Strategy

Improve transparency in your workplace with these three tips

Ideas flow when everyone has access to the right data.
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· 3 min read

We sometimes think of workplace culture as something that unfolds organically, but that’s only partly true. Leaders’ actions can steer culture in positive or negative ways, as Chris Dyer, keynote speaker at the 2024 AICPA & CIMA CFO Conference, demonstrated. Drawing on his experience as a consultant and CEO, Dyer addressed practical ways leaders can tweak their culture.

Share goals and data to stave off conflict and generate ideas. Have team members share their goals for the year with one another, Dyer recommended, but take it a step further by sharing goals across teams as well. That can prevent conflicts, he said, such as inadvertently giving the sales team a target to meet that would make it hard for the customer service team to hit their metrics.

At one of Dyer’s companies, all employees got to read a summary of the P&L statement each month, plus the details that were specific to their team or department. (Nonfinancial staff got training on how to interpret financial statements.) This act of transparency paid off with innovation.

“What was so exciting was that [staff] would come back to us with so many ideas” on how to save money or areas that could be consolidated, Dyer said. “None of that ever happened before” because he and a handful of senior leaders were the only ones who had the P&L data. “And then I’m complaining that no one has any good ideas, but they don’t know what I know,” he observed.

Banish the yearly survey—but not the insights. The yearly employee survey is “one of the stupidest things humans have ever invented,” Dyer quipped. “I want to know what [staff are] feeling all the time.” His company went from a yearly survey to a weekly one-question survey. They ask about such things as the biggest obstacles staff are facing, what staff wish leadership knew, or what the company is ignoring. (“My favorite [is,] ‘How am I as your CEO getting in your way?’” Dyer said.)

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The quick surveys have a high response rate, Dyer said, and leaders address the questions every month during a meeting. Thanks to the information they got, “we were able to change, had little changes every single week and got better and better and better,” he said.

Measure what matters, and then design the culture you want to see. “The best organizations in the world measure what matters,” Dyer said, recommending that leaders identify what’s most important to their companies and then track that metric. What’s measured doesn’t have to be entirely financial, either: “If you want employees to act [in] a certain way, are you measuring that?” he asked.

Dyer gave the example of how a company he worked for once boasted about its customer service, without tangible evidence of how it was actually doing. When they began tracking net promoter scores (NPS), they found customers were unhappy with them. They incrementally worked on improving customer service, and brought their NPS up from the 20s to the 90s over the course of two years.

“We created an entire process around absolutely wanting to know everything about our clients and being rabid dogs about great customer service,” Dyer said. That wouldn’t have been possible without measurement. “In the end, you have to design what you want,” he concluded.

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CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.