What does authenticity in business look like? It’s a lot more than conducting regular staff meetings or creating open floor plans. Authenticity is part of a company’s core set of values. It involves openness at every level of the business. An authentic business knows its core values, will stick to them even when it isn’t easy, and will often take time to reflect on how to do better. There are several specific ways a company can implement change that improves authenticity and elevates communication with employees.
1. Models Integrity and Honesty
The first step toward integrity and authenticity is knowing who you are and why you’re in business in the first place. Management must make known the core values the company promotes and live by them daily. What are some of your core values? Accountability, honesty, and boldness are all values that many companies try to promote and model. Some organizations encourage stewardship and personal responsibility, while others focus on fun and passion.
Once core values are clearly articulated, a company can, more specifically, model integrity and honesty. According to Thriving Small Business, personal integrity is essential in every area of the business. This includes honesty regarding both customer service and relationships with employees. It also means a company is completely honest about what their products and services do and don’t do. They share this honest evaluation of their products with both customers and employees.
2. Exhibits Transparency
Transparency in business involves openness and clarity on all levels. An example of this is making sure employees are aware of problems in a company such as limited cash flow or a product recall within a reasonable time frame. It’s necessary to remain honest with employees and customers during difficult times. The following are several traits that exhibit transparency:
- Responding in a Timely Manner – Whether it’s with customers or employees, it’s never a good business practice to keep people in the dark about problems or challenges for an extended period of time.
- Sharing Information – Inc., states that sharing information about the business with employees is a crucial aspect of transparency. This includes even what would seem mundane. Keep employees in the loop regarding daily activities, and they will feel like they are part of a team effort.
- Opening up on Social Media – This means more than just posting occasional tweets or photos. Telling stories about the business and keeping followers updated on regular events is essential. Social media is a great way to stay connected with not only customers but employees.
- Opening all Communication Channels – Employees need to know the best ways to communicate with management regarding large and small issues. When is a face-to-face meeting necessary? When is a text or email appropriate? Employees need to know how and when to communicate.
3. Promotes Confidence
An authentic company promotes confidence among its employees. A business can accomplish this through genuine and personalized interactions. For example, simply telling someone that they’re doing a great job or have potential is generic and bland. Management needs to pinpoint precisely what an employee is doing right and why it’s working when attempting to instill confidence. Forbes points out that it’s essential to hit a sweet spot of difficulty when setting goals for employees. This means setting goals that are challenging yet not overwhelming. To do this correctly, supervisors need to know the capabilities of each of their employees.
Another way to promote confidence in a way that is personal and genuine is to put employees in charge of an area that involves their skill set explicitly. Help employees start in-house workshops and in-services in their own areas of expertise. Guide them through the process of teaching others. This not only creates a more authentic work environment but can also build a bond among employees.
4. Creates a Natural Environment
A natural environment is one that allows employees to feel at ease, and even to a certain extent, at home. There are several ways an employer can create a natural environment.
- Personalize Office Space – Allowing employees to choose things from what kind of chair they’ll sit in, to the knick-knacks they can adorn their desk with, can help create a natural work environment.
- Provide Healthy Food Options – Whether it’s in the cafeteria or bringing in catered lunches, a business that cares about the health of its employees is proving its authenticity.
- Put Together a Homey Environment – Plants, open windows, and big cushy chairs are a few of the ways to create a natural environment. Make sure to give employees a say regarding what type of items they want.
- Promote Socialization – With people spending so much time on their phones and social media, even at work, it’s important to encourage face-to-face interaction.
5. Cultivate Open Communication
Most organizations will say they value open communication, but many fail to live up to employee expectations. Truly, communication is critical to authenticity in business. There are several simple yet effective steps a business must take to truly provide open communication.
- Ask for Employee Input – An authentic company will regularly ask what its employees think on a variety of matters. While employers can do this through a variety of methods such as online surveys, it’s better to personalize communication. Getting together in person with small groups of employees is a better way to receive input.
- Act on Employee Input – This is where many companies stumble when it comes to authenticity. Employees won’t take management seriously when they ask for their input if they never act on it. This doesn’t mean that a business has to implement every idea an employee has. It does mean seriously considering many ideas and trying to put into practice at least a few.
- Accessible Communication Methods – Don’t rely on verbal communication alone. According to Salary.com, putting instructions in writing is essential to improving communication. Providing instructions through email and texts gives employees something to refer back to. It also creates a paper trail if there is confusion later. This doesn’t mean limiting face-to-face contact. The best communication will supplement or confirm a verbal conversation with something written.
6. Provides High Levels of Expertise
A business will need to cultivate and build expertise over the course of months and even years. It’s then nurtured and maintained. In short, an authentic business is continually building and maintaining their expertise. Providing expertise starts by knowing and focusing on your niche area. A truly authentic business knows what it’s doing. This means that hiring the right individuals for each position in the company is essential. All levels of management should work closely with human resources throughout the hiring process in order to bring in the right people.
It’s important to specify where exactly your expertise lies. Whether it’s a service or a product, it’s necessary to state in one or two sentences what your business does and why you’re the ones to do it. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any mistakes or that problems won’t arise. A company that provides high levels of expertise isn’t afraid to admit when they get it wrong or seek outside assistance when necessary.
It’s essential to share expertise to maintain credibility as experts in any particular area. This includes building a platform and collaborating with other professionals. This probably will include social media, but goes beyond these types of platforms. Posting articles on professional platforms such as LinkedIn is one way to promote and maintain expertise. Ultimately, a company will want to build a community of followers through its various platforms.
7. Offers Continual Training Opportunities
An authentic business will always offer to make the most of their employees. They’ll provide opportunities for them to build their skills and advance throughout the company. This makes ongoing training essential for employees in almost any type of business. There are several reasons an authentic business will provide a variety of training and educational opportunities for its employees.
- Improve Productivity – This is one of the most obvious reasons for providing training opportunities. A productive workforce knows what it’s doing and the best ways to accomplish the company’s goals.
- Increase Morale – Employees that have a variety of educational and training opportunities know they have value in an organization. Chron states that providing training helps build a supportive workplace.
- Provide Consistency – High levels of productivity and morale will lead to overall consistency. Whether you’re providing products or services, consistency is a key ingredient when proving authenticity.
There are a variety of specific ways to provide training for employees. Traditional classroom learning isn’t practical for most employees who are working full-time and have family obligations. It’s important to provide several types of eLearning opportunities and web-based training that can fit the schedules and needs of individual employees.
Building and proving authenticity in business does not happen overnight. It can take years to create an organization that is open, honest, and authentic to its employees and the community. It’s important to include in the business model goals such as cultivating communication, creating a natural environment, and offering continual training options to employees to reach this level of authenticity. Projections Inc. has over 40 years’ experience creating custom solutions for businesses to become employers of choice.