Transparency: The Importance of Open Communication 

  • Author

    Klara Gavran

  • Published

    Jun, 23, 2022

  • Reading time

    6 min

When we talk about the history of Determ, we cannot look at it separately from open communication. Direct, two-way communication is something that has been woven into Determ – into the people, the culture, and the way of doing business – from the very beginning.

“While growing this company, there had been plenty of hardships. One thing that was never a problem – was talking about them.”

We believe that the only path to success is the one whose steps are accompanied by openness – towards and among employees, but also to the public.

We believe that the only path to continuous progress is one where everyone has the opportunity to participate in problem-solving – through proposals and implementation.

Open communication and freedom of expression for us were, and still are, that path. It is for this reason that transparency is one of our 5 values ​​- along with progress, quality, community, and ownership.

Starting from relationships within and between teams, the key to success has always been this open flow of information and communication, which manifests itself in Determ in many different ways, both formal and informal.

Through correspondence in various Slack channels, breaks, or short visits to the workspace of other teams, we have always nurtured a culture of relaxed interaction. These short, informal check-ins provide opportunities to create a unique insight into the colleagues and the work they do.

The formal way of information flow is more structured and continuous and the one we are always working on and trying to improve. This is, firstly, our weekly meetings (#WINS Weekly), and then monthly one-on-one conversations (Quality Time), employee development conversations, and open doors conversations. And, since we started offering a hybrid way of working, the flow of information and communication has become more pronounced than ever – which is why we have introduced another one-on-one interview with the manager and team check-in every week.

Now you may be thinking: they are exaggerating.

Yes, open communication is important. Yes, it is important to ensure transparency in a company. And yes, it is important to cultivate a culture of feedback. Because even when you’re an open person, you may not have a penchant for openly and constructively commenting on someone’s work.

But, the moment giving (and receiving) feedback becomes an everyday task, one loses fear and understanding of feedback as a personal attack and gets the opportunity for new opportunities and progress. Still, do we need another meeting for that? The answer is often no – we don’t need another meeting that could’ve been an e-mail.

When you put all the meetings and conversations on paper, you realize how many there are and their frequency. You feel like a ticking time bomb – another meeting and you’re likely to explode.

But, when you put all the meetings and conversations on paper, you realize another, very important thing…

How do we make transparency a part of our everyday life at Determ?

#WINS Weekly

#WINS Weekly, or colloquially just Wins, gathers the entire Determ every Thursday in the spacious lounge of our offices at Vukasovićeva 1 (there are a lot of us, okay?). During Wins, we update each other on what we achieved that week, and what we plan to achieve next week, and give praise and thanks for what we achieved.

The transparent flow of information is at the very core of Wins as it calls for open communication about what each team is working on, but also their achievements, and the challenges that they faced that week.

Wins opens with an overview of the key metrics of our business – from NPS to MRR, followed by a presentation of the metrics and achievements of each team.

Throughout the meeting, the podium is open to all for comments, and questions, but also praise for individuals who stood out that week with their work and contribution. Compliments are especially interesting because they are based on our values.

Well, although wins are a manifestation of transparency, they also represent an opportunity to highlight behaviors that have been in the spirit of all our values.

Quality time (QT)

While wins are a “platform” for presenting team work, QTs are dedicated to individuals. The main purpose of these one-on-one conversations with the manager is to monitor employee satisfaction – both satisfaction with the team and the work they do, and the entire company.

Through this monthly conversation, each person creates a relationship of trust and transparency with their team lead. These conversations serve as a reflection on what has been done during that month, on satisfaction with one’s own work, and opportunities for progress. Quality time meetings are an opportunity for an open conversation about the already mentioned satisfaction with the company – how you feel, what challenges you face, and what can be done to increase your satisfaction.

Although guided by key issues and points of conversation, QT is never an interrogation and a one-way street. It is a conversation in the full sense of the word – often conducted in an informal setting with a cup of coffee (or tea).

Characterized by flexibility, the way QT is conducted may vary from team to team, and from person to person. Every team and every person is not the same, so QT adapts to each person’s wishes.

Employee development conversations

Employee development conversations are, as their name suggests, conversations about the individual development path of each employee.

Although they take place twice a year, these conversations actually lay the groundwork for work and contributions throughout the year. But, why do we have them?

Developmental conversations start with an open conversation about where you are now and, more importantly, where you want to be in your career. It is a conversation about individual competencies, career goals, and space for progress.

The main purpose, and ultimately the outcome, of the employee development conversation, is a clear action plan – the steps that the team lead puts together with each team member in order to achieve everyone’s desired career path.

Open communication, aspirations, desires, and goals are the basis for the successful planning and realization of an individual employee development plan.

Open Doors

We round off the whole story with another weekly activity whose starting point, you guessed it, is open communication.

Open Doors are not mandatory, but they certainly represent another opportunity for each person to come directly to our COO, Ivor, and talk to him about various topics – from the challenges that the person might be facing to certain decisions that were made on a company level.

Determ is constantly growing, and with the growth of the team, the way of communication is changing. Therefore, along with all the other opportunities for open communication, Open Doors are another way to improve communication within the team, give feedback and get an answer to everything we are interested in.

“Talking about our decisions lets us improve them.”

So, when you put all the meetings and conversations on paper, you realize another important thing…

… they encourage interaction and build foundations for stronger intra-team and inter-team relationships.

We can talk about countless meetings, but the truth is that each of us appreciates them immensely. Every meeting and every conversation has its unique purpose in achieving transparent communication. We want everyone in our team to have more opportunities to openly express their opinions, desires, aspirations, and challenges.

When you emphasize open communication, transparency, and direct access to information and when you support them every day with your actions, there is no problem, no challenge, either on an individual or team level, that cannot be solved.

When you emphasize the importance of giving and receiving feedback, shying away from it becomes a thing of the past. Instead, practicing giving and receiving feedback becomes a part of everyday life and a clear path to personal and team development.

This is why the bomb we mentioned at the beginning never “exploded” but was continuously deactivated.

We have been named the Best Employer three times. And yes, we brag about it openly. Not because we think it puts us on a high shelf with the most desirable companies, but because it is internal proof to us that we are doing a good thing.

Every year we grow as a team and as a company – and today with a team of 50+ employees we operate in 90+ countries around the world. We have developed a crawler that tracks more than 10 million URLs and collects more than 50 million articles a day.

The path from being an Intern to becoming a Manager and Director is not just a possibility, but a reality in Determ. Through each employee development conversation, we discover and nurture the competencies of our employees and shape them together, on the career path they choose for themselves.

And, before you accuse us of bragging, let us explain why meetings play such a big role in our success. They have this role because each meeting has its own unique purpose – from transparency, open communication, and encouraging interaction, to building quality team relationships that lead to satisfaction and growth.

Every comment, every feedback, every new idea, every collaboration, and every interaction brought us right where we are today.

And that’s why transparency is at the core of Determ.