How to install a Transparent Culture in the workplace
The success of an organisation is directly related to the degree of alignment that exists between its culture and its talent. By definition, a transparent culture is a work institution where employees meticulously communicate to exchange ideas and thoughts; eventually building trust and pride. It is about involving everyone in the business in making decisions and accepting responsibility for outcomes.
Cultivating a transparent culture isn’t about knowing every bantam detail about Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is about making sure that every individual is equipped with the information they need to accomplish their duties effectually. Suppressing or skilfully shaping information is no longer a feasible option for a new era of well-versed individuals.
There is no such maxim as too much transparency, but then again, every organisation needs to draw a line on what works best within its defined parameters. Business leaders increasingly find it hard to balance transparency with the numerous things that ought to remain private. Keeping sensitive data such as classified documents, intellectual property files, performance reviews, and salaries cosseted ensures that there is coherence between what should and what shouldn’t be in the light.
Why is Transparency Important?
Transparency in an organisation infers conspicuousness into the functions of the business. It involves the capacity of the receiver to have full and unlimited access to the information they need, not just what the company is keen to provide. It exemplifies honesty and open communication indicating what the company is prepared to share willingly and enthusiastically.
But as much as every leader seems to agree, transparency is still an elusive impalpable element of firsthand corporate culture. And it’s not all make-believe sentiments. Studies reveal that one-third of employees all around the globe feel that their managers are not fully frank and straightforward with them. Opinions like these are the primary reasons behind low productivity levels and estrangement among staff.
From an in-house perspective, transparency is supposed to inaugurate a sense of inclusiveness and an atmosphere of open discourse where people at all levels of the company can relate, share ideas, air criticisms, and labour towards achieving a mutual objective. Companies that are upfront about transparency see it as an internal forte and not an external exposé obligation.
You have to taste a culture to understand it.
— Deborah Cater
Actions that inculcate Transparency
Hire the Right Team of Employees
A transparent culture starts with the right people! For a company to be transparent, everyone involved needs to be transparent. Do your employees demonstrate transparency? Do they have any history of transgression? Are they able to uphold the integrity of the company? Enterprises that embrace transparency as a critical criterion in searching for and hiring employees find it easier to attract and retain the right team.
Structuring the talent pipeline to conform to the company’s values is extremely vital in attracting and retaining the right employees. Communicate the company’s core values early on in the interview process to ensure that they resonate with candidates. The right candidates will be eager to work in a setting where they are able to identify with the company’s mission and philosophy, not just their specific roles and responsibilities.
Ensure Free Flow of Communication
A flawless and definite communication process cultivates a resilient culture of transparency in the workplace. It drives the organisation, defines its actions, and develops a common ground for everyone involved. Communication should never be one-sided. It should be a proficiently embellished unit, allowing for horizontal, vertical, and oblique interaction to take place meritoriously.
Communication should be comparable to an ooze effect. Leaders communicate with those under them, who in turn communicate with those beneath them, and so forth. Unless there is a distinct way of passing information, the company will be deprived of expedient data. It is important to enlighten workers of everything they need to be acquainted with, succinctly, and often. When they are informed, they understand the goals of the business and feel empowered to act independently in the direction of the company’s mission.
Results should be shared the same way policies are shared across the organisation. Let the employees know about the outcome of their efforts. Let them identify with periods of successful accomplishments as well as periods of financial struggle. This doesn’t necessarily mean airing dirty linen in front of them. Filter what needs to be filtered but do not hold onto information that might work to the advantage of the company when given to prime contributors of production.
Many leaders collect information from their staff by issuing questionnaires, but workers seldom get informed about the results. Influential leaders who freely speak about the state of the company equip themselves with the greatest asset-trust. Rather than merely lobbying feedback, they develop constructive conversations about ways to improve. Employees gain a sense of empowerment and to some extent authority to anchor their actions in a dynamic direction when they are in the loop of what is going on.
Define Individual Responsibilities and Job Functions
Most businesses spend a great deal of time trying to figure out who is accountable for one thing or the other. Rather than wasting valuable time trying to comprehend duties, roles or responsibilities, inform each employee of their exact set of tasks. There will be less hassle and confusion in the workplace when everyone is cognisant about what needs to be done, who needs to be approached, and so on.
