Transparency is the new Black

A transparent workplace culture boosts retention and performance

Do your employees trust you? Do they feel engaged? Do they understand why decisions are being made? Do they know what part they’re playing in helping to achieve your organisational goals?

Research suggests the answer to at least some of these questions is: “No”. A US Gallup poll found that 71% of employees felt their managers didn’t spend enough time explaining goals, and 50% said their organisation was held back by a lack of transparency.


Why transparency matters?

In a transparent workplace culture your employees know what is happening and why. People feel involved in the bigger picture and more invested in your organisation’s success.

When leaders foster a culture of two-way communication and feedback, morale soars. Knowing that their voice will be heard and respected boosts employees’ feelings of self-worth and helps your organisation to hold on to talented individuals.

In a transparent workplace, employees do not just receive feedback about their own performance, they are also asked to give feedback on the company and its people and operational practices. This allows leaders to deal with mole hills before they become mountains. And it makes it far more likely that employees will share their ideas for improving business performance; as long as they are listened to and it’s not “lip service”.

This is why, as well as improving employee morale, transparency is also associated with higher performance.

A transparent culture also avoids miscommunication and misunderstandings. When everyone has access to information, it stops people jumping to incorrect conclusions. If you can’t see the whole picture, you’re likely to misinterpret what you’re seeing and hearing. Transparency minimises the risk of false information circulating via the rumour mill.

Are there some things you shouldn’t be transparent about?

Traditionally, organisations have shied away from talking about taboo topics, such as individual salaries or bonus payments. But now there’s a growing movement towards pay transparency too, with 51% of human resources professionals identifying this as a key trend shaping the workplace.

While many organisations are resisting this trend, pioneering workplaces that have introduced pay transparency report strong employee engagement and a culture of trust within the enterprise.

Another issue is how transparent to be in the face of uncertainty. Leaders hesitate to share certain information if they think it may cause unnecessary concern or panic. Or you may simply be unable to give people definitive answers, if your business is in the early stages of merger talks or contract negotiations.

In situations like this, it’s important to be honest and consistent in your approach across the organisation – and to get ahead of information leaks. It’s fine to tell the business that you don’t have all the answers: “We’re in discussions with a potential merger, but it’s early days yet and we’ll let everyone know what’s happening the second a decision has been made.”

If you’re caught out trying to hide negative information, you’ll lose all the trust you’ve worked so hard to create.

Transparency boosts talent retention

A 2010 Deloitte survey on trust in the workplace found that 46% of employees were seeking new employment due to a lack of transparent leadership communication. What impact would it have on your business if almost half your top team left?

Is it time to review the culture of transparency in your workplace?

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