Clear as day: The power of transparency

Written by
Emily Sexton-Brown

24 Aug 2016

24 Aug 2016 • by Emily Sexton-Brown

Hilary Jones, ethics director, Lush

“We’ve always liked to be completely transparent about what we believe, and hope people understand that the business has always been run according to those beliefs. As Lush grew, it became important to write some of the wider values into policies, so they could be communicated more easily."

"Customers have become more interested in the values of the companies they purchase from and we have more and more enquiries about our policies, buying practices and stance on animal testing. In an age of connectivity, values are no longer a private matter.”

Sandra Henke, group head of people and culture, Hays

“We look to embed a culture of transparency throughout the business. It starts the moment people consider a career with us, continues during the hiring process and throughout their employment."

"One of our key principles is to be straight talking. We don’t shy away from bad news, we say it how it is. We communicate regularly with our staff, using a variety of channels including meetings, the intranet and forums. We carry out an annual employee engagement survey, and we don’t sugar-coat the results nor restrict them to management."

"Our people have clear performance objectives to achieve promotion and we provide regular, straight-talking performance feedback and coaching."

"The new generations of workers are having an impact on transparency because they are demanding a different approach from employers. Our millennial workers want to understand the reasons behind decisions, and have fairness at the top of their agenda. We work hard to ensure our employees’ expectations are in line with reality and we are always honest about business performance.”

Hayley Tatum, senior vice president of people, Asda

“When communicating to 160,000 people, we require a simple-but-visible communications strategy. We’re transparent about how we work as individuals and the decisions we make as a community. Our main colleague communications function is the award-winning and industry-recognised ‘Asda Green Room’, used by 150,000 colleagues weekly."

"The fact that we make our internal website open to all is testament to the fact that we live by our value of transparency. There, we celebrate individual successes, discuss new products and share stories and photos from across the UK, to make our people’s lives simpler and inspire them to do the best work they can do. It’s important to be accessible and authentic in tone so that everyone understands the strategy.”




Lucinda Charles Jones, HR director, AXA UK

“It’s more important than ever for businesses to show customers that they have their interests at heart. We embarked on a journey to open up the perceived mysteries of insurance, becoming the first insurer to publish last year’s premium on customer renewal notices, which will now be mandated for all insurers."

"We also publish our own claims data, including payout rates for motor, home and travel business lines, plus sales and claims reviews on our websites."

"This approach to trust and transparency is the same for our employees. It’s the right way to do business, and to treat our people, and makes sound commercial sense.”





Helen Tucker, HR director, Northern Europe, P&G

“Transparency is explicit in our values and principles and critical to our reputation, and that of our brands. Our mission statement is ‘Everyone valued. Everyone included. Everyone performing at their peak™"

"Our policies and practices define the behaviour we expect from our organisation, employees and suppliers. We seek to provide a clear perspective on our operating practices, while living up to our purpose, values and principles. These are the building blocks of our culture. Our purpose unifies us in a shared vision; our values codify our behaviours toward each other; and our principles articulate our beliefs about business. We’ve lived by these for more than 175 years! Our business has grown and changed while these elements have endured, and will continue to be passed down to generations of P&G people to come.”


Andy Washington, managing director, Northern Europe, Expedia, Inc.

“It’s our 20th anniversary this year; these two decades have taught us two important lessons. The first is that you need to invest in technology and intelligence to stay innovative, relevant and nimble. The second is the need to create an open, transparent organisational culture, where talent is empowered to deliver on a creative and innovative vision."

"Transparency is instrumental in empowering employees. Expedia, Inc. has a ‘test and learn’ philosophy that is evangelised across the organisation. This means we follow a scientific method when it comes to evaluating new ideas and making decisions. Through ‘test and learn’, we ask a simple question, collect the observation, construct a hypothesis, test it as quickly as possible, then analyse the learning through data and repeat on that. This approach offers transparency within the organisation and empowers all team members to have a voice and put forward new ideas."

