How to Promote Transparency at Work and Improve Employee Engagement

Get Rid of the Man Behind the Curtain

“Transparency” sounds like corporate speech – something that organizations talk about, not do. Transparency is, simply put, honesty. Candor. Being forthright. It’s information sharing. And workplaces could do with a whole lot more of it.

The loosest definition of transparency is operating in a way that creates openness between managers and employees.

Why wouldn’t all corporations embrace this?

Old habits die hard, and perceptions that these habits persist, too, die hard. At one time, information hoarding meant power. The “need to know” attitude kept a lot of people out of the loop, hungry to become part of the inner circle. Often, though, lack of information sharing has little to do with power and more to do with poor strategic communication. Organizations are notoriously disorganized with their communication and feedback processes.

Considering lack of transparency is a top grumble of employees, it’s time to get rid of the man behind the curtain (either real or perceived) and promote transparency at work with these easy-to-follow steps.

1. Walk the talk. Don’t preach transparency of information then take aside your favorites to give them the inside track. Walk the talk. Model transparency. Demonstrate why it’s a positive thing for your teams, your department. Everybody should have access to information they need to get the job done.

2. Explain why. “Because I said so” only works for parents (and that’s even debatable these days). Connecting the work of direct reports to organization goals is a primary facet of good leadership. Your team should know why they’re doing the work they’re doing and how that work is making a difference.

3. Listen … actively. Invite feedback. Being an active listener means you’re listening to understand, not respond. This also means you’re going to take your fair share of hits. Transparency means listening to criticism, modeling positive feedback processes, and making yourself vulnerable in order to make the team stronger. This isn’t an invitation to rant – don’t let the situation get out of control.

4. Involve your team in decision making. This isn’t a one-man show. Changes, procedures, and processes involve people. Whose job will change because of new equipment? Who will be most effected by a structural change in the organization? Some things are out of employees’ hands, and this is frustrating. Recognizing that and working together to forge a new path should be a collaborative effort.

5. Get organized. Did you forget to send that all-too-important e-mail because you have another thousand piled in your in box? This is not uncommon. Oftentimes lack of transparency is confused with lack of organization. So, get on top of it. Get organized. Find a way to prioritize. Make information-sharing one of those priorities.

6. Be honest. Always. That’s with both the good and the bad. Admit to mistakes. Be candid and kind. Hold yourself and your team a accountable.

When employees can’t find the information they need, it’s worse than not having it at all. When employees feel like they aren’t getting the full picture, a culture of distrust begins to grow. This only snowballs into lowered productivity and tanking employee engagement. Increase employee engagement when you clear the fog.

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