Transparency may seem like a corporate buzzword, but it actually has real-world benefits. According to a recent poll, two thirds of consumers would spend more if it meant buying from a transparent company, and 94 percent of consumers rank transparency as the biggest factor in brand loyalty.
For many businesses, bringing transparency into the workplace requires a complete cultural shift. That doesn’t mean you need an expensive corporate initiative to make it happen. Here are a few simple ways for businesses to become more transparent, starting today.
1. Improve employee communication
While transparency isn’t built overnight, there are a few easy steps you can take to get started. And the most important one is to communicate openly with your employees. According to Anna Verasai, of HR Digest: “Every employee wants to be sure of where they stand with their employers, and have the confidence that their managers [have] their back. This can only be possible through regular check-ins [and] frequent individualized communications.”
This means step one of being transparent is checking in with your employees often. And communication also includes listening, not just talking! When they feel they can communicate openly and without consequence, transparency becomes a natural state in the workplace.
2. Give better feedback
Not only should you know what your employees are working on, and offer help to any employees who are struggling, but you should be actively and constructively sharing feedback. If you’re not sure how to give more constructive feedback, management expert, Jaime Potter, shares his tips:
- Focus on the task rather than the person. This makes feedback, and especially negative feedback, feel less personal.
- Feedback is not good for everyone. For people with anxiety or low self-esteem, bad feedback can be incredibly demoralizing, and can cause employees to disengage. When giving feedback, think of the persons themselves before diving in.
- Get to the heart of the matter. If you’re dealing with employees who have lost motivation, talk to them about the root of the cause, rather than giving them a negative performance review. Speak to them like a person, not a problem.
Don’t forget that being open to receiving feedback is as crucial for transparency as giving it. Encourage employees to share feedback as often as possible. You can even make it a weekly or monthly initiative as employees get used to this new culture.
3. Be honest about goals
Honesty goes a long way when it comes to transparency. In an article for Fast Company, Anisa Purbasari Horton spoke with top CEOs about the importance of transparency in their organization.
Box CEO, Aaron Levie, discussed the importance of being honest about goals and about what employees were offering to the company. Levie explains that Box uses a system of objectives and key results for all employees, Levie included: “This has created an open forum for people to constantly learn how different areas of the business are performing.”
In this way, transparency allows you to create an open dialogue among employees and between employees and managers. Purbasari Horton says: “By giving employees context on what’s happening and what the company is working toward, employees don’t feel like there is a sense of mystery in the company. When they’re clear about where the company is at, and where they still need to go, they’re less likely to be disillusioned and disengaged.”
4. Build a culture of empowerment
Empowering employees means trusting them to make decisions about your organization. This is a key part of building a transparent culture. Empowered employees are more independent and productive. If you’re not sure how to nurture this environment in your business, consider how the experts at Leadership Choice define a culture of empowerment:
- Delegating tasks that develop employees, not offload busy work
- Setting clear expectations
- Giving constructive feedback
- Acknowledging good work
The good news is, you can start doing all of these things right away, regardless of time or budget.
5. Share the hard stuff
For management experts Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy, being open and honest about what’s happening in your business is crucial for transparency. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Fosslien and Duffy explain:
“We tend to assume that leaders are marketing to us. If a leader never shows emotion, that conviction only becomes stronger. But when a leader reveals a more personal side to herself, and we sense that it is authentic, we feel a connection and are more likely to believe her words.”
However, the line between honesty and oversharing is very thin. Leaders who overshare often undermine their leadership efforts. Fosslien and Duffy say the secret is to be selectively vulnerable. In other words, to open up to your team while prioritizing boundaries: theirs as well as your own. Here are their guidelines for doing that:
- Fully understand your emotions before acting. Make sure you get to the root of the issue.
- Regulate your emotions. Don’t speak to your employees until you’re calm. Regulate any anger, sadness, or fear.
- Offer a plan for moving forward. Let your team know what you need from them moving forward. And ask what they need from you to succeed.
- Avoid oversharing. Before you speak to your team, ask yourself: how would I feel if my manager said this to me? If it would make you concerned, skip it.
Being transparent in the workplace
At its core, transparency is about maintaining an open dialogue so everyone is heard, able to share, and empowered to do their best work.
Bringing this transparency into your workplace won’t always be easy, but you may find the rewards are worth the work it takes to make it happen.
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