Authenticity in the workplace – the key to business success?

We hear the word ‘authentic’ thrown around a lot, often regarding what people, or rather consumers, want when interacting with a business. So, what does it mean to be authentic in business? In this article of The Pulse, we revisit a topic we first looked at all the way back in 2007.  

What is authenticity? 

The word authentic has several accepted definitions. These include: 

  • Worthy of acceptance or belief, as conforming to or based on fact.  
  • Conforming to an original, so as to reproduce essential features, or made or done the same way as an original.  
  • Not false or imitation.  
  • True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.  

Regarding business, we can assume that we are looking at primarily the latter two meanings when it comes to how we represent ourselves, and perhaps the first two when it comes to our products and services.  

How can we apply this meaning to business today? In 2007, our article about authenticity stated, “as reality is qualified, altered, and commercialized, consumers respond to what is engaging, personal, memorable – and above all, authentic. If customers don’t view your offerings as real, you’ll be branded inauthentic – fake! – and risk losing credibility, customers, and ultimately the sale.” 

Does this hold up in 2022? 

Fifteen years later, is this still what consumers are looking for? According to experts, yes. According to Forbes, “burgeoning research on authenticity has documented its many benefits, including greater levels of well-being and life satisfaction” and “many organizations encourage employees to bring their true selves to work to spark proactivity, creativity, and effectiveness.” 

Why is authenticity important? 

As Forbes suggests, authenticity in business has a lot of benefits, from how your employees work and relate to each other, to how your customers see your brand.  

Here are some of the benefits of authenticity for your employees: 

  • It allows them to make a more informed decision about where they want to work, and whether they’ll be a good fit.       
  • Allows for better collaboration and trust between staff.  
  • Fewer interpersonal conflicts. 
  • Higher job performance. 
  • OfficeVibe says that authenticity leads to a sense of ‘psychological safety’ among staff. 
  • Employees will feel safe to provide better feedback and suggest newer, more innovative ideas.  

Likewise, the benefits for your customers: 

  • Allows customers to make decisions about where they get their goods/services based on an understanding of shared values and priorities, such as environmentally friendly initiatives, or inclusive, safe spaces.  
  • Happier and more confident employees will deliver better, more satisfying results for customers, which can lead to longer relationships, repeat customers, and recommendations and testimonials for your business.  

Do employees feel safe to be authentic in the workplace? 

It’s easy to say authenticity is welcome, but it’s another to make staff and clients believe it. At least ten percent of American employees feel they cannot be their authentic selves in the workplace, believing it could be detrimental to their job. However, 72% said they feel they are authentic at work.  

Forbes says, “when a person shares the values, priorities, and beliefs of the organization, their true self will be celebrated and appreciated by others.” 

In other words, if your business can demonstrate that its values and beliefs are in line with those of your ideal workers and customers, you’ll find that both will be able to be more authentic with you. Part of doing this means that managers and executives have a duty to authenticity, as well.  

How can leaders foster authenticity? 

Creating a workplace where staff can be authentic, and where customers trust in that authenticity, is going to be a top-down process. It starts with the leadership.  

As a business owner, manager, or leader in your workplace, there are specific ways to model authenticity that you can begin practicing if you don’t already: 

  • Don’t be afraid to be yourself – you don’t have to put on an act to get respect from your team. Instead, trust them and allow yourself to build those stronger connections.  
  • Model making mistakes and being resilient – you’re only human, and that’s okay. It’s okay to make errors and mistakes, and turn those into opportunities for positive growth. There’s nothing less believable than an infallible person, right? 
  • Start and encourage productive discussions with your team. Did you know, as much as 24% of employees don’t feel like their peers welcome different opinions?  
  • Create opportunities to get to know your team authentically, and for them to get to know each other the same way.  

In conclusion… 

In 2007, we said that authenticity mattered in the workplace. That is just as true in 2022. In order to have the happiest employees and customers alike, fostering authenticity in the workplace is a must.