Transparency at Work: Why & How to Improve It

September 08, 2022
Meeting Audience

Transparency in the workplace has gained significant attention in recent years, and rightfully so. Many forward-thinking companies have become more and more concerned with improving transparency. But what exactly does that mean, and how can it be done?

Leaders and leadership within any company are pivotal in shaping company culture and the workplace environment. Leaders and decision-makers can thus implement many policies and routines to help improve their workplace culture by making it a more transparent and open place of business. There are several different factors to consider, however, as simply opening the lines of communication or allowing everything and anything to be discussed openly in the workplace won’t have the desired effects and may be more detrimental than beneficial.

So, step one is to ask ourselves what we mean by transparency

What is workplace transparency?

A transparent workplace promotes a two-way conversation between employees and management and openly and honestly discusses matters pertaining to business performance, goals, objectives, and more. Everyone may also provide feedback concerning decisions, performance, and business objectives. 

Companies with transparent workplaces nurture an environment free from fear, encourage employees to be open about their achievements and mistakes, and foster a safer, more positive environment. Those who do not often feature a strenuous relationship between employees and management or executives where information is withheld, decisions are not explained, and input is not wanted. 

While we note that open lines of communication are a vital way to improve transparency, we don’t mean that every single thing needs to be made available for public knowledge. You will still want confidentiality around employee career development and discussions between line managers and their team members for example. 

Why is transparency important at work? 

Improving the employee experience should be a consideration for any forward-thinking company. Those who understand the value of their work and see how their contributions benefit their team and department's goals and objectives are more likely to feel engaged. Employee engagement is one of the main factors that drive employee satisfaction, company and brand reputation, employee retention, and productivity.  

Another important aspect of this two-way dialogue is that employees will believe that their opinions matter and that their voices can carry weight in discussions. There are few things more discouraging than realizing that you are just another cog in a machine and that what you may have to say or contribute doesn’t matter or won’t be valued. 

An open and transparent working environment will treat everyone with respect and likewise bring parity to your organization when it comes to sharing information. No one will be left in the dark blindly or mindlessly jumping from day to day or task to task.

In short, transparency is not some cure-all for every problem a company’s HR or recruitment department may face, but it sure can help to build relations with its potential and current workforce. 

What are some examples of transparency in the workplace?

We have spoken a bit about what precisely workplace transparency is and it is about time we highlight some examples that you and your team can implement to help and improve transparency and openness in your own workplace. So here we have 8 easy-to-follow examples that anyone can do at a team, department, or organizational level. 

1. Make transparency part of company policy

The first, and arguably most important step that a leader can take to be transparent, is to make transparency part of the company policy. Taking this active step will speak volumes about you as a leader and show that you care about your employees. You will also add a level of accountability and help to hold everyone at management and executive level to a high standard. Transparency should be a company-wide effort, not just a rule for the most junior staff to follow. 

If you do not have the authority to implement transparency on a company-wide scale, you can take steps to do so within your team or department. Consider holding a workshop where you and your team can talk about what transparency is, why it is important and how you can take steps to implement it into daily office life. Once you have shown the demonstrated positive effects it can have, you can go and pitch the idea to other teams and departments.

2. Confront difficult situations

Leaders will regularly face difficult situations that they need to deal with. It’s up to the leader to decide on how they want to deal with these situations. Whether you need to confront gossip or rumors about the organization, open and strong lines of communication go a long way to defuse tensions and help to resolve the core problems. It will establish that you, as a leader, are not afraid to be open and truthful and will set a clear precedent that employees can come directly to you if they have any questions or worries.

Too often management and leadership will shy away from these issues, try to deal with them behind closed doors, or sweep them under the rug and pretend they never happened. This is the absolute antithesis of what should be done as you will deservedly harbor distrust and potentially resentment; dealing with these situations out in the open will both force you to deal with these tricky situations honestly and respectably, but also to be answerable for decisions. 

