One of the reasons why a positive organisational culture is so difficult to achieve is that it requires complete and total honesty. And not all leaders are ready to make themselves vulnerable. Yet, the simple fact is, businesses that encourage transparency often see higher levels of employee engagement, more efficient problem-solving, and better-aligned values.
But if it’s such a great way to boost business results, why hasn’t transparent communication become the norm?
Well, just like any aspect of positive company culture, transparency necessitates core changes. And some of these may seem counterintuitive to highly driven individuals. Moreover, it can take time to develop, uncovering unpleasant truths in the process.
Nonetheless, the fact that it’s not easy to establish doesn’t make honest conversation with your team any less beneficial. On the contrary, it may be the missing link you need to get ahead of your competitors. Or attract the talent you need to stand out.
So how exactly do you encourage transparency in the workplace? If you’re ready to take your in-company communication to the next level, here are the best ways to do it.
Start with an honest recruiting process
Building a healthy workplace environment starts with the very first point of contact you have with your potential employees. So, if transparency is what you expect, it should also be what you give.
When posting a job description, be specific about what skills and characteristics you’re looking for in a candidate. Provide correct and detailed information regarding qualifications, duties, and pay. While it takes longer to prepare, this type of ad is likely to attract more suitable candidates. It also sends a clear message as to what kind of organisation you’re running.
Of course, the ad and interview aren’t the only instances where you want to showcase your values. Make sure that the entire on-boarding process highlights the type of connection you’re trying to encourage in your company. And, of course, don’t forget that you need to lead by example.
The result of this type of recruitment process isn’t only going to encourage transparency in the workplace. It will lead to finding team members who are a good fit for the environment. By hiring the right people, you ensure that their hopes aren’t let down by a discrepancy between what they thought they would get and what they received.
Be clear about expectations and goals
Another way to improve communication within a company is to extend the idea of transparency to the way tasks are being assigned and achievements valued. There is often an inconsistency between what’s being said and what’s expected. So, inefficient information delivery leads to confusion (and dissatisfaction) on multiple levels.
First and foremost, managers should always try to be transparent about their requests when assigning tasks. Avoid giving incomplete instructions, voice all expectations, and don’t forget to state any specific directions. Remember that an underachieving employee isn’t necessarily incompetent or lazy. Poor outcomes could very well be a sign of the communication process in the company still needing some polishing.
Secondly, providing a complete picture may further lead to improved results. It’s good for employees to have an understanding of the “why” behind an item on their to-do list. By looking at the entire picture, they can not only do their part of the job better but may be able to come up with solutions that will benefit everyone else within the company.
According to Gallup, only 26% of employees feel that feedback is helping them do better work. But if criticism or praise can’t help teams improve, what can?
It turns out that the area in which feedback fails isn’t pointing out the positive or negative aspects of someone’s work. Instead, it’s that managers and team members engage in ineffective communication. More often than not, their focus is on speaking rather than listening and engaging in conversation.
So, when trying to encourage transparency within a team, it’s good to go back to its core pillars: honesty and trust. Nurturing constructive communication that relies on listening, consideration, and empathy can help build stronger bonds within companies. And the result of these bonds, where the goal is to work together towards common goals, is that uncomfortable subjects become less hard to tackle.
In an environment that values, encourages, and expertly utilises constructive feedback, employees can feel safe enough to reach out for help. Even more, leaders don’t just play the roles of managers, but are, instead, mentors whose goal is to facilitate growth.
Protect your people, but in the right way
Now, while transparency does make for a significant aspect of building a positive work environment, we should not disregard its importance during difficult times.
One core mistake that leaders tend to make is that they assume it’s their responsibility to protect their employees or associates. And they continue to do so under circumstances that are entirely out of their control. Instead of being straight and honest, they may choose to present optimistic projections or sugarcoat data.
But what these instances result in usually isn’t a happy ending. When the truth comes out, those who have been “deceived” feel a strong sense of disillusionment. They start to question the company’s values and their sense of belonging in a place that does not uphold the same ideals they thought it did.
Of course, this does not mean that a healthy culture doesn’t include responsibility for your team. By all means, do what you need to do so that your workforce is well cared for. Invest in your workers’ wellbeing. Emphasise the importance of rest for quality work. Encourage employees to manage stress, and nurture wholesome interpersonal relations in the office.
According to a 2014 Deloitte survey, only 87.7% of Americans feel passionate about their jobs. For business owners, this doesn’t just mean decreased productivity. In practice, disengagement leads to lack of motivation, low levels of job satisfaction, and, ultimately, high turnover rates.
But it turns out that this can be a relatively easy thing to fix by supporting autonomy.
Try to look for ways to empower your workforce. Give them control over their work hours. Offer them the possibility of telecommuting. Encourage them to choose their projects and support them in turning their ideas into reality.
As a leader, you need to know that ownership doesn’t just inject a sense of pride in the workplace. It’s also a way to encourage transparency, as it sends the message that you not only trust but, even more, believe in your employees.
Build genuine connections
Finally, it’s not a bad idea to consider a few technical details that might impact company culture.
Most career and leadership coaches emphasise that the lack of face-to-face communication could lead to a decrease in mutual trust among teams. Even more, it could be one of the reasons why so many remote workers feel lonely and disconnected from their jobs. Fortunately, however, numerous software and hardware solutions allow for video calls, helping bridge the gaps left by written communication.
When aiming for transparency within the workplace, managers should keep this information in mind. By having a clear understanding of how communication means influence relations, and making use of those tools that build strong relationships, leaders can actively work on acquiring healthier practices within teams.
One thing to do would be to prioritise in-person meetings, whether in an office or in a casual setting. Alternatively, when that’s not possible, use video calls. They encourage in-depth understanding of speech nuances by enabling both speakers to receive visual feedback.
Of course, following in-person meetings up with written summaries will help you combine the best of both worlds. On the one hand, it encourages the development of personal bonds. On the other, it prevents misunderstandings by providing written proof of what had been discussed.
Leadership decisions of the past decades have made room for several poor practices regarding company culture. But fortunately, scientific research is finally showing the importance of a healthy approach to work life.
Today, it’s clear that by taking good care of their employees, business owners aren’t just creating a harmonious environment – they’re also creating space for professional development.
So, when working to establish a healthy company culture, managers should aim to encourage transparency as one of their core values. In the end, this free flow of information doesn’t just result in effective communication. What’s more, it builds a basis for innovation, efficient problem-solving, and passion-driven growth.
About the Author
Natasha is a lady of a keyboard, always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs, and share knowledge about business growth and management. These days she is all about helping startups to upscale smoothly.