Why Business Transparency is Key for Employee Engagement

Across all industries, transparency has never been more important to a successful business model, regardless of company size. When it comes to employee engagement, this particular business practice has been proven to be essential, at a global scale.

In a recent poll of companies declared as best places to work, among the top employee engagement drivers were:

  • I trust the leaders of this organization to set the right course.
  • I believe this organization will be successful in the future.
  • I trust the senior leadership team to lead the company to future success.

Quantum Workplace 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report

Trust in management and in the future of the company is a key component of employee engagement. Employees want to know what drives the company they are working for, what its long term goals are and how they will be involved in achieving these objectives. Communication and transparency across all levels of management are what foster this trust and determine the degree of discretionary effort that comes with a high level of engagement.

SHRM’s 2015 Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey also identified “Management’s communication of organization’s goals and strategies” as a key factor, with a 52% importance in the overall employee engagement strategy of a company, while “Trust between employees and senior management” registered 64% in importance.

In all honesty, don’t let your team wonder “Why is it we’re doing this?” or wake up to a new policy about fingerprint timesheets being instituted over night. Let them know you respect and value them by being clear on where the company is going, how it’s performing and what you’re planning next.

The Importance of Trust-Building Through Transparency

Trust is the bedrock upon which the edifice of a successful organization is built. In the realm of business transparency, trust-building is not just a byproduct but a fundamental goal. When leaders share both triumphs and trials openly, they lay down a foundation of trust that reciprocates from employees. This mutual trust catalyzes a culture where challenges are faced collectively, and successes are celebrated together. By embedding authentic communication into the fabric of the organization, leaders can ensure that their transparency efforts are not seen as mere formalities but as genuine attempts to involve everyone in the journey of the company.

How do you foster business transparency?

A good first step would be to denounce old practices of reshaping information as it’s being passed along the hierarchy and keeping all strategic decisions under lock. Here are some other ideas:

Communicate any changes in company vision and values

Assuming you’ve stated and explained them to begin with, as well as incorporated them into the way you do business and relate to employees. Remind your teams what your end goal is, what they key principles that you base your decisions on are and how they can be a part of bringing the company closer to this vision.

Aligning with the Core Purpose

Understanding and aligning with the core purpose of an organization can transform an employee’s relationship with their work. When the veil over the company’s long-term goals and strategies is lifted, employees find a greater sense of belonging and motivation. This alignment is achieved through transparent communication that not only informs but also involves employees in the narrative of the company. By making the company’s core purpose a beacon for all actions and decisions, leaders can foster a deeply engaged workforce that sees beyond the day-to-day tasks to the larger mission at hand.

Involve employees in decision making

If you want employees to see a long-term future with your company or deliver their best performance every day, make them a part of shaping this future. Bringing employees on board when making decisions about the company’s future helps strengthen your relationship with each one of them. Let your employees voice their opinions; it will gain you that trust we talked about and instill a sense of responsibility in your workforce.

Everyone has something to contribute, and will if the environment is right.

Peter Grazier, Teambuildersplus.com

Fostering a Feedback-Oriented Culture

In a landscape where change is the only constant, fostering a feedback-oriented culture is crucial. Transparent organizations thrive on the exchange of feedback, where every voice is valued, and every opinion is considered. This culture not only supports personal and professional growth but also strengthens the bonds between employees and the organization. By encouraging a two-way dialogue, companies can uncover insights that drive innovation, improve processes, and enhance employee satisfaction. This feedback loop, rooted in transparency, ensures that the organization remains adaptive and responsive to both internal and external shifts.

Make financial data available

While this may be seen as a radical approach to company transparency, it is in fact a smart business practice. Employees are much more committed and motivated to fulfill the company’s mission and goals when they have a clear overview of the performance expected and delivered. When you know how each contribution impacts the final outcome, you can take control of your own performance and feel motivated to go the extra mile.

Having access to company data, especially financial information, offers a sense of fairness and openness. Everyone is benchmarked against known numbers and people can gain a stronger sense of autonomy, leading to higher engagement.