Create a Great Work Environment

Create a Great Work Environment

3. Hold an “ask me anything” session

Give your colleagues the chance to ask any questions to you by holding an “ask me anything” session. This activity will give people the opportunity to ask questions they wouldn’t normally have the chance to ask. If you are a leader in a larger organization this type of exercise can be particularly important as employees maybe have never had the chance to meet you, let alone ask you something.

Running these question and answer sessions can be tricky as oftentimes people may be fearful to speak up in front of a live meeting room full of people, or to have their Zoom box appear on screen for all to see. The best way to combat this is by using some form of anonymous Q&A tool that will encourage people to participate and let you answer the most poignant and relevant questions. 

4. Provide access to information

Within an organization, there is often a lot of information that is not available to employees. Normally, this information is not made public because it is sensitive or for some other reason. However, there might be information that can be shared with employees but isn’t. For you, as a leader to be transparent, you should consider if more information should be available to employees, and provide access to it.

Documenting company policies and making them readily available for everyone to access is one simple but effective way to improve communication and transparency. Many tools, such as Guru, can help create an online hub of content for all employees to access when they need it. 

This documentation can include company policies, how to use benefits, what specific benefits there are, company processes, and what the hiring process may be. This availability of info means that there is parity and no one should be left in the dark when it comes to key company details and policies. 

5. Always have a “why”

As a leader, you probably have a make numerous decisions daily. When you’re making decisions mindful and where appropriate, let people know why you have made certain decisions in certain ways. Not only gives your team an insight into your thinking but also helps to create an open environment for discussion. Your team will be more understanding of why you make certain decisions and will be able to question you if they do not agree with how something was approached. Remember, that you should always be open to challenges and feedback. Think of it as a chance to develop and learn and not an attack on you.

6. Involve people in decision making

What’s even better than explaining your decision, is to involve others in the decision-making process. You can do this in several different ways. Sometimes a quick poll on a subject can be enough to get input from others, in other cases you might want to hold a workshop or brainstorming session to make a collaborative decision. This approach to decision-making does not only make you more transparent as a leader but can also help you come to better decisions for your organization. 

The benefits here are two-fold; not only will team members feel more engaged and part of the decision-making process, but you are likely to gain different points of view and added insights by bringing in more opinions and people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds.

Team Reflection

Team Reflection


7. Share learnings, successes, and failures

Projects will have various results - some will be incredibly positive while others could end in unmitigated failure. These things happen in business and no company or team is immune from bad decisions - those that fail are the ones unwilling to discuss failures and learnings as they are willing to laud their achievements and successes. 

The last thing people need is to hear information through the grapevine and for the rumor and conjecture mill to get up and running, snowballing to the point of no return. Regardless of the outcome, sharing results shows that there is a place for success and failures and that no one need shy away from less than favorable results. This realistic approach to projects and goals will make this process less intimidating.  

8. Key weekly updates

These updates can take many forms; some prefer to create a weekly email in which they may break down recent hires, upcoming strategic sessions, recent board decisions, information on departures from the company, and much more. Some may prefer to write everything in a Slack or Teams message and share it with a group or chat. Some may even prefer to hold regular town hall or company-wide meetings where they open the floor to questions following their updates. 

Whichever your preferred method, it is a good idea to regularly share updates and keep everyone abreast of what is going on within the company and what projects and developments may be on the horizon. It can also be a good idea to get various members of management to be part of these updates. Consider asking the CEO, CFO, CTO, or heads of marketing and sales to take part - the main decision makers within the company. Everyone can thus ask questions to those who can best answer them. 

Don’t just aim to be more transparent

The best and most productive companies don’t just thrive because they have an open and transparent environment, they succeed because they have created a safe and positive ecosystem in which their employees can thrive and perform to their potential without the need to constantly look over their shoulder or deal with unnecessary external pressures. Transparency is a great first step to creating a healthier and more cohesive workplace but it is still only the first step.

To help leaders do this, Mentimeter makes presentations and meetings more of a two-sided discussion than ever before. 

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