How to create transparency in the workplace


Company culture – an often-mentioned concept that each of us interprets in our own way. For some it is a benefits package, for others perhaps the working environment as a whole. Although company executives work with the term company culture quite often, a well-known aphorism says that company culture is best observed when the boss is not at work.

Building and developing company culture is a long-term process for which it is important to enthuse the whole team. One of the fundamental pillars of this process is transparency. You might say: Ok, another buzz-word for the collection, can we just skip this topic?

However, it is not only transparency within an organisation that contributes significantly to healthy workplace relationships. There are many direct and indirect consequences that the application of the principle of transparency comes with. And not just in relation to employees, but ultimately to your company’s brand.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the degree of transparency is even associated with employer branding.

What is the importance of transparency in the workplace?

We most often hear about the principles of transparency in the context of politicians or organisations that handle public money. At the level of companies, the concept of transparency could be defined philosophically in many different ways.

The global portal Glassdoor, which in addition to posting job offers also provides an opportunity for employees to rate employers, defines transparency as operating in a way that creates openness between managers and employees.

Such a setup logically flows into a level of trust in the professional relationship, which is directly linked to transparency by organizational psychology and counselling professor Dr. Michael Leiter.

Where do leaders score?

Nowadays there are rankings for perhaps everything. So it’s probably no surprise that ranks many of the world’s best-known companies based on their level of transparency. In doing so, it takes into consideration a number of factors, such as:

  • values,
  • people,
  • corporate culture,
  • processes,
  • technology,
  • strategy,
  • or growth.

Several companies that are well-known in our country, such as Slack, Figma, Airbnb, Netflix or Fitbit, are on the top ranks for 2020.

For a well-known wearables manufacturer, the portal highlights the thorough awareness of customers about the storage and processing of their data. On Figma, The Org appreciated the transparent tools directly in the app that allow users – from designers to clients – to work with graphics in real time instead of endlessly ping-ponging edits to designs.

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Why would you want to be a transparent company?

Transparency impacts work productivity

An interesting conclusion was reached back in 2014 by the American Psychological Association (APA), which conducted an extensive job satisfaction survey among more than 1,500 employees. Although it’s been a few years since the survey, the results are still telling today:

Employees feel more trust in companies if they are rewarded for their performance, if they have the opportunity to be involved in individual processes, and if the company communicates effectively with them. Transparency has proven to be an important factor in increasing commitment and engagement, as well as motivation to do the best possible job.

It is highly valued

Transparency in the workplace is considered an extremely important value by many employees. Unsurprisingly, employees highly value this pillar of company culture. Up to 85 percent of respondents in the aforementioned survey are more likely to recommend their employer if they feel appreciated for their work and efforts.

It’s not just another crunchy benefit

Seeing transparency as something extra for employees would be a fatal mistake. It’s not an employee bonus or perk, the ability to bring your dog to the office or take unlimited sick days.

Transparency should be ingrained deep into your company’s DNA and in some way reflected in your company’s vision and mission. The principles of transparency should be firmly anchored in the company’s day-to-day work agenda, in the smallest of details.

How to increase transparency in your company?

Engage employees in effective communication. Even Michael Leiter says that “employees should not feel that they are just hanging around in the company; on the contrary, they should be involved in what is going on.” In this way, you will achieve that all employees know the common goal, understand the meaning of the individual tasks, and strive to achieve the set milestones.

Tracking time using an online tool such as Sloneek Time tracking provides a clear overview of what all team members are working on.

And don’t forget, effective communication is also about telling employees the truth about which things went well and which didn’t. This open approach creates mutual respect and fosters employee engagement as well as a sense of belonging.

Build company culture. Constantly.

Company culture is not an immutable set of rules carved in stone. Rather, it’s a long-distance race with an infinite number of correlations and variables. Transparency, as a value, should be one of the cornerstones of corporate culture.

While your employees will certainly subconsciously perceive the application of transparency principles, it won’t hurt to regularly name it and emphasize its importance. And you can start at the job interview – talk about the principles of transparency and how your organisation applies them to employees. This way, your potential employees will have a clearer idea of how the company operates from day zero.

And believe me, there are plenty of candidates who can be convinced by a high level of openness in a company

Important documents available for everyone

It is only to the benefit of the cause if employees know from day one, for example, the company specifics for taking leave. But documents relating to standardisation and processes or the organisational structure are also important. If you offer employees clear solutions and answers to their natural questions in advance, you promote efficient and transparent communication.

You can also use the Sloneek app to store different types of documents with confidence. The Documents section offers you the possibility to store not only private documents in employees’ personal folders, but also company-wide documents or guidelines. You can also use the tool as an instrumentarium of manuals for solving specific problems that managers may encounter.

Create a trusted environment based on honesty

Just like in personal life, people form relationships at different levels in their work life too. The road to mutual trust is quite long, and honesty is your driving force along the way. Sincerity will ultimately reflect not only on employee’s satisfaction, but also on employee’s performance and work ethic.

It’s not uncommon for top executives to underestimate the extent to which they should be honest with their employees. A dishonest (or not-so-honest) approach can easily become a deep-rooted cause of many workplace problems. Unhealthy relationships between colleagues, intrigue or high staff turnover can stem from it.

In the aforementioned APA study, as many as one-third of respondents felt that their employer was not always honest and upfront with them. A quarter of respondents directly stated that they did not trust their employer. These are relatively high numbers, although these are subjective impressions of individuals.

However, if one in three or four companies is not playing fair from the employees’ point of view, something is wrong. Dr. Leiter considers honesty to be the best company policy: “Trust doesn’t come out of thin air. You only trust based on evidence and experience that the other party deserves it.

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All or none – transparency in company leadership

The behaviour and attitudes of people in leadership positions are not just about the individual characteristics of the persons concerned. Within the corporate hierarchy, it is the senior managers who apply the organisation’s policies towards employees. If someone in a leadership position does something completely different from what he or she says, it causes distrust, hostility and even lack of respect from subordinate workers.

Such an environment in a company is largely toxic.

Therefore, it is essential that senior managers also act in accordance with the principles of transparency. How? Be honest in situations where it is challenging. Be approachable when things go sour among team members.

Or quite simple advice – reward transparent behaviour in the company. Of course, this doesn’t mean handing out “bees” for openness, but any recognition of an employee’s merit can significantly boost their work engagement and motivation.

Don’t gloss over how much you pay

In Slovakia, since May 2018, it has been a legal obligation to disclose the amount of an employee’s basic salary in job offers. However, this is not the standard in all countries and, unfortunately, it has to be said that even in our country, from time to time there is an employer who tries to circumvent this obligation.

Payroll disclosure contributes to a transparent company policy and although in some cases it may cause internal noise and offence, it is up to you to set the payroll issue to the satisfaction of both existing employees and your head-hunters.

In particular, employees who have been underpaid or mistreated in the past may feel a natural distrust or suspicion of workplace practices,” adds Dr. Leiter on the pay issue.

For Sloneek blog, Viktor Wurm