How to promote transparency within your workplace culture

Written by Vishal Chhatralia on 15 February 2019 in Features
Features

As humans, it’s instinctive to like to know what is going on. Vishal Chhatralia talks transparency.

Reading time: 6 minutes.

This can apply in and out of the workplace, but within organisations in particular, having a sense of feeling informed will instill an air of confidence, trust and responsibility amongst employees.

According to a recent American Psychological Association Survey that spoke to more than 1,500 workers, it was found that 50% didn’t feel as if their employers shared the information they required to be successful within their jobs. More likely than not, that lack of trust can only lead to one thing - low employee satisfaction. 

However, it’s on the rise - with a recent study revealing that workplace transparency is up 7% from 2012 - but we’re far from seeing transparency being promoted within every business. In some cases, middle managers may be practicing transparency but, if senior leaders aren’t on board, it’s not being rolled out company wide. 

For employees to remain happy and satisfied at work, there’s three key things they require; respect, a sense of feeling valued and clear communication.

So the statistics are showing that we’re starting to work towards a culture of higher levels of transparency in the workplace, but what is being done? Are companies disclosing financial information with all members of staff? Are internal changes being communicated openly and honestly? 

Arguably, this level of transparency can be more straightforward within SMEs rather than larger corporations but transparency doesn’t have to be limited due to company size. 

Encourage transparency between management and employees

We all expect employees to be honest with their managers, right? Well, this should go both ways. Whilst it’s important that the lines between transparency and professionalism aren’t blurred, sharing insight into the next steps for the business and each employee’s role within that will be appreciated by staff.

For employees to remain happy and satisfied at work, there’s three key things they require; respect, a sense of feeling valued and clear communication.

If an employee is included in conversations about where the business is headed, the vision for the future of the business and how they’re playing a central and crucial role to meet this vision, they’re ultimately going to be inclined to perform better - they’ll be fully aware of what they’re striving for, after all.

 

Mutual trust between management and employees is the first step to improving performance and creating a positive working environment; staff that feel valued and important are likely to go above and beyond to support your goals as a business. By creating that two-way transparency, you’ll be demonstrating your faith in one another. 

As a manager, don’t be afraid to show vulnerability, such as sharing a story about a mistake you made as a new graduate - it’s what makes us human, and it creates credibility and trust. If your staff are able to view you as an equal rather than an aloof, senior figure who is far above them on the organisational hierarchy, you’ll be able to find that place of mutual trust.

The impact on productivity and performance 

Ask yourself, what is the overall goal of every business? Put simply, it’s to continually improve performance levels and to increase productivity whilst keeping costs down. 

A major contender in increasing productivity and, in turn, performance levels is through encouraging a nature of open communication company wide. Not only does this contribute towards building trust, higher engagement and forming positive workplace relationships, but you’ll also soon see an impact on collaboration between teams. 

Further, when leaders model and encourage transparency within their teams, goals will be met in lesser time than if there’s a culture of keeping thoughts and ideas to oneself with little sincerity. 

Transparent leadership creates an environment where staff members - no matter their level of seniority - are encouraged to share their ideas, progress and challenges. When that is the norm within a business, performance will peak; employees are continuously working together to overcome stumbling blocks, combining their skills and collaborating on projects with a shared goal to enhance the business.

Finding the balance

As a manager or business founder, your employees are likely your utmost priority; how they’re performing, whether they have the resources needed to do the best job possible and how their personal well-being is. It’s your natural instinct to protect your staff - but how could this impact how you promote transparency?



Finding the balance between being transparent and oversharing is something leaders need to prioritise; how do you decide what to share with the rest of the team and what not to? What do your team need to know in order for them to feel included and a central part of the business’ progression, and what knowledge could lead them into panic? 

Transparency isn’t linear. Leaders don’t choose to either share everything, or nothing at all.

As a leader, or a leadership team, there should be a protocol in place to decide three factors; what should be shared with employees in order to help create an inclusive atmosphere, what should be communicated with a lot of thought and rigour as it needs context for employees to digest and what does not need to be shared as it runs the risk of causing unnecessary concern or panic.

Sharing an overload of information, which genuinely isn’t necessary for employees to know in order for them to perform well in their roles in terms of direct or contextual information, may only cause confusion or waste their time - and this isn’t in the company or the individual’s best interest.

It’s up to you to decide, and stick to, what is shared - and this should be consistent across the entire company.

Leaders should put a lot of thought into when transparency is suitable. When a situation arises, ask yourself: is transparency appropriate in this circumstance and will it be helpful for employees to be informed of? Or could it be distracting or cause worry at this point in time in, communicated in this way?

As a leader in an organisation of any size, there can be the temptation to hide certain issues or information with the perspective that you're protecting your employees.

However, whilst it's important to find the appropriate balance between being transparent and sharing unnecessary information, creating a transparent culture between management and staff will provide the foundation for a strong business ethic.

 

About the author

Vishal Chhatralia is Senior Vice President of Digital at RS Components.

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