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Lesson Two From an Employee Engagement Speaker: Some Things Should Never be Radical!

It should not be radical to be either honest or transparent

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Employee engagement thrives with honesty and transparency. I trust we don’t have to make the business case for honesty and transparency in the workplace but I am sure someone has set about calculating the return on honesty (ROH) or an even better Dilbert-like acronym, Return on Transparency (ROT).

In recent years, I have increasingly encountered articles and blog posts about radical honesty and radical transparency. Ryan Smith and Golnaz Tabibnia (what a wonderful looking and sounding name) near the end of 2012 wrote a Harvard Business blog post: Why Radical Transparency Is Good Business. They claim radical transparency improves business performance in terms of focus, engagement, and growing and recruiting talent. I guess there already  is a ROT in our workplace. I don’t quibble with their premise or plea for transparency I just hope that we don’t see it as being so radical.

When did it ever become RADICAL to be honest or transparent at work. (Yikes, I think I am starting to almost write like Tom Peters and his tendency to try and shout through his writing with a plethora of BOLD UPPER CASE letters in a variety of colors.

Of course, maybe we do need to shout: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE RADICAL TO BE HONEST OR TRANSPARENT. I yearn for the sound of respectful voices not shouting but rather being honest and transparent in our workplace.

One last thing, please do not ever approach me and ask, “Can I be really honest with you right now?”  I am going to say no. Not because I don’t want you to be honest but because it makes me believe that you have not been honest with me before. Just go ahead all the time and be honest, really! Trust me, you probably will be real more than radical.

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Engage along with me, the best is yet to be.


David Zinger is an expert  global employee engagement speaker and consultant who brings the topic down to earth while striving to enliven the pyramid of employee engagement to help leaders, managers, and organizations increase engagement and results while also building relationships.

Employee Engagement: Money Matters and Radical Transparency

Two employee engagement money questions

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Don Macpherson from Modern Survey asked me the following two questions about compensation and employee engagement. These questions came out of Modern Survey’s recent findings:

Employee engagement now includes compensation among the top drivers (number five according to our latest study in September of 2012) and satisfaction has dropped significantly over the last two years.

How should direct managers deal with the increasing importance and decreasing satisfaction of compensation – keeping in mind that they may not be able to increase compensation for employees?

Money matters! Even if you cannot change something it does not mean that you should not be talking about it. As a direct manager, if I cannot change compensation I would want to talk with my reports about this and I would also talk about what else we can do for fuller engagement without minimizing their financial needs and concerns. Of course a good manager with an engaged employee can always advocate for better compensation on behalf of the employee.

How should senior leaders address this?

If you are a senior leader recognize that your income may be considerably different than other employees’ income. Calculate the ratio difference between you and starting employees. If there is a huge ratio difference, and there frequently is, be sensitive to this. As they say in the UK, “Mind the Gap.”

If the company is profitable and it is because of the people working there (and when is it not because of employees) make sure this is recognized not just with thanks and long service pins but with compensation that is in tune with contribution.

If the company is struggling financially people appreciate honesty and transparency so let them know what is going on, ask for their help in addressing it, and when things improve fully compensate. Ask yourself: How radically transparent  is our company? Here is a snippet from an HBR blog post by  Ryan Smith and Golnaz Tabibnia on why radical transparency is good for business

The entire workforce has access to a host of information about the performance and practice of each employee that includes:

    • quarterly objectives and results in detail including revenue and satisfaction targets;
    • weekly snippets of each individual’s goals for the week;
    • up to the minute performance reviews, ratings, and bonus structures;
    • noted successes and failures, with notes for everyone to learn from;
    • career history at Qualtrics

How would you respond to those two questions? What do you think about radical transparency and engagement in business? I invited you to write a response in the comments.

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David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert scheduled to work in New York, Berlin, Mumbai, Delhi, and Chicago on employee engagement in the next 3 months. Contact David to bring the power of employee engagement to your work, organization, or team: