In this article, we show you how to encourage team transparency, and why you should be, in order to improve your team morale and overall company culture.
Organisational culture impacts the employees in very explicable terms. A research study found statistical evidence for corporate cultures to influence employee job satisfaction and job commitment levels.
When the cultural setting in a workplace is not perceived as favourable by employees, it may result in a high turnover and a decrease in performance.
Team transparency is a cultural virtue that takes several forms, and it builds trust among stakeholders and offers employees a sense of belonging. In the absence of transparency, employees may feel left out and, even worse, not worthy of mutual trust.
This demolishes the employee’s ability to engage at work. If employees constantly feel that they have no standing in the company’s decision-making process or are always kept in the dark, they lose motivation to be productive.
Engagement, motivation, and job satisfaction are intrinsically linked. Take one way, and the others start weakening over time. Transparency at the workplace helps employees engage with their work better. It develops the feeling of belonging as employees feel they’re actively involved in their functions when work processes are transparent.
Hence, significant thought must be given to removing opacity from processes to sustain productivity and long-term employee engagement. Overall, employees working in organisations that prioritise transparency in their culture are more likely to perform better and stay loyal to its ethos.
Beware: mishandled team transparency can backfire!
One may think at this point; now that we’re trying to make a transparent company culture, why not go all-in? Why not practice excellent transparency in managing work and making policies? It may sound counter-intuitive, but openness has downsides, too, if not implemented with foresight.
We want to discuss how overly transparent organisations may end up struggling with its pitfalls rather than enjoying its benefits.
Slower decision making
With transparency comes inclusivity in the decision-making processes of the business. Transparent workplaces might excessively include the employees in how policies are framed and shaped. While this is a positive step forward, it can slow down the life-cycle of the decision.
When too many people are involved, or let’s say more people than required to weigh on a decision, it takes more time to reach a conclusive answer. The process keeps dragging on, and ultimately the very purpose of opening up the decision gets defeated.
Jim Whitehurst, CEO at Red Hat, has adopted a highly inclusive approach to its strategy development process. He coincides with the fact that you delay the outcome by involving too many people in the process.
Concerns in pay transparency
Only a small percentage of companies currently exercise pay transparency, and this is because it often causes more trouble than benefits. Organisations that are open about employee pay and form no boundaries over discussing pays in company environments usually risk building a negative culture.
Until that time, a highly objective and detailed system that explains everyone’s pay according to their credentials was not implemented. Pay transparency is hard to maintain, and the company may have to open up sensitive financial data to employees, which might not get the corporate vote.
To exercise fair pay transparency, companies must understand the responsibility that comes along with it. Excessive transparency can give rise to feelings of jealousy, unaccountability, and resentment among employees.
Transparency could act as a dual-edged sword, and it can backfire if not guarded with wisdom and take its internal setting into account. The goal is to balance transparency with responsibility so that there is no information overload at the employee’s end and the intended benefits can be realised.
The key areas where team transparency is required
Transparency can be fruitfully exercised in several critical areas of an organisation. We recommend building transparent processes in the following areas to get the most out of it.
Transparency in routine business activities
Transparency and visibility in how work gets done is a definite ask. Employees must be empowered with the right insights when it comes to executing work, collaborating with others, so that they feel a part of the process.
Important business details, especially those that highlight the impact of an employee’s efforts must not be withheld from employees. Helping employees recognise how their work adds up to the company’s success is a great driver of motivation. It makes the employee believe that they’re a part of the business process more than just a cog in the wheel.
Organisations employ a number of tools for bringing about this level of transparency. Software development teams, for instance, work by the Scrum framework that clearly lays out work scope, what are others doing and when are work items scheduled in a highly transparent way. This makes employees a holistic part of the entire effort, boosting their commitment to their work.
Transparency in the ways employee efforts are recognised and rewarded
In a research survey, it was discovered that about 88% of employees place value in rewards for outstanding performance. But there can be instances when employees are not being fairly rewarded. Or the framework by which prizes are handed out is not as transparent as it needs to be.
This can lead to a lot of confusion and agony among employees as an unfair rewards system may invite the notion of favouritism. It calls for building transparency in how rewards are handed out. Companies need to create detailed processes for handing out tips and ensure that the employees live by these processes.
A lot of companies actually publish detailed guidelines on each reward, even performance appraisals using scorecards and documented reviews. The focus needs to be on propagating these formal practices to employees as openly as possible so that everyone is on the same page when rewards are given out, and no one is second-guessing hidden intentions.
