Real organization transparency

Companies everywhere talk a lot about how important their employees are and the contribution they make to overall success. But most companies don’t do this with the public openness and transparency demonstrated by CMS Cameron McKenna, an international law firm headquartered in London.

The Financial Times reports that CMS Cameron McKenna is believed to be the first law firm to publish a "human capital" report, something that the UK government wants many more employers to do. The 24-page document detailing a variety of people-related measurements and policies will be circulated initially among staff and clients, but is also available now on open download (PDF) from the firm’s website.

The FT quotes Dick Tyler, managing partner, saying that the report represents an attempt to move beyond the usual platitudes about people that abound in professional service industries. The aim here is to give concrete, statistical expression to the firm’s commitment to its staff. "The centrality of people is usually just asserted," he says. "But we wanted to demonstrate, through transparent reporting, that we spend as much time thinking about our people as we do about clients."

The report does make interesting reading. It includes the type of information that you wouldn’t expect to see publicly about any company in such detail. For instance, it has statistical information about how many days certain types of employees were away on sick leave. It includes detailed information about the firm’s recruitment objectives and employee benefits packages. There’s a detailed section on employee engagement and communication, with explanations on precisely how the firm ‘engages’ its employees.

Such frankness does present risks, though. If rival firms decide to produce human capital reports, the FT says, HR policies and statistics can be compared across the legal profession.

However, Mr Tyler says in the FT report that the risks are dwarfed by the advantages. "When we decided to do this, we were aware there were risks – as with financial performance measurement, you never know what the next set of numbers will reveal about you," he says. "But we took the view that the benefits of accountability and openness outweighed the downsides."

This could be the start of a trend.

Financial Times | Law firm offers a peek behind the veil (paid subscription required)