If we think of business as a person, he/she might call to mind images of Narcissus: Obsessed with appearances. Think shortly on the attire. Trimmed suits, ties, dresses, makeup. Or perhaps think of the places where it takes place: tall skyscrapers and panes of glass so clear a bird might unwittingly smash into them. These are, of course, stereotypes, and, by nature, faulty. Still, sometimes the need to "keep up appearances" presents conflicts for accuracy in business. We want perfection in all things, yet, falling short of this is inevitable. The result: Sometimes, people lie, stretching the truth to avoid negative consequences or appearances.
Alright, maybe I'm waxing poetic here. The point is: Accuracy (and honesty by extension) is more important than appearances when it comes to HR and business leaders. Let's talk about why.
Credibility is like currency in business, and nothing expends it faster than inaccuracy.
Say you're selling basketballs. To determine how often the basketballs go flat, you run bouncing tests. You bounce some on ice, on hot pavement, you even bounce some on thumbtacks. In all your testing, none of the basketballs go flat.
As a result, you tell the client your product never goes flat. That's inaccurate. It's one of the most common inaccuracies: Hyperbole. If you shot it with a gun, would it go flat? This isn't something you can say for sure unless you've tested every single possibility. It would be more accurate to simply say: We ran several tests, and none of those tests managed to pop our basketballs.
This is the sort of inaccuracy that reduces credibility. A savvy client will recognize absolute statements such as that for what they are: Inflations. Too many inflations will reduce your credibility and, in turn, your chance at a sale.
Accuracy also has a lot to do with sustainability. Imagine if Coca Cola hadn't brought back Coke Classic after introducing "New Coke". It's an infamous example of a failed marketing campaign, and it happened because of an inaccurate assumption.
The assumption was that people bought Coke strictly for the taste, so they sought to make the taste even better. They marketed the new formula as "New Coke". It was a huge flop despite prior research that suggested the taste was actually better than the original and Pepsi.
This brings up a bit of a contradiction. Coke had data. It had research, yet it made the mistake anyway. Why is that? Well, cold hard data doesn't do much on its own. If it's misinterpreted, it can lead to poor conclusions. Even if data is collected, it's up to decision-makers like yourself to draw accurate conclusions. Those conclusions will ultimately determine whether your company has a sustainable future. Coke made a mistake, but the company also admitted it and returned to its classic brand.
Consider accuracy in business a moral imperative. Here's the deal. People expect that the information they're given is true and accurate. They must make their decisions operating under that assumption. If the information they're given is inaccurate, then the decisions they make might also be inaccurate.
Most of what I've talked about seems common sense, but, in practice, it's not always easy for company decision makers to maintain accuracy and transparency. Why?
Well, take HR as an example. HR leaders deal with a lot of inherently negative data: turnovers, lawsuits, employee complaints, etc. But would it serve anyone to treat a sudden spike in turnover as a coincidence? Likewise, would it be fair to treat that spike as a trend, when, in fact, retention is normally good?
"HR needs to be balanced and transparent but not cause undue panic. This is why HR is a difficult job!"
Keri Ohlrich, Ph.D, CEO of Abbracci Group and Co-Author of The Way of the HR Warrior
So what makes this a moral calculation? In a utilitarian sense (the greatest good for the greatest number), it benefits all parties involved to ensure that people do not act on misinformation. If you're more partial to virtue arguments, accuracy ties directly into honesty, which is a virtuous character trait. You can also consider honesty an end in and of itself.
One CEO provides a caveat though. Accuracy does not necessarily mean telling everyone everything. It's not a free-for-all info dump.
"Not all data can be shared with everyone... HR and Corporate Communications need to work together on the message that is to be spread to each audience to address both ethics and stakeholders' needs."
Lilia Stoyanov, CEO, Transformify
In other words, part of accuracy as a moral imperative is consideration of audience. Provide accurate information to the parties that require that information. This is a balancing act that you, as organizational leaders, must work on.
Now you've got three good reasons to maintain accuracy throughout communication in your business. For one thing, it's the moral thing to do. Even if ethics aren't part of your calculus, it makes for a more credible, sustainable business. It may even help you retain employees. It just makes sense.