“I Can’t See Where We Are Going! You Have Failed To Be Transparent!”
Failed To Be Transparent?
Recently my husband and I went to one of our favorite neighborhood bistros. One of the primary reasons my husband & I choose this particular place over all the others in the vicinity is the terrific staff. The majority of the employees are under thirty years old (The New Millennium Generation).
There are countless articles expounding on the New Millennium Generation’s tendency to job-hop. I personally have received a slew of emails from audience members complaining about the challenge they are having keeping young people beyond six months to a year. According to Millennial Branding and Beyond.com, 30% of the companies they surveyed lost 15% of their New Millennium employees within a year. The restaurant industry, transitory in nature is bedeviled with one of the highest turnover rates in the US Labor force, greater than 60%.[i]
However, statistics and bellyaching emails aside, the New Millennium Generation employees that work at my neighborhood bistro do not seem to job hop. (We have been customers for several years.) My husband & I see many of the same familiar faces on each visit. The majority of the staff from the bartenders to the servers learned our names within our first few visits or if they do not know our names give us a friendly hello and consistently tell us “Welcome back.”
One bartender went out of her way to learn from a fellow bartender just how I liked my margarita prepared. The staff projects an infectious level of enthusiasm, they are happy to tweak your order to your liking and are good at striking the right balance of friendly chit-chat and knowing when to leave you alone to enjoy your meal. In summary the staff seem to like their jobs and feel a sense of pride in the product and place they are serving. Their attitude and expertise make the restaurant the perfect neighborhood spot.
Last week my husband entered the restaurant and the first thing the bartender said to my husband was “Meagan is not going to be happy.” The reason for my impending unhappiness was my favorite item had been taken off the menu… forever.
The restaurant had been sold a month earlier and the new owners had decided to implement a new menu. Not just a few small changes but an entirely new menu with a different culinary theme and higher prices. I understand these things happen, what was most disturbing was the way the changes were dumped on the staff. The staff had not been forewarned about the menu changes and in some cases had been left completely in the dark. The lead bartender found out about the metamorphosis the close of business the night before and several servers told me they were informed when they arrived for their shift that afternoon.
I felt bad for the servers, listening to them explain to irritated customers why customer’s favorite menu items were no longer available.
I overheard one particularly chaffed customer (he was a New Millennium) argue with the hostess that the item he wanted to order was still posted on social media. He even showed her the post. The hostess obviously had not been given much instruction on how to handle disappointed customers and all she could tell him was, “We have a lot of new and really good items on the menu.” The customer left.
The servers were further hamstrung by the fact they had not had a chance to learn or taste the new menu. Since the restaurant had embraced an entirely new concept the ingredients were not only new but unfamiliar to some members of the staff.
One of my favorite young employees told me, “I do not know how to pronounce half of the new items on the menu much less describe the intricacies of the dish. I just wish we had been given an explanation of the more complex dishes and sampled some of the new items. I hate feeling like I do not know what I am talking about to my customers.”
It was disheartening as a patron to watch what had once been a place that was an enjoyable experience, a fluid working machine, come to a grinding halt because management did not keep their staff in the loop regarding the impending changes.
I am not a restaurant insider, maybe the new owners had legitimate reasons for not keeping their staff educated and informed. I do think they made a crucial misstep with their New Millennium employees. Management failed to be Transparent.
“By giving people the power to share, we’re making the world more transparent.”[ii] Mark Zuckerberg
It is a challenge to read or hear anything about the New Millennium Generation without hearing about the importance Transparency plays when hiring, connecting or marketing to this younger generation. The challenge many of us have is defining what transparency really means to the NM generation and how does it manifest itself in the workplace?
Transparency is not, as I first believed, uber honesty. I imagined being a transparent employer would require us to throw all social niceties out the window and be as blunt as possible about our co-workers failings, fashion choices and spouse/life-partner selections. Turns out, transparency is not an excuse to be rude but an approach to management that asks employers to treat their employees like partners.
Dictionary.com defines transparent as; easily seen through, open, frank and candid.[iii]
Hannah Keunn, (New Millennium Generation) an admin specialist, definition of transparency distinguishes the difference of being through, open and candid versus using transparency to forward one’s agenda.
“To me transparency in an employer means they are completely honest with me about my performance at work. I had a supervisor in the past use ‘transparency’ as an excuse to gossip. The verbal exchange left me feeling very uncomfortable and responsible for keeping information a secret. This eventually led to the breakdown of our professional relationship.
My current supervisor is a transparent leader. She gives me pertinent information when it impacts my job or will change the way I conduct business. She does not gossip, she is straight forward with me about my job performance and she will give me guidance when I need it.”
Administrative Specialist II for Coconino County Adult Probation
Where does the New Millennium Generation’s clamor for Transparency come from?
Social Media has transformed the desire for honesty into a necessity for transparency. It is no surprise The NM Generation uses personal technology and social media to interact and gather information in larger numbers than older generations. According to Personal News Cycle greater than 90% of the NM Generation possess smart phones, 50% own tablets and more than 80% get their news from online sources.[iv] When compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, the NM Generation according to eMarketer, has the largest Social Media presence and the NM Generation are the highest Twitter users. Greater then 50% of “tweeters” are the NM Generation.[v]
Being private (different than privacy settings) or secretive are not qualities that are highly regarded in the Social Media arena. The NM Generation not only demands but also expects people to “show their cards.” This has been fostered by their unprecedented access to information. The NM Generation can read a customer review about a restaurant, visit youtube.com to learn about a company, and most importantly see current events captured on the “average Joe’s” smartphone.
