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The Role Of Transparency In Improving Employee Engagement

9 min read
Last Updated on
The Role Of Transparency In Improving Employee Engagement

Job openings are at an all-time high, and employees are quitting in record numbers. In a pandemic-influenced economy, it can be tough to keep engagement and productivity high. That's why transparency in the workplace is more important than ever.

Right now, employees feel uncertain about their job security and their future. They're scared about the impacts of the pandemic, business closures, and economic factors.

All of that anxiety makes it harder to stay focused at work. Especially if they don't have faith that their jobs are secure, your employees are likely to mentally disconnect.

If you notice that a lot of your team members are just doing the minimum to get by, it might be time to create a more transparent workplace.

Transparency can be a tough transition, but it's worth it. Let's talk about why.

What Is Transparency?

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A transparent company is one that shares knowledge and data freely. They operate in a way that makes it easy for their team to see what is happening, what is likely to happen, and why. Leadership is open and honest, and everyone has access to the same information, no matter their position.

For a leader, transparency requires openness, accountability, and a focus on great communication.

In this kind of work environment, everyone knows about the business' goals, their strategy to achieve them, and how well those strategies are going. Your direct reports know about the decisions you make and the reasons you made them.

There are different degrees of transparency.

Some companies, like Buffer, post the salary information for all of their team members publicly. They even post their gender pay gap (5.46%) and the formula they use to calculate pay rates so that anyone, whether they're employed at Buffer or not, can see.

Other companies develop transparency by involving their entire team in important decisions, sharing important financial metrics, and practicing openness and honesty.

Being transparent is more than just being honest.

It means actively communicating so that information circulates, creating systems that make it easy for people to find what they're looking for, and intentionally involving your team in decision-making.

These are ongoing habits, and they'll change the culture of your organization for the better.

How Transparency Boosts Engagement?

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A disengaged employee is just there for the paycheck. You'll have a hard time motivating them to get work done. And when they finally finish tasks, they put in the minimum amount of effort possible.

On the other hand, an engaged employee cares about their job. They show up to work every day ready to contribute, and they feel invested in the work they do.

There are a lot of benefits to transparency, including increased employee engagement. You'll also find that your employees are happier, productivity increases, and your culture gets stronger.

Here's how it works.

1. Trust Is The Key To Satisfaction And Engagement

If you want to build a team of engaged, happy employees, you can only do it with a good foundation of trust.

Creating a transparent company is one of the best ways to show that you trust your team and build their faith in leadership. In fact, it's one of the most effective ways to repair existing trust issues if you have them.

When you're a transparent leader, your team can see when you follow through on your promises — and when you don't.

It's okay for your team to see you fail sometimes. You're human, and they know that. Employees are actually more likely to trust you if you're as open and honest about your misses as you are about your wins. Everybody knows that you have weaknesses, and they feel like you're more genuine when you don't try to hide them.

2. Stronger Relationships

Since transparency means communication, your entire team will start to communicate better as you create a transparent workplace.

Increased communication and trust lead to stronger relationships between you and your team and between teammates. People within your business begin to get to know each other on a more personal level, and that leads to friendships and positive work relationships.

This might not seem important, but think of it this way:

How do you feel when you let your friends down?

When coworkers start to like and respect each other on a deeper level, they become more dedicated to their work. Nobody wants to leave their friends to clean up a mess or pick up the slack.

3. Shuts Down The Rumor Mill

Rumors are a common problem in companies that withhold information from their employees.

When you adopt a transparency policy, there are far fewer rumors because your people don't have to speculate about what's going on. They know what's going on. The information is readily available.

This has an important impact on your culture.

In workplaces where it's normal to spread rumors, employees often jump to the worst conclusions about everything. That negativity becomes normal.

When you stop the rumor mill, you cut out a major source of negativity. Team members know that they can come to you or other leadership members with hard questions and get honest answers.

They feel more stable, and the work environment is much more pleasant. Instead of wasting energy on worry and mistrust, your team can focus on their jobs.

4. Team Members Own Their Work

Have you ever worked with someone that needed to ask you about everything before they took action?

Without transparency, you create a similar situation. Employees can't make good decisions because they don't have access to all of the information they need. You become the gatekeeper. Everyone must come to you for every decision.

It's hard to stay engaged in work when you have no control over how it's done. And that's not the only problem.

As your company grows, you become a bottleneck. Your team can only work as efficiently as you can work by yourself, so you miss out on all the efficiency you would have created with a proactive team.

Transparency empowers your team to find answers on their own. They know enough to make good, informed decisions, and they don't feel like they need to check with the boss for every little thing.

In this way, transparency gives your team members ownership over their jobs and the results they create.

People are a lot more likely to care about the work they do when they're totally responsible for it.

