professional woman looking out an office window
Creating a culture of transparency encourages trust, inspires productivity and more PHOTO: Alex Ivashenko on unsplash

Valuing transparency in an organization is nothing new, but thanks to a radical restructuring of the work environment, the nature of the modern workplace has transformed. According to talent management company ClearCompany, companies where employees praise the high levels of trust and transparency in their workplace are most likely to have highest performers. 

An environment where people trust each other enables greater collaboration and innovation. This facilitates better working relationships, and encourages team efforts, an ‘in-it-together’ mentality, transparency and reciprocity. These combined efforts build accountability, competence and confidence among employees.

Most of the responsibility for fostering an environment of openness and transparency lies with management. Strong leadership is essential for sustained improvement, growth and transparency, as internal processes must be continuously aligned with team and organizational goals. These changes — and ultimately organizational transparency — then peter down through all employees on all layers of the organization, resulting in a process known as cascading change.

Align Your People With Your Vision and Goals

Leadership's job is to create a vision for companies, and align it with your people. No one will blindly follow a leader unless it is also in keeping with their own strategic and career goals. Leaders are charged with thinking strategically and bringing the company vision to life, as well as inspiring their people to join them on the journey. They must imagine all of the possibilities: take stock of what has happened, lead in the present and drive the desired future. They must drive this future leading by example and by being the leader they themselves would follow. 

Leadership should organize values so they can be effectively translated into common goals and objectives. Set these company goals and objectives as key performance indicators or KPIs which are open to all people within the company. This level of transparency ensures employees are kept appraised of the projects their co-workers are on as well as creates a level of accountability for each employee's project contributions.

Expect the Best, Give Credit When It’s Due

If you expect the best from your team, they will most likely deliver. Most of the job of ‘enabling employees’ falls on management. Transparency and clarity of purpose are crucial here as any project must start with clearly defined and expressed outcomes for all involved. Show belief that your team members can attain the goals set before them. 

Giving frequent recognition and feedback us key here, but don’t rely on standard feedback. Personalized feedback grounded in a trusting and transparent relationship is far more valuable than generic feedback — and remember, a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. 

Create a Safe Space

While expecting the most from your team, be sure you are setting realistic KPIs for your team members. Create an atmosphere where team members feel comfortable enough to share gaps in knowledge and ask for help if they cannot complete a task or don't understand how to complete a certain part of a task, even if it means missing a deadline. This atmosphere will only happen in organization's with high level of transparency, where employees feel comfortable enough, and crucially, are not punished or ostracized for not knowing something or for seeking help. This creates what is known as a "psychologically safe space," where team members feel accepted and respected.

Create a Free Flow of Information

Transparency within an organization ultimately means employees are appraised of developments within the organization and that they can access all information pertinent to them, so they can complete their duties to the best of their abilities. 

They say "knowledge is power" for a reason. Employees need access to all of the necessary tools and information in order to predict and prepare for potential changes in the market when they occur. Successful organizations have a very free flow of information when compared to traditional organizations, where the flow of information is restricted to senior management and managers. In comparison, high performing organizations tend to share and report everything that might impact an organization’s performance.

This transparency ensures all employees are aware of how the business is performing, as both financial and non-financial information is reported. This also increases accountability as individual KPIs are also linked to change as the environment and business priorities change. High levels of engagement, empowerment and organizational transparency foster increased psychological safety and help generate a safe environment to give input.