is fact or fiction. We can go online and with a few swipes of the mouse gather enormous quantities of information about a hiring manager. We can learn more in a few hours than previous employees would have learned in ten years.
Here is the good news. Transparency isn’t going away. It will only grow. So, what am I suggesting we do to deal with it?
Live with nothing to hide.
Run your organizations with the doors wide open.
I remember a CEO in the entertainment industry. She burned through 14 secretaries in one year. The job should have come with a rope and a stool. But, everyone in the supply chain minced the words about her behavior. She was demanding, precise, particular, and focused. No, she was such an abusive individual that hundreds of careers ended and some of her past employees still walk around with the wounds of trying to survive her behavior. In today’s climate, this leader would probably have been shown the door long ago. Because we can no longer hide anything.
If you want a beautifully run business and organization, craft policies and behaviors that are beautiful.
If you want to lead a career devoid of setbacks and challenges, behave in ways that would make your mother proud.
This is the new world in front of us. I suggest that rather than lowering behavioral standards, this is the time to raise them. Because everyone will know. In many cases, everyone already knows.
Visibility happens so quickly. During the holidays last year, we decided to pick up a Christmas Tree. The only car in our garage that we can use is my BMW convertible. By putting the roof down, we can stick the tree out the back while my partner holds onto the stump. An hour after getting home, I went onto Facebook and was greeted with a photo of the tree, our car, and yours truly at the wheel.
The caption read, “Only in Los Angeles.”
We see you! Live in the light!
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