Creating a Collaborative Work Environment

A collaborative work environment is the lifeblood of innovation and engagement. Transparency acts as the catalyst that transforms traditional workspaces into vibrant ecosystems where ideas flow freely and collaboration is the norm. By breaking down silos and ensuring that information is accessible to all, companies can create a culture where teamwork is celebrated, and collective success is the goal. This environment not only accelerates problem-solving and creativity but also reinforces the sense of unity and purpose among employees.

Business transparency good case practices

Several companies have attracted media attention in the past year or so, with business transparency practices that contributed significantly to employee engagement levels across their organizations.

Social media company Buffer, for example, made all employee salaries public information last year as well as the formula used to calculate these paychecks, in a radical approach to company transparency. Company management proved that they aren’t holding anything back and that they respect each employee’s right to company information, including salary calculations. Buffer also gave Jawbone UP wristbands to employees, to help them log their physical activity and sleep patterns, as well as personal accomplishments like meditation and exercise, proving that every individual matters, that they are valued and that their wellbeing is paramount to their performance as employees.

Another example is mobile payment company Square, who decided to share everything with its 600+ employees. Notes on almost all meetings were made available for employees, including large, 250-page reports emailed from executive board meetings.

LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner got the highest rating available on Glassdoor, for running an organization built on transparency. He would take the time to hold bi weekly company-wide meetings to listen to suggestions from employees, proving that everyone’s opinion matters.

Robert Craven, CEO of MegaFood also started something called the Transparency Project, an online web series that provides a behind-the-scenes soup-to-nuts look at how MegaFood operates. His goal was to prove that no piece of information is off limits and that he is determined to engage and inform anyone who’s interested in seeing how MegaFood works.

4 Transparency principles you can implement now

In an article I recently came across, Chuck Cohn, Chief Executive Officer of Varsity Tutors, shares the model of transparency that his company uses to keep employees informed and involved. I think these four principles can be applied in any company, regardless of its size or its industry.

  1. Make it clear that transparency applies to everyone. From the CEO down, transparency is a two-way communication street. When you implement it throughout the entire company, it becomes more about teamwork than about a focus on any one individual.

  2. When you point out areas for improvement, include suggestions. People quickly tire of “this stinks” conversations. Instead, challenge your team to think creatively about ways to change course. Everyone likes to feel challenged and included in the problem solving.

  3. Make transparency about the company’s goals a priority. Communicate that the more everyone knows, the better you can work as a team. Line up goals with your vision of the company, and let everyone see it. Your team may be deep in details, but because of transparency, you can help point to the bigger picture. This will give fresh life to a project that may have been lagging.

  4. As the business owner, make yourself available. Your employees will feel safer being open and transparent with you.

Increased transparency may imply a change of habits

The world is still divided between email and the new social habits. In the last half of century email has gone from a specialized way of communication, to being all-popular, and now barely tolerated in the rush for Inbox 0. However, it’s still a reliable ally for most workplaces and it can be a powerful channel for employee engagement. Its competitors, on the other hand, are much more appealing to younger generations and email detractors – social apps, discussion channels and chats are much more engaging and flexible, and, let’s face it, fun to use.

Increasing the degree of transparency in your company will probably require a change in your communication paradigm, as you explore other communication channels and tools to reach and engage people more effectively.

Regardless of the technology you opt for, the important things is that you deliver relevant information. If email is your choice, it’s certainly better than no communication at all. That being said, more engaging bidirectional methods may work better especially with the new age workforce, as they can be tailored not only to send a message, but also measure the impact. And no, we are not thinking about “likes” here. A custom communication tool can measure the impact through different, more enhanced analytic processes, and may provide a far better understanding on how each message is perceived.  

How does your company practice transparency and what other advice would you give business owners?

If you’re interested in finding more ways to promote business transparency and improve employee engagement in your company, check out our latest eBook and let us know what you think.

Image via StockSnap.io under C.C.0 license