Be Personally Transparent
Personal transparency is the inception of any reminiscent relationship. Companies must be open and transparent, or they will be fabricated upon something other than what they seem to be. Employee cooperation will go acrid as irregularities appear between reality and frustrated expectations.
To be personally transparent, it is important to incorporate social media- LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Share your personal beliefs, notions, likes, and dislikes. Leaders should understand that transparency must stem from the top and cascade down to every single employee in the organisation. They need to ensure that transparency transfuses into every level of the company to so that both external and internal parties get access to the information they require without withdrawal or suppression of important details.
Most employers expect their employees to be honest, sincere, guileless, but unless they act in the same manner, transparency won’t be truly achieved. Employers should be the torchbearers of the organisation. They need to light up the way so that others can follow. A transparent leader admits shortcomings and works with the employees to correct faults. Managers who are open and candid from the beginning create a relationship with staff and customers that is both enduring and exceptionally rewarding for all parties
As for Employees…
Employees might find it easy to nurture a working relationship with their fellow workers, but when it comes to giving truthful feedback to the manager, challenges may arise. For instance, a manager might propose an idea that the employees do not agree on. Instead of shushing the whole situation down, it might be more constructive to share opinions in a positive manner. Transparency can only be achieved when all parties in an organisation are willing to share information rather than quietly criticising each other behind the curtains.
Be Internally and Externally Transparent
External transparency is the degree of openness that exists between a company, its customers, shareholders, partners and the general public. Internal transparency is the level of openness that exists between a company and its employees.
It might seem that internal transparency would be relatively stress-free, after all employees have full access to an expanse of information than outsiders do. Yet there have been tragic cases where the subordinate staff was totally taken aback when they learned that the superficially encyclopedic financial state of the company was more than an illusion. And there are cases when top level executives claim that they were unaware of what was truly happening in the organisation. How then could this be possible? Is it that the latter were naïve while the former were negligent?
To comprehend this detachment, it is important to appreciate the difference between external and internal communication. External communication is governed by a set of regulatory rules while internal communication relies on internal systems aimed primarily at handling day to day business activities. Prosperous companies report because they are bound by law and because they need to elevate capital gains. But the CEOs run the companies based on internal systems that track indicators of performance. They attach the same importance to irrepressible widget negation rates (that the public is unaware of) and company’s price to earnings ratio (that the public is aware of).
They focus too much on external measures of sustainability rather than on evocative internal indicators. As a matter of fact, top officials may only see sustainability through company’s annual external reports and success stories. Failures seem erroneous in their vocabularies since they never reach their offices. Any botches in the company are dealt with by lower level managers.
In particular, sustainability professionals are desperately engrossed in benchmarking themselves against lagging performance indicators since this is what is itemised in external reports. External reporting has become so important that internal transparency has been totally overlooked.
Employees consider transparency as a high premium in their daily interactions with different levels of the management. No employee wants to be associated with a company that is not clear about its standpoint or its long-term strategies. This just goes to indicate how much they appreciate involvement and inclusion. On the other hand, companies will achieve more success if they view customers, shareholders and partners as an extension of their internal team.
Of course, all companies view themselves as being transparent, but the primary challenge lies in centreing on the concerns that matter to them rather than being exclusively riveted on what other companies are reporting. To overcome this problem, prosperous companies have developed valuable tools that can be reviewed by every employee to gain a sense of what is going on in the organisation.
Your work is to discover your world, and then with all your heart, give yourself to it.
Transparency and accountability can be conjointly fortifying. Together, they enable employees to have a say about issues that matter to them, have an opportunity to influence decision making and hold their leaders accountable.
Lack of transparency and accountability in many organisations presents a significant hazard to the adeptness of capital markets, financial stability, and long-term sustainability. If companies desire to build a sustainable environment, they must be ready to take responsibility for alterations that will be necessary to manage resources more efficiently.
Accountability means ensuring that leaders are responsible for their actions and that there is recompense when obligations and commitments are not fulfilled. Accountability can be practically categorised in terms of horizontal, vertical and diagonal metrics; with the condition that feat will result from a flawless blend of these approaches.
Horizontal accountability covers the formal authority that leaders possess. Its focus is on in-house authorisations and oversight practices. They can command explanation or levy punishments on employees.
