Thinking about Transparency, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of a window pane; clean, clear and visible. Everyone ought to able to see through it. This is its natural characteristic or quality. And to ensure the window performs its ‘duty’, we are self-tasked to keep it clean, giving it the regular wipe with the ‘soap and sponge’.
In the workplace and society, this is no different. It is no different because as human beings, there is something about the clarity, cleanliness and see-through character of the window pane that we expect professionally and socially, and indeed, are self-challenged to role-model in our day-to-day relations with each other.
Take the issue of financial reward and equal pay, for example, an issue that has now been brought to the forefront of all best practice organisations globally. It is approximately four decades since Equal Pay became a recognised issue across the globe, yet men still earn more than women in nearly 90% of job categories in the UK specifically - according to analysis carried out by the Guardian. This is replicated across other world economies. Indeed in the UK, men take home higher pay than women in 370 of the UK’s 426 job classifications. Furthermore, in Australia, there have been recent questions with regard the absence of women in the decision-making process in issues to do with Defence, an issue linked directly to pay inequality, amongst other things.
But transparency also has a lot to do with the actual viability, consistency and inclusivity of organisational processes, covering recruitment and attraction, selection and assessment, promotion and development, and everything that falls within the employee life-cycle. We all desire and expect to be treated in a manner that is beyond reproach in all these areas, and where transparency is questioned, the outcomes can be catastrophic, having a negative impact not just in terms of financial payouts resulting from ensuing discrimination and unfair practice claims, but also in terms of the consequent impact on the brand-credibility of organisations where transparency has become a recognised issue.
At the same time however, it is extremely important to mention that all discussions about transparency has to be understood in light of the unfortunate reality of the presence of biases. We all have them, personally, and by implication, organisationally. Indeed, the presence of structural biases in organisations was one of the key findings in the Macpherson report, which lead to the re-defining of the Race Relations Act, 2000. This had tremendous implications for the viability of organisational processes not just within the UK, but indeed, globally. I often hear organisations say: “We appoint people for roles purely based on merit”. But when one delves ‘underneath the skin’ of the organisation in question, from experience, it is often quite clear to see that existing processes do not actually facilitate the attraction, recruitment and subsequent development, based on meritocratic and transparent processes.
So, from the viewpoint of actually facilitating and thoroughly driving transparency, the question is, what actual solutions can we put in place practically to tackle the reality of ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ bias – the main culprit that transparency has to deal with? Indeed, because we all have biases, they tend to be overlooked as simple things that either are not perceived as important, or are left as ‘mini-issues’ that can be ‘fixed’ on an ad hoc basis when we feel we need to. The reality however is very different - for like little microscopic parasites, unrecognised, they keep digging into the very centre of our physical selves, causing tremendous harm and damage: Biases actually go a very long way to ensuring non-transparency, further ensuring that we do not get the absolute best out our of people, our organisational processess, and by implication, the sort after competitive edge and financial advantage all organisations need to remain sustainable.
This is an issue, that from the perspective of truly promoting transparency, we need to look at differently – in order to ensure that the window pane is clear, visible and truly beyond reproach….
Diversity is… is changing. In the forthcoming weeks, Diversity is…will continue to publish interesting thought leadership pieces under Symmetra Diversity Consulting. Stay tuned for what will be a new and exciting approach to keeping best practice diversity issues in the forefront of our minds.