Transparency: What It Means & Why It Matters

I see the term “transparency” thrown around a lot these days on social media when it comes to healthcare staffing companies and their travel nurses or travel healthcare professionals.  So let’s talk about it.  

The Merriam-Webster definition of transparency is “fine or sheer enough to see through; free from pretense or deceit; characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices”.  As I sit here typing this, I think about my glasses-they are “transparent”-I can see right through them and onto the computer screen.  But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing there.  There are all kinds of things involved with making these “transparent” lenses, right?  There’s my prescription, and my glare reduction, and scratch resistant coatings.  Things that are there and at the end of the day they affect me for the better, but I couldn’t tell you what they all are or what goes into putting it all together.  

So that got me thinking a little deeper.  We’ve been traveling a ton for work and we love traveling Southwest Airlines.  They have this great “Transfarency” program that they put front and center with all of their marketing campaigns.  So I thought I’d check it out.  Turns out they even have a “Transfarency” website!  Who knew?!  

Their slogan on the site is “Low Fares, Nothing to Hide”.  Love it!  In the airline industry they have a reputation for exceptional customer experience and typically come out cheaper than the other guys on price.  I mean, look at them on social media-the other guys are dragging people off planes, but not Southwest, they are singing and dancing through their safety feature routines like they are straight off of the Beyonce tour bus!  

So on this site, they reiterate their “$0 checked bags; $0 change fees; $0 Live TV”.  Who could ask for anything more!  They even go so far as to call out the competition and the fees they charge.  They’ve got a section for “flying with the competition” where they jokingly give you tips and tricks for saving money with competitors-things like shipping your clothes to your destination vs checking a bag or wearing all of your clothes on the plane by layering them.  It’s funny and makes you love Southwest even more!  

But, you know what the site didn’t have?  What it didn’t outline for it’s customers?  They didn’t break down their fares.  They didn’t spell out how much they pay for fuel or how many gallons of gas it takes to fill a plane.  They didn’t tell us how much their airline attendants make or what they pay their pilots.  They didn’t talk about airport fees.  Oh and what about all those teams of people on the ground who are refilling the peanuts and pretzels and loading and unloading our bags.  Who does all that and how much do those people get paid.  

To be honest, of the $350 I just paid for a ticket, I have no idea what that money is going towards.  Or why the hell it’s $350 today and goes up $575 over the holidays for the same trip?  Does it matter?  

See here’s the thing, Southwest is transparent about their business practices.  And they are in the business of providing safe transportation from one location to the next.  And as a bonus, they are going to make sure that their customers have a good time and are well taken care of.  And at the end of the day, does anything else matter?  

Look, their prices aren’t always the cheapest.  I’ve found cheaper flights on other airlines even after I’ve factored in baggage fees.  But they’ll always be my first choice for traveling!  

Transparency isn’t about what a business profits.  It isn’t about the fees they pay to do business.  It isn’t about how much it costs to employ their internal staff or how many internal staff members they have.  It isn’t about ownership and who makes what or how much they make.  

Transparency is about the business being honest and up-front about what they can and can’t do for you as their customer.  Hop on American Airlines website-they lay out their checked bag fees, there isn’t anything on their about how “friendly” their staff is.  They tell you exactly what it’s going to take to get you from point A to point B.  Albeit, some of the information is in super fine print that you have to struggle to look for, but it’s all there.  

So why does any of this matter?  The conversations about transparency in our industry, in my opinion, shouldn’t be about the bill rates.  They should be about how an agency conducts itself.  It should be about how a team of recruiters within an organization perform a service to it’s traveling professionals. If an agency wants to share those things, fine, good for them.  But just because an agency doesn’t, does not mean that they are being dishonest or shady.  

When all is said and done, good people look to do business with other good people.  And THAT should be the focus.  

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