One of the most important cultural values a company can have is transparency. Being open and honest is one of ScaleFactor’s bedrock principles; we believe operating with integrity with our customers and our internal teams is critical. And we’re not alone, nor are we setting the trend. More companies are opting for honesty and visibility rather than hiding behind red tape and dinosaur-sized management structures.
Label Insight conducted a survey where 94% of consumers surveyed said they’re more loyal to transparent brands. Additionally, 73% said they’d pay a little extra to support an open company.
While external transparency is valuable, internally, it’s even more critical. Yes, customers want to know where you’re sourcing materials or if the chickens you’re raising are in cages or roam free. But also, your staff wants to be clued in on what’s happening with the company, too.
Allowing for information to flow freely between teams and contributors is key to success. Generally, people feel more engaged when they know where the company stands, where they stand in their job, and what’s next down the road. Transparency builds trust and helps employees feel like they’re working for an ethical company.
Transparency can impact the bottom line, but also it makes people feel invested. It’s not just the open floor plans or the monthly “All Hands” meetings. Transparency is a series of little steps that permeate culture every day.
If you’re interested in transforming your company’s culture to be more transparent, consider implementing these steps. The benefits are tangible, and before you know it, you’ll see a change in employee attitude and your office culture.
Tear down walls
Communication breeds growth. From the CEO down to the intern, everyone should be able to get in contact with one another. Also, knowledge should be available across all departments. By committing to transparency, it’s easier to flatten the organization and build a more collaborative environment.
Leaders should strive for an open-door policy, and do their best to keep their lines of communication open should anyone want some of their time (scheduled, of course). Voluntary “lunch and learn” events, or weekly team updates, helps inform the curious and allows certain groups to bond over projects they’re working on.
Having a “why” is critical
Leaders will no doubt make choices people don’t agree with. When making decisions that affect teams and their work, it’s important that there’s a logical explanation as to why this is happening. In other words, saying “because I said so” may work for your kid, but probably not for your team. Offering an explanation on why the company is pivoting or why someone stepped down gives employees the information they need to move forward and get the job done.
People will ask questions and challenge the choice, but a true leader can convert skeptics into believers.
Honesty is the best policy
Ask yourself one question about your company: how is feedback taken or received? Can you provide honest feedback without reprisal? If so, that’s that lifeblood of a transparent workplace. If not, well, that’s a great place to start.
Open communication is everything; it creates trust, keeps teams engaged, and pushes boundaries. Let the team know where you stand on a project, or if you need help. If you’re not communicating any progress, how can your team know what’s going on? What if you’re saying everything is fine and you’re way behind? That’s likely to cause problems down the road.
When everyone is in the know with their team, you’ll see higher engagement. People will want to solve roadblocks because they’re invested in everyone’s success. A perfect way to start communicating effectively is to start doing daily or weekly standups. Everyone can hear about what work is getting done, and if someone needs help, they have the time to ask.
Trust that employees will do the right thing
When meeting with teams or conducting a weekly staff meeting, make relevant information accessible. By doing this, team members will feel empowered to make good choices independently. Communicate high-level priorities to staff so that they know what the stakes are.
Use your resources
The key to a successful, transparent organization is using the right tools to communicate roadblocks, wins, or if something is going terrible. Sometimes, the most unexpected person can step up and offer real, tangible help. Use Kanban boards so teammates can see what’s in progress. Products like Confluence, Airtable, Slack, and Trello are all great tools to invest in so people can communicate effectively and efficiently.
Don’t keep secrets
Make it easy to understand who does what. Instead of complicated organizational charts with overlapping team members, detail what everyone does in an easy-to-read document. This way, your team can easily ask for guidance, specific deliverables, and sign-off when work is completed.
Share your results, even when something went entirely off the rails. You can’t avoid talking about what went wrong because those are the stories that people sometimes need to hear and learn from. Sharing the good stuff builds excitement, but sharing hard stories shows your humanity and builds trust and unity.
When you’re updating the status of a project, don’t say ‘everything is great’ if you’re barely getting by. While it might feel like you’re exposing too much, being vulnerable shows you are open to help and are willing to fail to accomplish something.
Build a transparent team
When you’re striving for a transparent team, you have to have people who are on board. It’s always a good idea to talk about transparent processes while interviewing new team members to see if they share your philosophy about an open environment.
Draw the line
Transparency in the workplace doesn’t mean all personal information has to be put on blast, of course. A transparent culture isn’t about having a nose in everyone’s business, but instead, it’s about everyone having the information and tools they need to do their jobs.
Problems may arise, but that’s part of the process
Leaders will have to sort out some problems at one point or another. Whether it’s gossip, rumors, or just team members acting far from the company’s best interests, a leader has to be ready to deal with these situations and set a clear precedent. That’s a part of the transparent process; no hiding and everything is fairly open, good or bad.
Leaders can go the extra mile and hold an AMA (Ask Me Anything), which will give the team a chance to ask questions. This exercise is crucial because it can connect leaders to employees who may have not had the opportunity to meet, let alone ask something.
Don’t squirrel information away
It’s understandable that there’s information that can’t be shared within a company. Sensitive company updates or specific financial terms can’t be on the front page of Confluence. However, thanks to silos, there’s a lot of information that isn’t being shared that could help employees do their jobs better. Unless the information is top secret, teams should have access.
These are just some of the easiest, most basic ways to improve or create a culture of transparency. If you’re an old-school, tight-lipped organization that plays by strict codes of silence, it’s going to take time to get people talking. Don’t worry. With intentional communication from the top-down, employees will start to open up and share information, and you’ll see a world of change.
Director of People