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How To Increase Transparency In More Aspects Of Your Company

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If you can pull back the curtain, you can encourage trust among the people around you because they know the direction the ship is going.

Leaders are being challenged today like never before. However, the challenge isn’t coming from outside forces. On the contrary, it’s coming from employees who are demanding heightened transparency. And although pay transparency in job postings has more than doubled since 2020 in response, executives are being pushed to be transparent in far more arenas.

Consider what happened with Disney in 2022 in regard to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. Disney team members took to social media to express their disappointment when company leaders didn’t take an immediate stance against it. They wanted Disney to show its true colors and support the LGBTQ+ community publicly. Eventually, Disney came out in opposition to the bill and signed the Human Rights Campaign’s statement opposing similar legislation. However, many people felt that the efforts were too little, too late.

This eagerness for transparency from leaders may seem new but has been a desire for a long time. For years, I’ve seen and heard about demands for transparency. Issues like the gender pay gap (which barely budged between 2002 and 2022) have brought transparency to the forefront — and even facilitated pay range transparency laws in eight states. Now, 75% of workers are asking for employer transparency.

Your brand may or may not be as well-known as Disney. It doesn’t matter: You can expect candidates and employees alike to demand more transparency in all areas. This means you have to think a little deeper, make hard decisions, and ultimately start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. People want to know how their leaders actually feel. If you can pull back the curtain, you can encourage trust among the people around you because they know the direction the ship is going.

Understanding the Meaning of Transparency in the Workplace

You may be understandably confused about what transparency actually means. It’s a variable word that means different things to different people, which explains the disconnect that can happen between leaders and their teams. For example, 38% of workers associate transparency with corporate culture and values, while 29% say strategies and processes.

Traditionally, leaders see corporate transparency as a sharing of goals, priorities, and select financial highlights. For modern workers, that definition feels more like window dressing. Employees now want to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. Their expectations have evolved. They’re not looking for a reason to leave, but they want to know the “why” behind decisions so they can better understand where they fit in and how they can contribute to the company’s larger success.

What this means for you is that you need to begin considering how to be transparent in multiple ways. You may have to experiment to see what the transparency “sweet spot” is for your organization. It’s worth your efforts, however, because you’ll reap several benefits if you can reach a higher level of transparency with your teams.

One of the biggest benefits of being transparent involves employee engagement, loyalty, and trust. We’ve likely all heard Gallup’s warning about stagnating engagement, which is hovering around 34%. By putting more of an emphasis on transparency, you position your brand in a positive light to up-and-coming leaders from the younger generations and encourage them to stay engaged with the company’s values and culture.

By being transparent, you’ll improve your trust barometer with the people who make your company run smoothly. Without talented professionals, you couldn’t get where you’re going. That means you have to be real, honest, and have those tough conversations. Workers are much more willing to raise questions and concerns about everything from pay to professional development than ever before. They’re also not afraid to put their employers on notice regarding social and environmental issues.

By becoming more at ease with uncomfortable topics, you can chip away at any walls blocking transparency at your company. As your reward, you’ll build a more trusting cadre of employees whose beliefs and personal purposes are aligned with where you want your business to go.

3 Tips for Improving Transparency at Your Company

It can be a little intimidating to determine how best to start becoming a more transparent leader. The following steps will help you get started:

1. Communicate frequently with your team. Employees naturally feel a tighter bond with leaders who talk with them in a way that builds transparency and enhances the value of the employee-employer relationship. When you get to know the people around you — and they get to know you — you have a much deeper understanding of what’s important to them. This ends up opening doors to clearer, more meaningful conversations.

In an era of so many people working hybrid or remote schedules, you can’t overdo it when it comes to communication. Oddly, the pandemic didn’t increase transparency, even though it probably should have. According to a 2022 Axios HQ report, less than half of employees felt informed about their organizations’ business goals. This means you probably have some work to do to ensure you’re communicating effectively with everyone on your team.

2. Involve direct reports in decision-making. You don’t have to empower all the people across your organization to be able to make final decisions on behalf of the company. Nevertheless, you can bring all your team members into different aspects of the decision-making process. Why? Participation breeds commitment, and commitment breeds transparency and success.

I worked with a client where there was frustration among the team about how scheduling and overtime was handled. It’s not uncommon for leaders to establish schedules or overtime procedures, and too often it’s a thankless job with frequent complaints. When leadership turned responsibility over to the team, there was immediate ownership of schedules, less resistance to overtime procedures, and fewer callouts. A win for all.

But, what if you can’t involve everyone in the decision-making process for one reason or another? You can at least provide more insight into how a decision was made. Doing so helps alleviate any mystery behind the rationale supporting your choices.

3. Become a better listener. It’s no secret that truly listening can be tough, and only 8% of employees rated their leaders highly in listening in a 2020 survey. But it’s necessary if you want to get comfortable with less comfortable topics. For instance, practice the art of listening to understand rather than listening to fix things. The former allows you to gain insights, whereas the latter might mean you try to fix the wrong thing. When we’re actively listening, we get a chance to see and understand the big picture.

As you start to become a better listener, you’ll encourage more discussion and communication. Over time, you’ll get better at both understanding and sharing information about challenges, successes, observations and even feelings.

From a bird’s-eye view, transparency is best seen as a journey and not a destination. You don’t have to be perfect; sometimes transparency just doesn’t seem intuitive, at least at first. You just have to be willing to work toward constant transparency improvements. So, put these practices into action and watch as your trust, camaraderie and engagement levels soar.


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