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Transparency in the Workplace
Unlock your organization's potential through the power of transparency in the workplace! Discover expert insights and practical tips for fostering a culture of trust, accountability and innovation in this 5 minute read.

What Is Transparency in the Workplace?

Transparency in the workplace is openness and honesty in sharing information and making decisions. Differing from honesty, which could be defined as providing requested information accurately, transparency is having relevant information available even when it is not requested directly. In a transparent workplace, employees have access to information about the company's goals, financial performance and decision-making processes (and the reasoning behind certain decisions). This fosters trust, accountability and a sense of ownership among employees. When employees have access to the information they need to do their jobs and feel valued enough to be included in important decisions, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated at work. True transparency isn’t a one-way road. In a transparent work culture, communication and friendships are highly encouraged between employees. This means the employer has the responsibility to ensure employees can speak up without fear of retaliation or negative consequences. They can ask questions and express their opinions freely, knowing that their input is valued and heard. Additionally, clear and open communication includes upper management participation even across departments.

The Benefits of a Transparent Workplace

Overall, transparency in the workplace can lead to a more collaborative, productive and positive work environment, which benefits both the employees and the business as a whole. Transparency in the workplace:
  • Builds trust. When employees feel they are receiving honest and open communication, they are more likely to trust their employer and colleagues.
  • Improves decision-making. When employees have access to information that is relevant to their work, they can make better-informed decisions. When employees are able to share non-traditional information with their employer, their employer is able to make decisions with their employee’s needs in mind.
  • Increases engagement. When employees feel that they are part of the decision-making process and that their feedback is valued, they are more likely to be invested, engaged and motivated at work.
  • Prevents misunderstandings. When communication is open and clear, misunderstandings and conflicts can be avoided. This improves workplace relationships and creates a more positive, synchronous work environment.
  • Fosters innovation. When employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and suggestions, it can lead to new and innovative solutions. This increases a company’s ability to stay competitive and adapt to changes in the market more quickly.

How to Create Transparency in Your Organization

Creating a transparent workplace isn’t a small order, as it is the start of an organization-wide paradigm shift. Understand there will be bumps, and celebrate the bumps as progress. Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it can’t be simple. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to grow a transparent work culture from the ground up.

Step 1: Establish (or Revamp Existing) Policies and Guidelines

Start with the bones. Build a foundation for the cultural shift to fall back on when you encounter obstacles. If your organization claims to value honesty, that belief needs to be reinforced in writing. Create the framework for transparency by establishing clear policies and guidelines to reflect the organization’s priority of transparency. A perfect place to start would be updating or writing policies surrounding communication and decision-making. This might include guidelines for how information should be shared with employees, how feedback should be solicited and responded to, and how to handle conflicts or issues that arise.

Step 2: Get Leadership and Management on Board

According to the Quantum Workplace 2022 Organizational Culture Research Report, culture starts at the top and flows down. When asked “Whose job is [creating company culture]?” 83% of respondents said “leaders” with the second response being “managers.” Getting leaders and management on board with building transparency in the workplace is vital. Here’s what needs to be communicated to organizational leaders:
  1. The data. Communicate what the studies show that sparked these changes.
  2. The benefits. Highlight the benefits transparency can bring, such as increased engagement, better decision-making and improved business performance.
  3. The philosophy. This is where transparency truly begins, by having the leaders in the organization have a say and involvement in defining the organization’s most important values. In the study cited above, employees say the top three areas they experience company culture are the mission or values statement, employee recognition or celebrations and the approach to employee performance. This would be a time to review these and adjust them to reflect the defined organizational values.
  4. The expectations. Lay out clear expectations for how communication, policy changes, feedback and education should be executed upon and changes implemented.

Step 3: Provide Education, Tools and Resources

This might look like implementing regular mandatory training, establishing communication channels and providing collaboration tools. Training topics could include personality testing, communication, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, leadership training and so on. Communication channels might include things like email updates, open-floor meetings or inclusive online forums. Tools could include adding once-closed data to an easily accessible database, software platforms for sharinging information or gamification software to encourage employee interactions.

