Portions of this post were part of a post over at 9 INCH marketing and they were featured in the book, Green Goldfish – Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement and Reinforce Culture:
In order to have a strong engaged workplace, you need Transparency and Openness.
Dave Hitz of NetApp believes there are 3 ways to achieve engagement: 1. People like who they work with, 2. They do work that is meaningful and 3. They trust the management. Keying on #3, it begs the question, “How do you build trust?” Let’s look for guidance from India’s HCL Technologies.
Vineet Nayar, the former CEO of HCL Technologies touched on this in his bestselling book, Employees First, Customers Second. He outlines three ways that “Transparency builds Trust”:

  1. Employees First, Customer Second BookTransparency ensures that every stakeholder knows the company’s vision and understand how their contribution assist the organization in achieving its goals. Working in a environment without transparency is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the finished picture is supposed to look like.
  2. It ensures that every stakeholder has a deep personal commitment to the aims of the organization.
  3. In a knowledge economy, we want customers to be transparent with us, to share their ideas, their vision and their strategies for solving core problems. Why would customers be transparent with us if we don’t trust employees enough to be transparent with them.

The Theory of the Amsterdam Window

amsterdam window theory
Vineet uses an analogy in his book of the Amsterdam Window. Having previously lived on the Herengracht (“Gentleman’s Canal”) in Amsterdam, I can attest that the windows are immense. They are a throwback to the modest Calvinist period when subtle expressions of wealth, such as being able to afford to pay the highest window tax, were favored by the rich. In the words of writer Joanna Tweedy, “Today, the centuries-old glass, beautifully imperfect, frames the olive-green waters outside and lets natural light, and the eyes of curious tourists, pour in.”
While visiting Amsterdam, Vineet asked his friend, “Why so large?” The friend mentioned all the obvious reasons like letting in light and enjoying the view of the canal, but then offered a much more interesting answer… “It keeps the house clean.” It turns out that the bigger your windows, the more glass you have, the more visible your dirt will be – to you and to everyone who visits or passes by. In Vineet’s words,

If you can see the dirt, you will be much more likely to get rid of it.  A transparent house has a dramatic effect on the culture inside.

Opening the Window of Information at HCL

HCL TechHCL (Green Goldfish #809) put together an online forum for employees called U&I. Employees could ask any question to the senior team at HCL Technologies. It was an open site where everyone could see the question, the questioner, and the answer. Employees responded favorably as noted by this comment,

This is the biggest change we have seen at HCL in years. Now we have a management team that is willing to acknowledge the dirt.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is a TEDx talk by Vineet Nayar at TEDxAix. “Millions of employees walk through our organizations every day not just to get paid but to be inspired by the vision we have for them”, says Vineet Nayar, former CEO of HCL Technologies and author of Harvard Business Press bestseller “Employees First, Customers Second.” In this talk, Nayar gives a compelling account of how this idea channelized the energy and passion of 100,000 employees to increase HCL’s revenues and market cap over six times!