Vertical accountability includes the influence that employees have in holding their leaders accountable. Employees can consolidate themselves into associations capable of petitioning their leaders, demanding clarifications and threatening trifling sanctions.
Diagonal accountability occupies a realm between vertical and horizontal dimensions. It refers to the manifestation of unswerving employee engagement with horizontal accountability forums when aggravating improved oversight from their frontrunners.
It is pragmatic to think of accountability as operational in four critical phases. The first phase is where certain canons are expected of a particular person. The investigation stage involves investigating whether the persons met the standards expected of them. The third stage is where the individuals defend their actions. Sanctions might be enacted on persons who do not justify their debacles.
With that said, accountability is still one of the greatest assets in an organisation, but when used incorrectly it can encourage a blame culture. No employee will want to own up to a fault that they think might have been caused by a fellow worker. Tensions and rigidities will arise, and the situation can turn from diplomatic to chaotic. It all comes down to transparency and clear job definitions. A distinct recognition of roles is essential, but this alone is not enough to restore concord in the workplace.
Responsible employees will not allow a single mistake to deter them from their peaceful coexistence; they will pick each other up and work as a unit to achieve a common goal-success. However, it should be noted that for triumph to prevail, a successful amalgam of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal accountability should be upheld. This can be compared to the foundation of a house. It all starts with a single stone which backs up another stone and another…until a self-sufficient structure is formed.
There is a common fallacy about transparency and trust. Far too often, companies see them as tools to be used when owning up to a fault or remedying a wrong. This attitude is restricted and is ineffective in developing trust in the workplace. Employees will be more lenient if a company has a history of being frank and outspoken with all interactions including the negative ones.
Trust goes as far as protecting the reputation of the company in case there is a scandal of corruption. It is worth noting that a single act of crime can have adverse effects on an entire crop. But if a company is built on trust, the whole company does not have to worry about being tainted in bad light.
Whether it is in dealing with employees or customers, businesses need to maintain a genuine level of trust, not just as an appendix or a marketing tactic.
Deficiency of trust, on the other hand, could lead to undesirable effects in the workplace. An employee’s reaction to disloyalty is virtually always instinctively negative. The higher the number of treacheries, the poorer the level of trust they bestow on the company. It is imperative to note that employees, just like any other person, have expectations. And when their expectations are thwarted, they tend to feel betrayed.
Betrayal is at a level beyond distrust. Employees develop betrayal when they are continually disappointed. If a company is built on trust and explanations are given to them, they let go of their expectations and new ones are created. However, if they really had faith in something that was not fulfilled, they do not create a buffering reserve. Their rejoinders are much more emotive. It requires loads of apologies to undo a betrayal.
Communication is of utmost significance when achieving transparency in an organisation, not because it is mandatory to tell everything, but because it is obligatory to communicate everything required by employees with particular emphasis on company’s achievements and slip-ups. It is worth remembering that communication does not generate internal credibility; it expedites it. Now more than ever, people want to identify with a socially authentic corporation.
Align Internal and External Communication
Companies want to gain external reliability, but this is not probable without first obtaining internal reliability. To achieve internal and external reliability, it is imperative to be in coherence with what is said and done inside and what is revealed outside. Employees will be more enthusiastic about defending the reputation of their company if organisational values strike a balance with their personal values. It is, therefore, essential to rally communication, but not to overdo it, since saturation may turn out to be counterproductive.
Respond to Feedback
Feedback is the cheapest, most effective, yet most underutilised management gizmo. It is a powerful tool that serves as a guide to help leaders know how they and their employees assimilate performance. Employees love to feel recognised and involved with the organisation.
Feedback can come in a variety of forms: managerial feedback, customer feedback or even measurement systems. Whichever way it comes, there are certain rudiments that are needed to warrant its usefulness — timeliness, relevance and applicability.
It goes without saying, therefore, that relevant, applicable and timely feedback is a crucial component of a successful performance management initiative. If useful feedback is given to employees about their progress towards goal realisation, their performance will progress substantially. Employees deserve to know how they are progressing; they need to distinguish between what’s working, and what’s not.
Core Values that vest Transparency
- Transparency should be seen as an internal forte and not an external exposé obligation.
Never compromise your culture because you are your culture.