The 2008 Great Recession continues to haunt virtually everyone who works and every organization that employs people. Getting through the event became a full-time job. And while that was happening, the acceleration of change grew exponentially, creating the need for behavioral change within individuals and organizations. For example, while many complained about the loss of privacy, a far bigger wave has hit our shores. I call it The Great Transparency Revolution and it impacts each and every one of us.
Now, the big news is often based on disclosures of egregious individual and organizational behavior.
For thousands of years, information moved so slowly that people would hear about calamities in neighboring towns weeks to years after they happened. News traveled by foot and by horse. Carrier Pigeons were considered an innovation. But, by 2008, information was moving at a transformative level. But, while our culture became so busy with survival, we missed the fact that everyone also became a reporter, journalist and camera person. Now, the big news is often based on disclosures of egregious individual and organizational behavior.
In just one year, more famous sexual predators have been outed than in the last 10 years combined.
In a tsunami of transparency, journalists like Ronan Farrow are not the biggest news. In many ways, The New Yorker contributor is an editor of the millions of new journalists, women (and men) who have been the targets of sexually predatory behavior. In just one year, more famous sexual predators have been outed than in the last 10 years combined. It is a strategic blunder to view the phenomenon as a series of coincidences. Look at the names. Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Les Moonves, Charlie Rose, Larry Nassar and a sizeable alumni association at Fox News, have demonstrated the end of an era where someone can exercise power in an attempt to hide egregious behavior.
Recently, a digital media professional showed me two pictures. Both had been taken in the same spot looking out at the ordination of Pope Benedict in 2005 and Pope Francis in 2013. The shot looks out from behind the ritual to over a hundred thousand people packed into Vatican Square. There is one strikingly big difference. The more recent picture is overcome by blinding light coming from the smartphones capturing that moment forever.
The Great Transparency Revolution is impacting employers with just as much ferocity. Using 2008 as a demarcation, the majority of employers operated on an old talent platform for years.
During economically abundant times, the treatment of employees and candidates improved. During recessions or depressions, everyone became quite expendable.
Candidates would apply for jobs, go through half-a-dozen steps and never hear from a potential employer again. But, in the new landscape, that behavior can be devastating to a talent pool. Because any savvy candidate can learn more about their potential employer and hiring manager in just ten minutes than with ten years of research at the turn of the century. Even a cashier quickly learns that Von’s employee satisfaction numbers are in the toilet while the average tenure for a Trader Joe’s cashier is 19 years.
Lest we come to believe the world has not changed, think of the following businesses:
Uber, United Airlines, Wells Fargo, Equifax, Facebook, Theranos, among others. The University of Southern California scandals has impacted many of the people that are quite close to me. Last year, I sat with a Dean who could not stop crying because of the impact of so-called leaders who betrayed the trust of students, donors, parents, and long-term employees & leaders who had invested years of their lives in the school. This junk has gone on for many years. However, the watershed change is that everyone has the power, right in their hands, to document and tell new stories to the world every single moment. In fact, that is happening right now.
What will organizations and leaders have to do with The Great Transparency Revolution?
We will have to live with nothing to hide. We will have to run organizations with open doors and the light obliterating poisonous “secrets.” CEOs will have to shoulder their responsibility for the culture of the organization they lead and they will have to do this with nothing to hide. That’s right! I know some of my readers are already squirming but let’s go on. The human resources professionals will have to recognize that paying off victims of sexual assault is but a temporary “fix” in one’s career path. But, in the long trajectory, continuing to do this will end such a career. It really begs the question, how many CEOs have put their human capital executives, the majority of them women, in the position of having to shut someone up? From this point forward, any suggestion that such behavior will “fix it” is truly delusional. It will also no longer be enough to tell employment candidates they are interviewing for a great place to work. The winners of talent will actually be great places to work. There will no longer be any shortcuts.
Today, employers must face the fact that the best talent researches and explores everything they can find about every employer they consider. It takes very little time to find out whether the recruiter is telling the truth, the manager is a great boss or a boss from hell, and whether that green initiative is real or just smoke and mirrors. CEOs are being judged for their cultures as well as their ethics. A seemingly well put together image on LinkedIn can be totally undermined by images and conduct posted on another social media platforms.
All of this happened while people and organizations dealt with the struggles of the recession. Now, we must learn how to change as quickly as the changes happening around us. Or, we will be left in the dust.
This is good news. What is my point? Live with nothing to hide. Run organizations with the lights on and the doors open. Someone once said, “The truth will set us free but first it will piss us off.”
There will be readers who don’t like what I am sharing and there will be others that exhale a sigh of relief and more that will need to hear this message with consistency to get it. Regardless, this is a new and amazing world. Because everyone is watching.
Everyone sees you.