Never before in history has it been more difficult for an organization to sugar coat reality or hide the truth long-term from their customers. Transparency is not just about being clear it is about being unvarnished, raw and real.
The NM Generation expects the same kind of transparency form their employers. A study by LifeWay Research reported that transparency was one of the top four attributes the NM Generation looked for in a leader.[vi] Moving forward leaders may have to take some uncomfortable steps to become more transparent if they want to inspire loyalty and engagement from their NM employees and co-workers.
Jackson Reed (New Millennium) a Performance Specialist had this to say about the importance of transparency and what his employer does to demonstrate transparency.
“Transparency in an employer means that the employee is informed of all things that pertain to the company in which he/she works for or that pertains to the employee. Basically, there is no information that is withheld from either party so that everyone is on the same page.
My current employer, EXOS, does a great job at being transparent with me. My manager exhibits openness with all information about my position/responsibilities as well as what is happening in the company. He includes me in strategic planning and asks for my opinion and listens to my suggestions.”
The first step to being a transparent leader is having a presence online. Just like finding information about restaurants, current event and entertainment online the NM Generation expects to find online information about the leaders of the companies they work for and the people they work with.
As a multi generational leader or mentor use your online presence to blog about your views on business, culture or upcoming corporate changes. The information you put forth allows the NM Generation to learn more about you, who you are and what type of leader or mentor you will be.
Pat Flynn is the creator of several business web sites but he is best known for developing SmartPassiveIncome.com. A website and podcast targeted to people wanting to start their own online businesses. Pat is known as the “transparent leader in the space of online business education.”[vii] In his blog he shares how much money he makes from products and discusses his own business successes and failures.[viii]
Pat uses Social Media as an open forum so customer and employees alike can communicate with him and have a clear understanding about him and what he represents.
A transparent employer also keeps employees abreast of major happenings in the organizations. Being upfront about imminent changes is an essential piece of being transparent. The more the NM Generation knows about what is happening at their place of employment the greater engagement they will feel with their job.
Account Executive, Melissa Robichaud (New Millennium) describes transparency as a two-way street and the negative side effects when an employer is being perceived as non-transparent.
“Transparency in an employer is extremely important. In order for employees to do their job there must be a sense of openness and understanding that comes from both sides.
Frequently management will know about a major change before the employees. It is management’s responsibility to prepare their employees for the upcoming changes.
At my last place of employment, my manager was fired immediately after we returned from our annual conference. Upper management had been, unknown to my current manager, preparing another employee for months to assume the role of my manager.
I feel the entire firing process was handled in an unprofessional, non-transparent manner. It became obvious after the fact that all upper management, VP’s and the President knew what was going on for months, all I could think was ‘what are they not telling me about my performance?’
If you want loyalty from your employees then you owe loyalty to them and being transparent is key in loyalty.”
In the case of my favorite tavern, I learned the new owners had informed the staff there would be changes implemented slowly throughout the following weeks. So technically they were honest but they were not transparent.
If the restaurant could go back in time and they wanted to take steps to make the change more than honest but transparent they would of shown the new menus to the staff in advance, asked their opinion and explained how the new concept was going to work moving forward.
By posting the new menu online they could of avoided unnecessary conflict with customers about the availability of menu items. They could of offered training and assistance to help employees deal with disappointed customers.
By not being transparent they alienated and risked losing their talented and engaged NM employees. Unfortunately I had to find a new place to go too, not because I did not like the menu but because the restaurant had to close for a week because there had been a staff walk out.
Beware the employer, corporation or manufacturer that tries to bluff their way through transparency, the NM Generation will find out and take their loyalty and connections elsewhere.
[i] Ellie Mirman, How to Battle Restaurant Staff Turnover, http://blog.toasttab.com/how-to-battle-restaurant-staff-turnover, 2/5/15
[iv] American Press Institute, How Millennials Get News: Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation, https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/survey-research/millennials-news/, 03/16/15
[v] How Digital Behavior Differs Among Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers
Examining mobile, social and digital video activity among boomers, Gen X and millennials, http://www.emarketer.com/Article/How-Digital-Behavior-Differs-Among-Millennials-Gen-Xers-Boomers/1009748, March 21, 2013
[vi] Dan Schawbel, Millennials vs. Baby Boomers: Who Would You Rather Hire?, http://business.time.com/2012/03/29/millennials-vs-baby-boomers-who-would-you-rather-hire/, March 29, 2012
[vii] Laura Shin, How Pat Flynn Made His First $3 Million In Passive Income, http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2014/09/12/how-pat-flynn-made-his-first-3-million-in-passive-income/#7d6300de1af4, 9/12/14
[viii] John Hal, 10 Leaders Who Aren’t Afraid To Be Transparent, http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2012/08/27/10-leaders-who-arent-afraid-to-be-transparent/#2ad7a0857d0e, 8/27/12