The Naked Corporation Can Be Beautiful

Forces of transparency are disrobing companies and exposing them — warts and all — for anyone to see.

October 8, 2013

Nudity is a big theme at the HR Tech gathering in Las Vegas. No, I’m not talking about Sin City’s strip clubs, scantily clad servers or adult movies in the hotel rooms.

I’m talking about the naked corporation. The way forces of transparency are disrobing companies and exposing them — warts and all — for anyone to see. And the way that bare businesses can be a beautiful thing for workers and society.

Keynote speaker Don Tapscott kicked off the idea with his speech about radical openness. Tapscott is co-author of the 2003 book The Naked Corporation, and on Oct. 7, he called transparency one of the key principals of what he labels the Open World. In the era of the naked corporation, he said “fitness is no longer an option.” Companies, he asserted, must "undress for success."

An example of what he means can be seen at employee feedback and recruitment site Glassdoor. Glassdoor, which allows employees to post anonymous reviews of their organizations and chief executive officers, can be a great place to recruit talent, said Steve Roop, the company’s vice president of marketing. Roop told me that candidates hired through Glassdoor are 22 percent more likely to stay at their firms. The idea is that candidates learn more about potential employers through the unvarnished reviews at Glassdoor, so they make a better decision.

The naked truth also is working for Cigna. At a presentation on the way the health insurance firm has rolled out an internal social network, Cigna Chief Learning Officer Karen Kocher spoke about how a company in a buttoned-down industry can loosen its tie and more. Beginning 18 months ago, Cigna has allowed any of its 40,000 employees to post a blog item on the company’s intranet without any restrictions.

Haven’t they worried about inappropriate comments from employees? Embarrassing rants? Ill-advised photos?

They did consider the problem, Kocher said. But Cigna talked to about a half a dozen other firms with light restrictions on internal employee posting, and did not hear about significant scandalous behavior. So they bet on transparency. And it is paying off. Cigna employees have not abused the privilege, Kocher said. And the blogs as well as other collaboration features are making the company more interactive and effective, she said. One example:  a remote employee posted a blog item on the main intranet page asking a question. The response came 37 seconds later.

"We have some really cool things happening at Cigna that I never would have thought possible," Kocher said.

Indeed, who would have thought nakedness would be a hit with the HR crowd?

Wait, I forgot we’re in Las Vegas. 

Ed Frauenheim is associate editorial director of Human Capital Media, the parent organization of Workforce. Comment below or email him at Follow Frauenheim on Twitter at @edfrauenheim.