September 27, 2007
Greater Transparency Is the Key to Building Greater Trust
Go Hand In Hand
Rawlins' research shows that
doing things right isn't nearly as important as doing the right thing.
five years ago, Linda
Hon, Jim Grunig and I wrote a white paper about measuring trust
that set out some pretty clear steps as to
how organizations could do it. At the time, we gave some
general advice on what to do if you found that trust in your organization
was less than what you wanted it to be.
honest, most of these recommendations fell somewhere between "duh,"
and "of course," and mostly had to do with doing
a set of ethical principles,
a process for transparency that is appropriate for current and future
a formal system of trust measurement.
are all perfectly acceptable things to do.
new research by Brad Rawlins (he is our Measurement
Maven of the Month for this month), shows that doing things right
isn't nearly as important as doing the right thing, and that being
a driving factor in the fostering of trust.
In a recent
the Universidad Del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia, Dr.
Rawlins outlined his findings, and we summarize them below. (You
can read the whole paper here,
excerpted from the IPRRC proceedings of last spring. Read my
blog coverage of that presentation here.)
results of the study demonstrate that transparency and trust are
highly correlated, and, "one could conclude that as organizations
become more transparent they will also become more trusted." Although
the study was limited to employees, the results are strong enough
to imply that the correlation between trust and transparency will
hold for other stakeholder groups as well.
of trust, see our paper above, since Rawlins uses the same terminology.
from pretense or deceit
detected or seen through
supplements it with one from Anne
Florini of the Brookings Institution:
opposite of secrecy. Secrecy
means deliberately hiding your actions; transparency means deliberately
to Rawlins, there are three aspects of transparency:
openness, making publicly available all legally releasable information
-- whether positive
or negative in nature -- in a manner which is accurate, timely,
balanced, and unequivocal. Information must be substantial to
needs. Disclosure by itself does not equal transparency, in fact
some forms of disclosure can defeat the purposes of transparency.
Transparency is what
separates transparency from disclosure. Transparency cannot be
successful unless you know what stakeholders want and need to
know. So, to ensure that the
shared is relevant and useful, stakeholders must be
allowed to identify what they need to know.
Transparency. Transparency holds people accountable for their
actions, words and decisions. Rawlins cited The Naked Corporation:
If you're going to be naked, you'd better be buff. In other words,
if you want to shine, you have to clean up your act.
Rawlins suggests that each organization might experience differing
transparency, where transparency is simply part of the culture;
transparency, in response to Sarbanes-Oxley or
other legislation; and
transparency, in which an organization obfuscates through
disclosure and greenwashing, which
is self-promotion disguised as transparency.
employees of a large regional healthcare organization were surveyed
on issues of trust and transparency. 385 surveys were completed
for a 32% response
rate. Twenty-four surveys were deleted because they were incomplete,
leaving 361 surveys for analysis. The sample demographics matched
approximately those of the healthcare organization's population.
Trust and transparency are significantly and strongly correlated.
was closely connected with transparency and the two are positively
According to Rawlins, "As employee perceptions of organizational
transparency increased so did trust. Additionally,
the three components of trust (competence, integrity, and goodwill)
components of transparency (participation, substantial information,
and accountability) are positively related."
Regression analyses indicate that employees found integrity and
more important to overall trust than competency.
participation that leads to an organization sharing information that
employees find useful and substantial, and that holds an organization
accountable, is the strongest predictor of overall transparency.
see sharing information as a sign of integrity.
substantial information and being accountable was tied to employee
perceptions of organizational integrity.
participation and willingness to be accountable was tied to perception
is the only speaker I've heard of late that closed
with a quote from the bible that I actually found
to be entirely relevant to the presentation. Would
that more of our corporations heed these words:
this is the condemnation. That light is come into the world,
and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were
for everyone that doest evil hateth the light, neither cometh
light, lest his deeds should be reproved, but he that doest a
Truth cometh to the light that his deeds maybe e manifest, that
God. John 3:19-21