3 Colorado tech companies where transparency is more than just a buzzword

August 10, 2017

Transparency has become somewhat of a buzzword in startup culture. But it’s one thing to talk about fostering a transparent culture and another to actually implement it. True transparency means open, honest communication about both the good and the bad, the wins and failures, and that can be pretty scary for some leaders.

The companies that live this credo, though, can attest to the benefits: trust, loyalty, ownership, accountability. See how these tech companies maintain a transparent company culture — and why it’s so important to the success of their teams.

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GoSpotCheck delivers cloud software to retailers that manage large field teams and national distribution, enabling them to obtain greater transparency when it comes to day-to-day field operations. It’s no surprise, then, that transparency is a value the company takes seriously.

Brian Nishi, people and culture evangelist for GoSpotCheck, shared how transparency plays out in the office and why it’s critical to building an environment of trust and respect.

Why is transparency important to your company?

Transparency is a lived value. It's default operating procedure for our founders that set the tone for the rest of the company. We memorialized it in one of our six company values — communicate frequently, openly and honestly — and it's served as a pillar in our growth. We confirmed our values alignment last year when the team took a values assessment (via RoundPegg) and learned that “sharing information freely” was the top shared value. It was great validation that we've focused our values in the right place as we build our team and grow the company.

How do you promote a transparent culture?

We talk about the GSC values from day one of onboarding so that new employees understand how the values play out in our daily work lives. Transparency flows from the top. We all have access to the monthly management meeting notes, company financials and customer churn debriefs. The leadership team also gives us weekly updates at our Monday all-hands meetings to share the good, bad and ugly. If you ever feel like information isn't being shared freely, all you have to do is ask!

Are there any challenges you've faced in remaining transparent? How have you overcome them?

We've all run into complex situations where we had a choice of how — or if — we communicate tough information. Our leadership team has always treated us with a tremendous amount of respect, choosing to take the high road and, at times, being painfully transparent even when there's bad news. We all have ownership here, and that includes celebrating the wins and losses together. Transparency shows trust and mutual respect, which ultimately strengthens the relationships we share here.


 

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Screen Pilot provides marketing and advertising services to hotels and resorts around the world. It’s a fast-moving and collaborative business, and transparency is key to ensuring both clients and employees are happy and aligned with the company’s goals.

Rachel Anderson, senior digital PR and social media manager, discussed the ways Screen Pilot encourages transparency throughout the entire organization.

How do you promote a transparent culture?

Screen Pilot's transparency doesn't stop with senior leadership. All team members participate in our monthly Screen Piloteers status meetings, Lunch 'n Learns are organized at every level of the organization, and each department is included in planning our bi-annual team days and retreats.  

Internally, we love using Workplace for Facebook to share team updates, collaborate on projects, stay abreast of industry trends and news, and much more. It keeps non-essential discussions out of email and encourages equal efforts from all employees.

Screen Pilot's culture of openness and clarity stretches beyond our internal team. We use reporting software with our clients that updates in real time and provides current insights into their performance and, ultimately, our work. We have those reports scrolling across our in-office televisions during the day so that we can help keep each other accountable as well.

Why is transparency important to your company?

Small companies, by nature, must be transparent to survive. Here at Screen Pilot, it's always been a pillar of our company culture — from our CEO's open door policy (that can include one-on-one lunches on his dime at a team member’s request) to our more literal interpretation of transparency through our open-concept office space. Working in such an environment breeds honest cross-team cooperation, whether it be sharing exciting data or new ideas, solving problems, or planning that after-work happy hour.

Are there any challenges you've faced in remaining transparent? How have you overcome them?

Transparency is especially important when it comes to employee experience efforts, which can be a deal breaker — and incredibly challenging — for growing companies. As Screen Pilot continues to grow, we've learned that being as up-front, clear and concise as possible in our "people operations" is key.

We've recently partnered with a third-party employee performance software that will help our heads of departments to align goals, give feedback, perform internal reviews and do more for their teams. Most importantly for Screen Pilot, it will allow the entire team to have a voice on what's working and what isn't through 360-degree feedback and communication.


 

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CA Technologies builds software and provides a variety of IT services to businesses in a range of industries. CA Technologies acquired Rally Software two years ago, but despite the transition and growth in size, they’ve retained the same spirit of transparency they’ve always had.

Director of software engineering Katy Groves gave us some examples of what transparency looks like at CA Technologies and how it can turn even a negative situation into a team building experience.

How do you promote a transparent culture?

I think the most important way to promote a transparent culture is through honesty. When decisions are made, we explain the reasoning and allow for questions to be asked. The questions are answered as honestly and transparently as possible. If I (or whoever) doesn't know the answer, I will state I don't know and will have to get back to them with an answer.  

I think another important aspect is admitting and owning up to mistakes. As a recent example, two quarters ago the leadership team had what we thought was a brilliant idea to merge two teams together. The teams rejected the idea, and there was a lot of push back. Once we shared all the reasons we wanted to merge the teams, the teams in question came up with an alternate proposal that addressed the majority of the concerns. We then talked about the leadership failure at our big room planning meeting in front of our entire engineering department. That transparency of our failure was positively received by the engineers in our organization and helped promote continued transparency.   

Why is transparency important to your company?

Transparency is important because we value collaboration. Collaboration is a lot harder without transparency. If you want your teams to be able to effectively work together, they need to have transparency on the team and outside the team.  

Because we have always been an agile company, transparency has always been important. In addition, our founding executives valued and espoused transparency. That culture of transparency has persistent through being acquired by CA.

Are there any challenges you've faced in remaining transparent? How have you overcome them?

I think there are challenges anytime you bring in new leaders to your organization. I think the way we have overcome them is staying true to our values of honesty and transparency. To basically show the new leaders why transparency is really important by living what we are preaching.  

 

Photos via featured companies.

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