Transparency in policies that affect employee well-being
Anything as trivial as getting a new water cooler at the workplace to bigger things such as a remote work policy in disease-affected areas – if it affects employee well-being, it should be made apparent to the workers why the decision is being made.
Many times, HR professionals introduce policies with the best of intentions and visible benefits to the employees but still get caught up in the debate. This primarily happens when the decision-making process is not transparent or completely ignores employee participation.
Employees will rightfully question decisions that directly affect their well-being, and to avoid negative outcomes, they should be made a part of the decision and not just the conclusion. By taking their feedback before policy decisions are made, organisations can boost employee confidence and solidify trust in company policies.
5 ways to encourage team transparency in the workplace
Make transparency a cultural virtue from a grassroots level
“Do you believe transparency is an important workplace virtue?” could make your onboarding interview questions. The key to developing a culture of transparency is starting out early when the employee is new to the organisation and enforcing it all along the way.
If the employee joins the organisation with clear expectations that transparency will be incentivised in the workplace, they’ll have a natural drive to be transparent. HROs and leadership must establish a culture of transparency early on in the interview process and encourage employees to be transparent right through the first day of work.
Beware that team transparency can be difficult to manage at times. Honest co-workers, difficult decisions, and sharing bad news with employees are all susceptible to varying opinions. But in the long run, these virtues help leaders build an unshakable company culture that is duly admired by employees also.
Julia Enthoven, CEO at Kapwing, openly talks about hiring in San Francisco and has been open about her personal struggles as well. She propagates that hiring the right employees and building a culture of transparency early on is quite important.
Build a transparent work process
As stated earlier, work processes can always use transparency to keep employees engaged with their duties. One of the most popular ways is by bringing a work management software that opens up information avenues for employees.
Such a software tool reduces opacity in daily workflows. Managers can freely display who is assigned with how much work, what all work items are progressing ahead, and overall team performance is going where—this added transparency on how the business process runs decreases internal doubts and brings down feelings of contempt.
Carolyn Kopprasch, Buffer‘s Special Projects Chief, believes in using communication tools for boosting employee engagement. She has strived to build a culture where everyone is kept in the loop of goals and progress being made.
When work duties are visible to all team members alike, everyone knows what’s going on. It’s important from both a productivity POV as well as accountability. Feelings of partiality, bias, unchecked mistakes – all of such things can be encountered with a transparent workflow genuinely open to everyone.
An increasing number of organisations employ project management tools for combating team transparency hurdles.
Open up to be transparent
Transparency can’t only exist in the fine print and conveyed in the onboarding presentation. It needs to be nurtured every day at work, which demands leaders and managers to be available for when it’s due.
Company cultures that lay stress on active communication on issues and like hearing out to the voice of employees more often are usually more transparent. This is because there are available channels for employees to opinion and address their concerns. In the absence of someone to answer employee questions, transparency can’t be imbued in the company culture.
Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box, believes in holding weekly meetings with about 150 of Box’s directors in an open line of communication. This is done to encourage open address of issues and let employee voices reach upper-management easily.
Therefore, opening up to employees via frequent meaningful discussions and being available for when an employee needs to speak their mind are crucial to building a breathable environment.
Make the “Why” apparent
Company policies come and go, and there are several decisions made daily. Not all of them need an explanation, but if these decisions actively concern employee interests, it’s always better to add a reason after those.
Explaining why a decision is being made and providing a transparent methodology always helps employees get to the bottom of the decision without fretting. Yes, not all decisions are considered favourable by the employee. Some policies may always be hated no matter the benefits, but if the core intentions or reasons are withheld, employees may never accept these, leading to friction.
Let employees in on the results
Employees might want to know how much profits the company made in the last quarter. Providing access to results helps employees feel valued and trusted.
This holds for all kinds of business results. May it be a project that couldn’t do so well or a rare company win. Exposing employees to how their work makes an impact always works in their favour. They recognise the importance of their everyday atomic efforts and how these efforts culminate into the big picture.
Managers and leaders can think of building systems for accessing company reports. The easier it is for employees to understand how the company operates, the better they’ll be involved in the process.
Transparency at the workplace is a virtue that gives employees some solid reasons to stay loyal to the workplace and gain satisfaction out of their work. It should, however, be balanced with the right mindset of responsibility. The article presents some practical ways by which organisations can make their business and culture more transparent for their employees.
About the Author
Nandini Sharma is the Assistant Marketing Manager at ProofHub – an all-in-one project management software and a top monday.com alternative loved by thousands of teams across the globe. Nandini brings close to a decade of experience in the field and has successfully executed a number of brand-building and marketing campaigns.