9 ways to foster workplace transparency

Prioritize face-to-face interactions, push for flexibility, don’t withhold bad news, and follow the Golden Rule.

9 ways to build transparency at work

At work, not everyone needs to know everything all the time.

However, leaders and communicators should err on the side of transparency. Simply being honest, direct and straightforward with workers can boost morale, build trust, relieve anxiety and establish more realistic goals—but how much is too much?

Try these nine techniques to strike a balance between transparency and TMI in the workplace:

1. Hire transparently.

Is your hiring process shadowy, convoluted and hush-hush? Do you lure workers with misleading job descriptions? Are you guilty of nepotism or creating a boys’ club atmosphere?

Clearly state job responsibilities and expectations for open positions—both when posting positions and while interviewing candidates. If workers find that a job is different from what they were promised, your relationship will be instantly ruined.

2. Give employees access to information—and context.

Communicators can help smash through silos, create more understanding and snuff out secrecy by posting project updates, such as deadlines and which tasks each person is tackling.

You should also periodically share company financials and operational changes—along with any crucial context that paints a fuller picture for employees. Without disclosing anything too sensitive, let employees know how your business is performing, and be proactive about sharing personnel changes. Be upfront and direct—especially with pertinent changes to benefits, perks or pay.

When sharing revenue numbers, include profit margins and expenses. That lets colleagues know where and how the business is spending money.

3. Prioritize face-to-face interactions.

Technology has shattered many barriers of communication. However, face-to-face communication is still preeminent.

Emails, video conferences and blog posts are fine, but make personal interaction a priority. It’s an easy way to boost morale, build rapport and uncover brewing frustrations before they boil over.

4. Hold “ask me anything” sessions or town halls.

Encourage your execs to give employees space to vent or ask questions. Not every leader can handle an “ask me anything” event, so try to set them up for success. Some do better with video or one-on-ones, while others excel on stage.

Whatever kind of forum you establish, enable your team to ask important questions and provide unfiltered feedback. Follow up by sending out a survey to collect additional feedback.

5. Act on feedback.

Feedback is useless unless you act on it. Acting on employees questions and comments proves that you’re listening, and that you’re actively working to improve processes, the organizational culture or even personal shortcomings.

Acting on feedback gets your employees involved in the decision-making process—which empowers workers and keeps them engaged. Gathering raw, honest opinions from your staffers will also help you make more informed, better and smarter business decisions.

6. Push for flexibility.

Grant your team autonomy. Show you trust them.

Instead of micromanaging staffers, let them work however they prefer. Flexibility continues to be the No. 1 perk that ignites retention and engagement.

7. Don’t withhold or ignore bad news.

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news. However, it’s crucial to be transparent about challenges, setbacks and obstacles the business is facing.

Directly address workplace grievances or problems, and do not let currents of negativity fester. If you fail to keep colleagues abreast and updated, the rumor mill will fill in the gaps.

8. Eliminate job titles.

Jessica Yuen, writing at Quartz, reported that titles at her company “were not a measurement of someone’s contributions.” She wrote: “They [titles] didn’t make us stronger, wiser, or bring us closer to achieving our mission.”

Yuen’s organization suspected that titles were “adding extra layers and points of confusion.”

So, her company got rid of titles. Yuen says that doing so created a “no-ego” culture that attracted the right job candidates and “promoted a more collaborative environment.” She believes that ditching titles “was a constant reminder that we were on the same team, united by the same purpose.”

9. Follow the Golden Rule.

Treat everyone as you would want to be treated. That means not playing favorites or dismissing others. Honor your commitments, and respect other people’s time.

Respect begets respect. When employees feel respected, they’ll be more comfortable speaking up—and more likely to listen to what you’re saying.

John Hall is the co-founder of Calendar. A version of this post first appeared on the Calendar blog.


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