In addition to celebration, our monthly all-hands company meetings focus on incredible levels of transparency.
We’ve been very deliberate about weaving transparency across the company in ways that are rare in corporate America. In my view, that reflects our belief that we treat our team members as responsible professionals. Most companies keep even basic data about performance a secret – as if executives are the only people qualified to hear and understand it, or do something about it.
There are six categories of information we share at company meetings:
- Client satisfaction survey data. Every company pays lip service to the importance of their clients or customers, yet most companies don’t even ask, or care, about feedback from them. And of the ones that do ask, how many share the results with the entire company? Client satisfaction is so important to Geonetric that every quarter we survey all clients – either electronically or by phone, for feedback on how we’re doing. The cumulative scores and summary comments – good or bad – are then shared with the entire company. Sharing this information makes it crystal clear to everyone that our jobs are ultimately focused on meeting our clients’ needs and making them happy. Without that – profitable or award-winning as we may be, we’ve failed. It also reinforces the idea that we’re all in the same boat together – our clients’ success is dependent on everyone at Geonetric performing optimally.
- Employee satisfaction survey data. Twice a year, we ask our team members for feedback and input on what’s going right, and what’s not. The survey gives us a way to push team members to effect change by identifying areas that need attention. Being a fairly outspoken group, the feedback we get is often enlightening and eye opening! I would like to think that, as a small business CEO, I have my finger on the pulse of the company every day. But sometimes the survey identifies areas that I might not have realized were in need of attention. Or maybe something I don’t want to acknowledge is an issue. Sharing the aggregate results of the survey publicly reinforces accountability for me – I can’t exactly duck an issue I’m not comfortable with if it’s presented publicly for all to see.
- Financial data. Some executive leadership teams seem to think that it’s OK to incent employees to accomplish financial goals (e.g. profitability) but then hide all of the pertinent information from them of how to get there. Especially when it’s bad news! In my view, this is a failure of typical American management. At Geonetric, every month we’re pretty much doing Open Book Management, sharing revenue and EBITDA information with the whole company. And yes, everyone is expected to know what EBITDA is – not necessarily how to calculate it, but what it represents to the business.
- Sales data. Because we’re growing so fast, it is critical for us to keep everyone on the same page. We find that we need to regularly scale up new processes as new clients or types of work are added. Keeping everyone apprised of the various “waves” we might hit is one way we’ve absorbed a constant growth rate and maintained excellent client satisfaction rates and a 94% client retention rate for the past 13 years.
- Process improvement metrics. Sometimes we’re working on challenges with a particular process, and so we focus on “what hurts” by highlighting an appropriate measure in front of the whole company – a painful exercise! For example, two years ago, we had significant challenges in having too many defects in the software released into the finished product each quarter. We undertook a painful but very successful effort to utilize Behavior Driven Development and other techniques to eliminate defects; we showcased defects per release in company meetings – until the number got so low it wasn’t important enough to include any more. In other words, acknowledging and focusing on problems company-wide works to steel the resolve of the team and keep problems front and center until they’re gone. It also forces accountability – we don’t have the option to simply ignore difficult problems when they’re publicly known and visible.
- Community efforts. Unlike many large companies, we have our entire staff headquartered in one location: Cedar Rapids. So we take our Cedar Rapids community outreach efforts very seriously. We donate to local charities, we sponsor local events, we marshal teams for fundraising efforts, and we even knit hats for babies in local NICUs. We highlight these efforts in our company meetings to reinforce that – like our clients – supporting our local community is a goal at the highest level – as worthy as EBITDA or client satisfaction.
As you can see, we share just about everything at our company meetings. In exchange for sharing this sometimes sensitive company information with everyone, we expect complete confidentiality. We also expect buy-in – if everyone knows we’re trying to fix a certain process or reach a certain goal, all team members are expected to contribute and find ways to improve. Why is it that so many companies “trust” employees and expect them to resolve problems without sharing the information necessary to truly inform them? We’ve tried to break with the ‘traditional’ company culture that values secrecy and power by instead trusting employees with the information that truly is important about the organization and empowering employees to do something about it.
I’m really proud of the culture and team we’ve built at Geonetric. Our continued growth and success is due to our willingness to do things our own way.
How does your company operate transparently? Does your leadership team highlight the biggest pain in the organization for everyone to see? Do they share financial information, whether it’s good or bad? Do you talk about your clients’ happiness, and discuss which ones aren’t happy – and why – publicly? Is there information you wish your company shared that it doesn’t?
If you want to practice your craft at a company where there’s open and honest communication, and a transparent leadership style, consider applying for an open position listed on our website.
Or, if you’d like to work with an eHealth partner that is transparent with clients too, contact us to get the ball rolling.