One of the common characteristics of the top finalists in this year's Best Christian Places to Work survey is a commitment to open communication. But in an era of information hyperload, the challenge for today's workplaces is how to balance the desire to share without overdoing it.

Last year, repeat finalist Whitworth College was making difficult decisions regarding the adjustment of premiums and benefits in their health care plans—a common dilemma for Christian organizations in an era of rapidly escalating health care costs. The administration decided to share all the options with their employees, held hearings to answer questions, and asked employees to make their preferences known.

"Because employees were aware of all of the factors that went into the decision on health care benefits and premiums, they understood and supported the final decision," says Whitworth director of communications Greg Orwig.

Whitworth president Bill Robinson is a strong advocate for transparency. He says, "The gateway to trust is openness and communication. Why not open all the budgets to all who wish to see them? Why not review salaries with a representative committee of employees? Why not make expense reports available to those who want to see them?"

In a similar situation to Whitworth's, finalist Medical Ambassadors International (MAI) wanted to keep employees updated on changes in its insurance coverages. Laura Nelson, MAI's director of administration, shared the information four months before the changes were to take place. Doing so, however, caused some unnecessary unrest within the organization; as it turned out, the changes ultimately had a positive impact on their employees' expenses. "The ruckus that was raised was unnecessary and the concern it placed on staff unneeded. Now I'm rethinking the wisdom of when to release new information," Nelson says.

Robinson acknowledges that there is such a thing as too much openness, but he thinks that, on balance, Christian organizations err on the side of too little rather than too much. "The disclosure of some information can create more of a distraction than a benefit," he says. "But if you poll the workers in Christian or secular organizations on whether their leaders are too open or too closed, you'll find that people want to be kept informed, particularly about information that affects their decision-making."

Related Elsewhere:

Also posted today is the main article on building a culture of trust and sidebar articles on the finalists and how they were chosen.

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Last year's Best Workplaces survey included:

Inside CT: Great Places to Work | There is indeed much to praise and imitate in the Christian companies. (Feb. 28, 2003)
The 40 Best Christian Places to Work | What makes them so good? (Hint: Not money) (Feb. 28, 2003)
The Complete List & A Closer Look at the Top Finalists | Christianity Today salutes four finalists in ten categories. (Feb. 28, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: Co-CEO Synergy | Sharing leadership works at Christian Medical and Dental Associations. (March 03, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: Rigorous Hiring | Group Publishing places importance on the quality of the product and its staff. (March 04, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: People of the Hugs | Howard Publishing's pajama day, adoption support, and National Hugging Day celebrations create a family-like ambiance. (March 05, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: Freedom and Grace | Covenant Christian High School teachers and staff are encouraged to be creative, lead classes in innovative ways, and take initiative. (March 06, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: Lives in Balance | At Evangelical Christian Credit Union, professional development is not just a nice bonus but also a spiritual responsibility. (March 07, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: What Burnout? | The Coalition for Christian Outreach takes seriously its responsibility to care for employees. (March 10, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: No Prayer, No Results | Medical Ambassadors International's emphasis on praying creates a strong sense of commitment. (March 11, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: President in Sweats | Leadership's informal style reflects an atmosphere of openness on the Whitworth College campus. (March 12, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: Practicing What They Teach | Dallas Theological Seminary and Multnomah Bible College and Seminary share a philosophy on managing employees. (March 13, 2003)
Best Christian Places to Work: Shepherding Hearts | Phoenix Seminary focuses on mentoring the balance of head knowledge with character development. (March 14, 2003)

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