Step 4: Lead by Example, Have a Plan and Don’t Give Up

Model transparent behavior by being open and honest in your own communication. This can help establish a culture of transparency and encourage others to follow suit. Outline a plan on how to handle roadblocks and challenges that will come up. If you plan for such challenges, they will serve to mark your progress rather than stunt it. Keep in mind that it can take 3-5 years to create a long-lasting positive change to workplace culture, according to LinkedIn. “Leaders be warned: if you ignore workplace culture, it will turn toxic.” Attending to workplace culture on a regular basis should be a fundamental part of your risk management plan.

Best Practices for Fostering Transparency in the Workplace

Transparency in the workplace is critical for building trust, fostering collaboration and driving business success. However, creating a culture of transparency is not always easy and requires intentional effort and commitment from all levels of the organization. To help organizations foster transparency in the workplace, there are several best practices that can be followed. These include being proactive in sharing information, working from the top down to establish a culture of transparency, providing access to information and resources, and fostering a culture of trust and respect among employees. In addition, organizations must be honest about their efforts to implement transparency, even if it means admitting to mistakes along the way. By following these best practices, organizations can create a culture of transparency that fosters open communication, trust and accountability.

Be Proactive

Have all policies clearly posted and easily accessible. Establish a consistent training regiment on topics that will empower members of your organization to follow the core values and mission of your company. Prioritize creating opportunities for employees to speak up and contribute. Have readily accessible resources and tools that can be used for communication, collaboration, encouragement and relationship-building.

Work From the Top Down

Start working transparency through the culture starting at the top and working your way through all levels of the organization. Begin with:

Management to Management

The first groups to focus on are managers and management teams. It is important to encourage open dialogue and provide a platform for managers to share information and ideas with one another. This can be done through regular meetings and brainstorming sessions, as well as by creating a collaborative work environment. It really starts at the top. Explain the data behind the decision to foster transparency in the workplace, what that will look like for management, how it will benefit them and specific action steps to begin this organization-wide paradigm shift.

Management to Employees

To foster transparency from management to employees, it is important for leaders to communicate regularly and openly with employees about company performance, goals and expectations. They should be transparent about any changes that might impact employees, as well as decision-making processes and reasoning. Additionally, to encourage the employees to start being transparent, management needs to be attentive and responsive to employee concerns and complaints.

Employees to Management

When management is clear and open to employees, it fosters transparency between employees and management. It is important to provide employees with access to information that is relevant to their work. This includes financial reports, performance metrics and other relevant data. Additionally, management should actively seek feedback and suggestions from employees and be open to their ideas and concerns.

Employee to Employee

To encourage transparency between employees, it is important to establish a culture of trust and respect. This can be achieved by providing opportunities for employees to interact and collaborate, as well as by fostering a sense of community and teamwork. Some tools to consider are establishing an inclusive online community board and rolling out employee resource groups (ERGs or affinity groups). These are employee-led groups typically formed around shared characteristics, experiences or interests. These groups are voluntary and are typically composed of employees who share a common interest or background such as gender, hobbies, values and so on. For more information on ERGs, check out this SHRM resource.

Honesty Is Key

Sometimes honesty can mean being open about how implementing transparency in the workplace is uncharted territory for your organization, owning up to mistakes immediately and providing all relevant information, not just the information requested.
Topics
Kayla Farber

Kayla Farber

Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Accountability in the Workplace
Company Core Values
Company Mission
Company Personality
Company Purpose
Company Vision
Corporate Social Responsibility
Culture Add
Culture Audit
Culture Committee
Culture Fit
Culture Interview
Culture Strategy
Employee Loyalty
Mission, Vision and Values
Occupational Folklore
Open Door Policy
Organizational Commitment
People-First Culture
Sustainability in the Workplace
Team Building Activities
Team Culture
Toxic Work Environment
Workplace Culture
Workplace Diversity
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