Real business story

Be honest and keep it simple when communicating financial performance to staff

Communicating financial information with non-finance staff can be a daunting prospect. But done correctly, it can build trust, inspire innovation, drive efficiency and boost sales.
Ben Branson-Gateley – CharlieHR

Ben Branson-Gateley shares revenue numbers and the impact performance would have on key decisions with his team

An open book approach to sharing financial information allows employees to see how their actions affect the entire company. This enables staff to spot growth and money saving opportunities and improve employees’ emotional buy-in.

Share information regularly and simply

Creating a culture of transparency is the first step in getting staff interested in company finances. Turnover and profit, and the key metrics that drive them, need to be shared openly.

CharlieHR is a keen advocate of sharing financial information with staff. The HR software provider allows employees access to the figures whenever they want.

CEO Ben Branson-Gateley has a motto: more communication is always better than less. He gives daily updates on financial performance in morning meetings and shares the numbers via email every week.

“People worry about money and about how it’s going to affect them, so we’re very transparent with all of our numbers. We share these on a weekly basis and our staff have full access to all our revenue metrics,” Ben said.

When delivering financial information, it is important to consider that not all employees have a head for numbers. Keep things simple and be sure to communicate how current finances affect future plans – there’s a balance between openness and causing unnecessary stress.

In CharlieHR’s case, Ben shared revenue numbers and the impact performance would have on key decisions.

“It’s about being clear about those numbers and being honest about at what point we would have to do things – at what point would furlough happen and at what point we could bring salary increases [which were frozen for three months] back – all these different things,” he said.

“The phrase I kept saying was ‘no surprises’ – that was really important to us."

Ben Branson-Gateley, CEO, CharlieHR

Honesty is the best policy

Revealing the numbers when times are good might be a no-brainer. But when times are tough, it might be tempting to keep bad results from your team.

Ben believes honesty is the best policy during the ups and the downs. Sharing information about company performance builds trust and allows employees to talk openly and voice any concerns as they arise.

“People often think that as a leader you need to have all the answers in a time of crisis. The truth is that you don’t. If you look at the leaders that have done well on the international stage, they are much better at being honest. They say when they don’t know what the future looks like,” Ben said.

Ben chose to model that by communicating regularly, being honest when he didn’t have the answers and being as vulnerable as possible in the right moments.

During the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Ben gave staff forecast information showing at what point they would need to cut salaries or furlough people, so they understood what actions they could take.

“The phrase I kept saying was ‘no surprises’ – that was really important to us,” Ben said.

  • location: London
  • business size: 10-49 People
  • business type: Digital, technology & computer services

Top three takeaways

Communicating financial information regularly helps to build trust and transparency and can lead to greater emotional buy-in from employees.

Many employees will not have a head for numbers. Keep things simple and be sure to communicate how current finances affect future plans.

Leaders often believe they need to have all the answers in a time of crisis, but don’t be afraid to be honest with staff when you don’t know what the future looks like.