Business leaders often balk at the thought of sharing their company’s numbers with employees. But that attitude leaves a significant opportunity for business growth on the table.
Have you ever considered: Why does the owner think about the business differently than the clerk?
Humans generally want to “win” so it’s not that the clerk doesn’t care about the success of the store. It’s that the owner has a complete picture of what’s really going on. She knows the numbers and can link everyone’s actions to positive or negative results.
If the owner doesn’t share the store’s data, all the clerk knows is whether he beat his personal best in stocking shelves or checking out customers. Without a deeper understanding of the business, he can’t help the store compete.
By sharing your business’ data, you increase your chances of driving discretionary effort among employees – those extra ideas and actions that help your business grow stronger and bigger. You move them from the mindset of “just earning a paycheck” to actively finding ways to improve the bottom line.
What to share and when
The first step to sharing company information in a useful manner requires answering a question: What are we trying to accomplish?
Are you trying to motivate the sales team or decide on a new health insurance policy? The answer determines what you share. Know “why” and you’ll know what to share.
For example, say your company needs to change its health insurance coverage and would like employee feedback on which changes would be palatable to the greatest number of employees.
You’ll need to start by giving employees a baseline for understanding the choices you face. To do this, you could share numbers such as total number of employees, percent of employees opting into the current policy, what the current policy costs, and the percent of those costs paid by the company versus the employees. Then, you could present costs and benefits of alternative policies.
By explaining your choices, your employees can make well-informed recommendations that help you make better decisions. For instance, you may find employees more amenable to paying more out-of-pocket for benefits or more accepting of procedural changes.
Make it easy to understand
Another important reality when sharing company data: Information should be presented in digestible chunks spread over time. Keep in mind your audience and the objective you want to accomplish. Remember that you aren’t presenting to a bunch of accountants or experienced business owners, but line employees who may never have seen a balance sheet or income statement.
Make the data accessible to non-accountants through the liberal use of charts and graphs. This allows you to show the costs of salaries, benefits, equipment, buildings, travel, etc., as percents of the whole rather than to-the-penny line items.
For example, explain in general terms what the company spends to make a single sale, the revenue generated by that sale and the profit that results. Once the basics have been covered, employees can make informed, business-grounded recommendations.
It also helps if you tie specific actions to specific numbers. For instance, marketing specialist Selena wrote an email that generated 100 leads for the sales team, which later resulted in 10 sales and $100,000 in revenue. Of that $100,000 in revenue, $35,000 was profit.
Then, you can guide the discussion to whether more emails are needed for higher sales.
Explain the business
Remember, relevant data goes beyond the financials. Employees need all sorts of information to better understand your business and their role in it. Consider the sales funnel and how knowing more about it would help departments other than sales.
In this example, you could explain the value of warm leads versus cold leads, or days from initial contact to a final sale. It’s easy for someone outside the sales department to understand why it’s important to share their warm leads for the sales team once they understand that cold leads cost the company more, take longer to close and therefore reduce revenue.
Another tactic: Show where your company falls in relation to its peers through benchmarking. Employees may feel you’re not spending enough on benefits until you show how your company compares to similarly sized companies in the same industry.
Say you need to capture data on how employees are spending their time. This information will be used to compare your company to industry benchmarks, to determine whether you’ll hire more people and the type of job you’ll fill. So, you ask employees to post detailed weekly time sheets but forget to explain why.
Because they don’t know the purpose behind the request, compliance is lousy. You get incomplete information or it’s late. But once you explain how the information will be used, the team understands the importance of delivering accurate, timely data and their behavior changes.
Once you get good data, you and your team may find unexpected ways to improve your performance. Benchmarks can also generate the desire to compete and beat industry norms.
There’s no single formula for what to present or how often. Your goal is to encourage those discretionary efforts from your employees that set your company apart from the competition.
Find more ways to inspire and motivate your employees by downloading our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.