In our ongoing research for the book we are working on (Good Company) we have done extensive interviews with executives as well as front-line employees. In these interviews we have been seeking to understand how the convergence of “meta-forces” (globalization, technology, demographic change, political and regulatory change, and environmental change) is shaping the future of business. No small undertaking.
This process has led us to the identification of six key attributes that organizations must develop in themselves (and their leaders) to thrive in the future. Companies that exhibit these attributes are also the types of companies with which we’d want to do business ourselves.
- Reciprocity—a mindset of seeking mutual benefit (rather than exploitation)
- Connectivity—using the fundamental need and emergent power of human beings to be connected, informed, and effective through new forms of electronic sharing and collaboration
- Transparency— a willingness to expose the reasoning behind decisions with stakeholders (essential to rebuilding trust)
- Balance— the wisdom to make judgment calls amid competing priorities, such as short-term versus long-term goals and the desire for transparency versus a legitimate need for secrecy (e.g., mergers or new products)
- Courage— doing what is right despite possible adverse consequences in the short-run
- A Purpose for Being—Henry Ford’s words of long ago are more true today than ever: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”
If you haven’t done so already, you definitely should take a look at www.glassdoor.com. This is an amazing web site, created by some incredibly visionary people (more on that later).
As its name implies, Glassdoor allows you to see inside—of companies. It has anonymous ratings of over 37,000 companies and their CEOs, based on “employee surveys.” (BTW, it also has salary information and the inside scoop on what job interviews are like at companies.)
A look around the Glassdoor site reveals that Southwest Airlines is the top-rated organization (no surprise there), followed by Mary Kay, General Mills and Slalom Consulting.
Here’s a feature I love. Glassdoor names names. At the end of 2009, Glassdoor listed the 25 companies with the lowest ratings (of those that had at least 25 ratings from U.S.-based employees within the past year). Guitar-maker Gibson Guitar was the worst-rated employer, followed by United Airlines (no surprise there) and staffing firm Spherion.
You might wonder why folks take the time to provide ratings of their employers. One of the major incentives that Glassdoor creates for doing so is that you have “to give to get.” In order to get the greatest level of inside detail, you have to provide information (fill out a survey) on your employer (or recent past employer).
Now a bit about Rich Barton, one of the founders of Glassdoor. I had the good fortune of doing a telephone interview with Rich for a book that I am writing (The Worthiness Era, or some such title) with several co-authors. I discovered Rich, who is also the CEO of Zillow, through Glassdoor. Zillow has incredibly high employee ratings, and so I called them up to ask for an interview with Rich. It was promptly and graciously granted, and talking with Rich was a true delight.
[Zillow is also a fascinating web site that you might want to check out, if you haven’t already done so. You can look up your house, or that of a friend or enemy, and get an estimate of its market value—along with square footage, number of bathrooms, etc.]
Rich is and has been a busy guy. In addition to being the Chair of the Board of Glassdoor, and the CEO of Zillow, he was a founder of Expedia. You may be beginning to see a pattern here. Rich’s purpose in life is to use technology to bring “power to the people.” He has the technology, the smarts, the vision, and the capital to do just that.
Transparency is here. It is real, it is unavoidable, and people love it.
Employers may try to resist, but there is no stopping this train. Firms will either learn to adapt and use transparency to their advantage, or not.