The Fourth Quarter: A Telling Time for Workplace Transparency

Posted by Kim Peters on November 06 2014

At most companies, the end of the fiscal year can easily elicit hope or dread. It's during the fourth quarter that many corporate leaders begin to take a hard look at whether they've met their expectations for the year and start to plan the next. For these reasons, it's a period popular for both layoffs and promotions. Some argue this is the best time of year to ask for a raise, as well.

For job seekers, this season also offers a telling window into the culture of a potential employer. At Great Rated!, we've found that the best workplaces tend to keep people abreast of the organization's health while incorporating team members into business planning. For example, many will create polls for employees about workplace and business concerns, even in addition to the Trust Index© surveys we provide. PutneySome hold town hall meetings with open Q&A sessions, set up regular "skip-level" meetings with executives, or arrange casual employee luncheons hosted by company leaders. Other businesses turn to tools like Yammer and other social media internally and externally to make updates about the company's direction available to all. It's important not to overlook this type of communication when sizing up a workplace. If an organization's leaders are forthcoming about strategic planning and other key decisions, it's a good sign they will also be transparent about other decisions that affect employees and their business throughout the year.

For example, pet pharmaceutical maker Putney is among several great workplaces that entrust their people with sensitive business information on a regular basis. The impact, as one team member explains, is notable: "The transparency with regard to financials, long-term and short-term goals may seem like obvious, expected practices in business. However, my experience outside of Putney proves different. Putney goes beyond expectations to ensure that the entire team understands and has a sense of participation and is driven toward accomplishing our goals and mission."

HilcorpFor many businesses, profit sharing provides another way to create a sense of ownership on the part of employees. But beyond the money, it also indicates a willingness to involve the entire team in the company's goals and its progress. Take Texas oil and gas company Hilcorp. Not only is it known for generous bonuses when the company succeeds, its leaders also share financial information with the workforce monthly. Says one team member, "Hilcorp practices an open-books policy. We, the employees, know at all times how we, as a company, stand financially and what changes will be implemented to get where we desire to be."

Knowing the bigger picture within an organization can make a challenging job less frustrating and ease the potential anxiety of wondering what the next stage of the business cycle might mean for a career. People looking to join a new company are well-served to scrutinize, not just how the organization is performing, but how well that information is shared with the employees who make that success possible.

Kim Peters is CEO of Great Rated! at Great Place to Work.