"We also want to be transparent when it comes to key issues such as gender pay parity. Recently, we stated publicly that, after an internal review, on average, pay at Expedia, Inc. is equal between men and women: women earn $1 for every $1 paid to men in equivalent roles. Additionally, we highlighted that 33.3% of our leadership roles (executive, senior and manager-level positions) are now held by women."

"Overall, 52% of Expedia, Inc. employees worldwide are women, and in 2015, 32% of all leadership hires were women compared with 29% in 2014. We have more work to do to achieve full gender representation parity, especially at senior levels, but felt it was important to be transparent with our employees about our progress.”  

Diarmuid Russell, VP of international, Glassdoor

“In today’s world of increased transparency, the saying ‘knowledge is power’ is truer than ever. I believe employers that embrace transparency will have the edge in recruiting and retaining the best talent. Why? First, jobseekers have told us so. Two-thirds say they would prefer to work for employers who embrace transparency, and 62% say their opinion of an employer goes up if they respond to reviews. Even with negative reviews, a wellcrafted response shows you are listening."

"Second, review sites are a great feedback loop to make you more responsive, meaning you can address emerging issues while they’re still small. We actively encourage our people to leave Glassdoor reviews because of this. We saw a great example recently when we made some changes to working conditions that were not well-received. Team members let us, and the world, know through Glassdoor. This encouraged us to revisit the way we’d implemented the changes – with the effect that we garnished positive reviews such as ‘management listens to employees’.”

Inji Duducu, people director, Morrisons

“The most powerful lesson I had in transparency was while working for a company that had suspended its shares amid speculation it would go into administration. It was the week payroll was due to run. Employees and suppliers had questions, and we didn’t know the answers. So that’s what we told them: nothing; by which I mean we told them everything we could. I got a lump in my throat when the MD was interrupted by someone shouting ‘we believe in you!’"

"We had the media camped outside our offices but not a single person gave them anything. Give people context, tell them everything you can, the good and the bad, because, if times are tough, they need to know why you’re making difficult decisions, and I’ll bet they’ll have insights that help."

"Currently, at Morrisons, we are placing a greater emphasis on transparency through our listening and responding mechanisms: social media, monthly colleague listening groups, and regular ‘ask the boss’ sessions with our CEO. Each has had a key input in our turnaround strategy.”

Fiona Roberts, director of human resources, Volkswagen Group UK

“With more than 800 people in different locations, we have a multi-channel strategy approach, which includes face-to-face and video communication, e-comms, newsletters, and an intranet, designed with input from across the business."
"Depending on the message we need to communicate, we have to select (or invent) the appropriate channel. In recent months we’ve used staff gatherings and Question Time-style panel discussions with our board of management, giving employees the chance to ask questions in an open forum, or anonymously. We also have an employee forum, elected by the business for the business. It facilitates two-way dialogue and disseminates information. Its feedback, along with annual surveys, ensures everyone knows what they need and want to.”

Jane Marsh, group people director, innocent

“At innocent, transparency and open conversations have been integral to how we’ve run the business from the beginning. Perhaps, in the early days, that was because the business was run by a group of close friends; however, we’ve continued to recognise the value of this approach and work hard to stay true to it. We know that, as a result, our people feel able to be natural – they can say what they think to anyone – and they feel responsible for, and connected to, the success of the business in a personal way. It drives engagement and energy and our success as a company depends on this."

"We keep it alive in small ways. To stay true to a commitment to transparency, you really have to live it (versus saying it). We run regular open Q&A sessions with the directors at our quarterly meetings, where no question is off limits; we don’t sit in teams, so we can all learn about what the people sitting around us do every day; we openly communicate our business results every month and share information that other companies would consider completely off-limits, such as our innovation pipeline."

"We also keep our structure deliberately flat: we have five levels in the company from our most junior to our most senior roles. We emphasise our lack of hierarchy in a fun way by asking everyone to give us a baby photo when they join. The pictures are all up on a wall in Fruit Towers to emphasise that we all start small and belong together as one team."