5. Everyone Is More Involved With Company Goals

Engagement is tough when a person feels like just another cog in the wheel.

Would you give your best effort if you knew that your boss would be just as happy to have anybody else in your position? Probably not.

A transparent company talks a lot about company goals. How are they going? How are you going to get there? What do you need to do to reach that next milestone?

Here's something to consider:

If you asked any one of your employees what your company wants to achieve in the next five years, would they know?

People can't contribute to a goal if they don't know it. More importantly, people won't work towards a goal if they don't care about it.

Being transparent with your team helps them see the goal and understand how their work contributes to it. That's a huge motivating factor! It gives them a better sense of purpose and importance, and that's a recipe for engagement.

How To Start Promoting Transparency In Your Company?

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All of that sounds great. How do you do it?

Creating a culture of transparency takes time and consistency. Like any new habit, you must make a conscious effort at first until it starts to feel natural.

Here are some of the most logical ways to start.

1. Create A Slack Channel To Discuss Company News

Once you've created this channel, use it frequently. Talk about sales milestones, new initiatives, and whatever else is important to your business.

Invite your team to ask questions publicly — even tough questions. Answering in a public forum is a crucial part of building trust.

Keep posting updates in this channel, even if your team doesn't participate much. The most important thing is to show your employees that you care about communicating and want them to be able to join the bigger conversation.

2. Share Goals

Just like you communicate company news, be vocal about the company and team goals. Talk about what you want to accomplish and the progress you've made so far.

It's good practice to get into the habit of giving credit for individual contributions towards team goals. Public recognition is an excellent way to increase engagement, and it shows your team that their work matters.

3. Document Processes And Policies

One of the most effective ways to make information more accessible is by writing it down and putting it where everyone can find it.

Your employees should be able to answer all of these types of questions without having to ask you directly:

  • What's our company policy on remote work?
  • Who on the team is responsible for promoting new products on social media?
  • Is it part of my job to respond to emails from customers?
  • How do I request paid time off in our attendance portal?

Creating process documentation might feel like an impossibly large project. Still, you don't have to tackle it all at once, nor do you have to do it yourself.

Start with the highest priorities, like policies that apply to everyone and areas where you most often answer questions.

Your team members are great resources. They can help you create process specifications for the work they do. Plus, reviewing these documents will help you gain visibility into what your employees do every day. There might be gaps you didn't notice before.

4. Create Space For Feedback

Honesty can be difficult for your team, especially if they don't trust you yet. This prevents your team from being transparent with you because they're afraid of consequences if they speak up.

While you're building trust with your team, it's vital to create a space where people can give you anonymous feedback. Officevibe is a great tool for this, but any system that allows people to communicate anonymously will work.

Regularly ask for feedback on specific subjects to get your team in the habit of sharing.

Once you receive comments from your team, make sure you address those things immediately. Your employees need to see that their honesty makes a difference. If you don't do anything with the information they share, they'll stop sharing and trust you less.

5. Ask For Input In Decisions

In addition to open feedback, start asking your team for their input before you make decisions that affect everyone.

Keep in mind that you're not asking your team to make decisions together or giving up your authority to choose. You're still the decision-maker. The only difference is that now, you'll be a more informed decision-maker with the benefit of multiple perspectives.

If you're not comfortable inviting your team to share in important decisions yet, start small by asking your top performers for input on specific issues.

Try something like this:

Hey, Carla. I'm thinking about trying some project management software to help the development team manage tasks better, and right now, I'm leaning toward Jira because I've used it successfully at previous companies. Since you are a top performer on the software team, I'd love your perspective. Do you think Jira is a good solution to our task tracking issues?

Better yet, approach the team with a specific problem and ask for their thoughts on a solution, like this:

Right now, our development team is having trouble keeping track of priorities, and tasks are slipping through the cracks. How can we make it easier for you to track your work so that we don't miss any more project deadlines?

Once you build your trust in your employees' judgment, start asking for input on strategic decisions like which projects should get the most resources, where you should focus marketing spend, and even what short and long-term goals your company should adopt.

Transparency Can Be Uncomfortable. But It's Worth It.

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When you adopt transparency, it can feel like all your failures and shortcomings are on display. That's why some managers shy away from truly transparent policies.

However, your team knows about your shortcomings anyway. Don't let that insecurity stop you from reaping the significant benefits of transparent company culture.

Remember that this is a habit, not a one-time initiative. You can't simply write a policy and move on. It's up to your entire leadership team to set the right examples and demonstrate these values every day. Over time, your whole team will adjust and be equally as transparent with you.

Dave Nevogt is the co-founder of Hubstaff. He leads a 100% remote team that builds time tracking and productivity tools, including the Agile project management software, Hubstaff Tasks. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com.