Follow These Tips for Greater Workplace Transparency

Open and honest communication will set your restroom business up for worker loyalty and goodwill in the community.

Transparency. It’s been a popular buzzword in the business world for a while. The theory is that you will reap benefits — financial and otherwise — when you are more open and honest in communication with employees, customers and the general public. Make the details of your portable sanitation company as close to an open book as possible and you’ll be paid off in goodwill, a loyal crew and growing revenue, according to many small-business experts.

If this was true at the beginning of 2020, when most PROs expected a rosy economic outlook, it’s doubly important in the unpredictable days that lie ahead of us. The COVID-19 pandemic was a serious shock to every small business, and in its long-term fallout, you can expect feelings of confusion, fear and uncertainty among your employees, worry from your best clients who wonder if you are going to be around to serve them, and concern among friends and business acquaintances who want you to succeed.

Trust is an incredibly valuable commodity, especially in a seesawing economy. And you need to continue to cultivate that trust through thick and thin.

Over the past few years, I’ve talked to many established PROs and folks just starting out who saw vast opportunities on the horizon. Many were buying new equipment and continue to invest in new vacuum trucks, restrooms and specialty trailers to serve the growing needs of their customers.

Every contractor’s story is different since the pandemic hit, but I sense that many have stayed busy, shifting priorities as special event work disappeared and government customers picked up. Others, I’m sure, have suffered greatly, unable to recoup the lost business and having a difficult time paying bills and making payroll. And there are probably many PROs stuck between these two scenarios, working hard and looking for new ways to get back on track.

Wherever you are on that spectrum, look for ways you can increase transparency in your business. Doing so will help you gain the respect of your team and the understanding of customers and the public. Here are a few ideas:

Lay your cards on the table in company meetings.

Your employees are probably coming in to work wondering what the future holds this week, next month and for the rest of the year. To the degree you feel comfortable, share details of your balance sheet — the revenue in, the dollars going out and how money is being made and spent. Whether you remain flush with cash or worrying what the next six months will bring, your crew will be grateful to get the complete picture. All of your livelihoods are on the line, and it’s better to be forthright now than surprising the team with news of a layoff down the road.

If the outlook is positive, your workers’ minds can be put at ease and you can reinforce the need to keep up the good work. If the outlook is negative, this is your opportunity to ask the team to help you get back in the black. Ask front-line workers for their ideas on how to build revenue, and take them seriously. They are out on the work sites talking to customers about service and making mental notes about how a route can run more efficiently. Explain that everyone on the payroll can have a big impact on the success or failure of the business.

Be upfront about wage and salary information.

Based on the experience of most people who’ve been in the workforce for 20 years or more, the idea of sharing pay-related information with employees probably seems like a foreign idea … and maybe a scary one. But experts say opening up about wage scales across your company goes a long way in convincing today’s workers they are paid fairly.

The 2019 Compensation Programs & Practices Survey conducted by WorldatWork got responses from 348 private and public sector companies and found that:

42% of employers share a pay program design with employees.

38% share a base salary range for employees.

2% share actual pay levels for all employees.

With younger workers and the age of social media, wage transparency will become a bigger issue. In days gone by, it wasn’t so easy for a worker to figure out if they were being paid comparably to workers at a similar business on the other side of town. No more. Young workers are better at networking — especially online — and don’t feel it’s necessary to keep their salary a secret. And they are comfortable jumping ship for a better wage.

It’s a better human resources practice to know you are paying a competitive wage and explaining that to your workers. They will appreciate that you aren’t playing games with them, and that’s a good way to build loyalty in the 21st century workplace. And loyalty saves you lots of money and grief over having to recruit new employees over and over again.

Level with customers in good times and bad.

As is the case with most small businesses, this year has been like no other for portable sanitation contractors. Special event contracts were wiped out for the summer, and there are many uncertainties moving forward. Hopefully some of your other construction and municipal customers have stayed steady.

Reach out to all of your regular customers with occasional updates — reminding them you stand ready to serve them as their fortunes turn around. Tell them about the unique challenges you face and how you have reacted — such as by promoting hand-wash stations and emergency service. Remind them about your inventory and highlight how restrooms and accessories can be useful today. Now might be a time to offer specials to help customers ease their way back to profitability.

Do good and tell the community.

It’s no time to withdraw from the community and suspend civic work or charitable projects that you were used to doing in the best times. Rather, go out and seek to do more for friends and neighbors in your hometown. If the youth sports team you usually sponsor isn’t playing this year, give that money to another cause, like a food pantry or park improvements. If you have excess restroom inventory, look for ways to donate units to churches, homeless shelters or other nonprofit organizations.

And when you make a donation or provide a community service, send a press release to the local newspaper or radio station and let them know about it. Take every opportunity to talk about your business — even if it means explaining the issues you’ve had to overcome this year. People will appreciate it when you shine a light on your business and continue to help others.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

As the portable sanitation industry adjusts to constant change this year, add one more goal for your business: greater transparency. I hope you will find open and honest communication with employees and business partners refreshing and profitable.  



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