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Trust is vital to the survival of any business. Stakeholders must be confident that leaders operate in the company’s best interests, and both employees and customers value businesses that are open and honest about their activities. The COVID-19 pandemic has served to reinforce this, with all brands needing to be upfront about their practices, the risks, and how they’re responding to keep everyone connected to the company safe.
This means that transparency must be more than just a tool for success, it must be embedded into the culture of all companies. While many will accept that this is important, it’s not always easy to know how to effectively implement brand transparency in a way that is meaningful and effective. Thankfully, our digitally-enhanced world can offer some tech solutions for startups and established businesses alike.
We’re going to take a look at how tech tools can be used to improve efforts in transparency. How can we use them, and what specific areas stand to benefit most?
Brand transparency needs to be holistic, and that starts with the infrastructure of the organization. The truth is, companies don’t always find this comfortable; the business community has long been in the habit of keeping certain information close to its chest. However, radical transparency — the commitment to be fully open to stakeholders, employees, and customers about the company’s methods, challenges, values, and failures — has distinct advantages. Being open about problems helps everybody to contribute to solutions. Keeping finances public shows that there are no unethical activities going on behind the scenes. Above all else, it exudes a sense of trust.
But how can technology help to make a brand structure more transparent? This begins with effective communication tools. Brands already use their social media accounts to establish their identity, to promote their values, and act as the voice of the business. The same approach can be used to foster an open relationship with customers and staff. Use these accounts to not only discuss new products but also highlight the organizational aspects of the business itself:
- Post videos with key corporate financial figures discussing the business’ accounts. What have the challenges have been? How are profits being redistributed? What are the financial goals for the future?
- Make social media a key part of the hiring process. Do more than advertise positions; talk about who you’re looking for and why — how you hope they’ll contribute to the organization. Invite input from staff, the wider industry, and the general public. Introduce them to your hiring process and how this is designed to support diversity.
- Encourage customers and clients to produce content of their own, and host it on your platforms. This shows you value their input, it demonstrates accountability beyond internal figures, it and boosts brand authenticity.
Live streaming events such as annual general meetings (AGMs) provides an opportunity for anybody — regardless of their location or means — to be involved with the brand at a deeper level. Certainly, providing electronic access to minutes of these meetings is important, but streaming gives the added impact of real-time events and discussions that are unedited, that the business is keen for its supporters to see how it functions in a raw, honest form.
The old adage that people don’t need to see how the sausage is made is no longer relevant. People need not only to see how the sausage is made, but what ingredients are being used, the sanitation standards employed, and the welfare of the staff and animals that contribute to its production. Whatever kind of sausage your brand is creating, tech tools can be used to help promote trust.
Implementing robotic production reduces the potential for human interference and error, reassuring customers that their product was produced cleanly and safely. This can be particularly important during crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, in which openly displaying automation that reduces contact can demonstrate you hold public and employee health as priorities.
Process transparency can also be crucial in building and maintaining relationships with vendors and production partners. Utilizing automated accounts payable (AP) software helps to engender trust in the first instance by making certain that invoices are settled in a timely manner. But this goes further. Automated AP software — to which partners have shared access — makes the way in which your business settles its accounts visible from start to finish.
Customers and employees are increasingly examining company culture. One study reported that 83% of Millennials want to engage with businesses whose values align with their own. It is therefore imperative that brands utilize the tools at their disposal in order to be transparent about core principles, and how these are reflected in their practices.
One of the primary areas of concern today is the impact businesses make upon the environment. By adopting green tech that is connected to the internet of things (IoT), businesses have the ability to do more than reduce their negative output. Smart devices — such as temperature controllers and smart trash receptacles — can provide companies with data on their energy consumption and waste management. Fleet telematics can be used to measure distances driven, fuel consumed, and demonstrate the business’ carbon footprint. Brands should make sharing of this data part of their regular communications with customers and employees, along with an open forum for input and suggestions for change.
Diversity is not only a matter of public concern, but it also has a measurable impact on how businesses are able to thrive and innovate. Human resources (HR) departments should be using applicant tracking tools that distribute job openings to channels that expose positions to the widest possible demographic. They should also encourage the use of online platforms such as Glassdoor, so that employees can honestly share their experiences of the recruitment process, including any problems within it. Making it clear that recruitment diversity is a key value of the brand can not only improve the hiring process but attract a better quality range of candidates.
Transparency is more than another business buzzword, it’s key to building trust among the relationships we rely upon. While it is not always a comfortable process, leaders should utilize tech tools such as social media, automated software, and environmental data collection. This can not only demonstrate the true state of the company’s operation but also provides an open culture that forges a stronger bond with the community.