July 27, 2020

We are living in precarious times with much of the world being plagued with uncertainty and fear about the future. With emotions high, business leaders need to be more transparent and forthright about changes their organisations are currently facing. Regardless of how tough conversations may be, millennials increasingly demand trust and openness in the workplace. They want leaders who can communicate truthfully about the company’s direction and what lies ahead without beating around the bush. According to an AI at Work study conducted last year by research firm Oracle and Future Workplace, 64 per cent of the people trusted robots more than their bosses. And this mistrust can be attributed to a lack of transparency in the workplace. 

One of the biggest reasons why leaders fail to be transparent is the fear of appearing flawed in front of their subordinates, thereby losing power and credibility. Many, however, don’t realise that people want to relate to them and know that leaders do have problems and struggles, too. The days of being “perfect” are over as the digital age has also created the expectation to be more human, real and at times, vulnerable. If you have been trained not to disclose much information or are worried about oversharing, you can start by setting unambiguous expectations for the team, keeping them abreast of developments and welcoming honest feedback. Apart from enhancing trust within the organisation, here are four other reasons why being transparent can create a more productive environment. 

You Will Build Better Relationships With Your Subordinates

When you lay it on the line, employees can recognise the discomfort and risk of revealing the company for what it is, and that not only earns their respect for being vulnerable, but also sets a good foundation for an open culture. Engage frequently with your employees face-to-face on a one-to-one basis; showing interest and appreciation can humanise you as a leader, making you more relatable to your team. When they feel a greater connection to you and the organisation, they will be more receptive towards constructive feedback and willing to change bad work habits for the better. 

You Will Have a Stronger Team

Transparency means helping employees to be cognizant of the big picture, like the company’s vision and how staff members can play a part in driving the strategy and growth. American marketing agency goBRANDgo! believes that employees need to be well-informed and updated, so they can be aligned with the company’s vision. For example, they post financial data like cash account balances on the office wall, and share revenue, profit, payroll, and expenses. 

Also, when there is clear communication, employees will not fall into the negative trap of making false assumptions about the company or leader. Like having objective and impartial discussions about the company’s strengths and weaknesses with the workforce can allow them to better understand how and why decisions are made. This can be an effective platform to learn from mistakes/setbacks and to match staff to roles that suit them best. By helping your team to discover (and utilise) their expertise based on their performance, interests and capabilities, it can enable them to perform to their maximum potential. Furthermore, when there is great transparency across the board, everyone can easily identify what their colleagues are currently working on, so it reduces duplication and fosters a spirit of collaboration. 

You Can Solve Problems More Effectively

With transparency, problems or challenges will inevitably be resolved much quicker. Why? If two heads are better than one, think about how you can utilise the collective talent to brainstorm for solutions. 3M has made transparency a huge part of its culture and openly shares about the company’s performance with its staff in a bid to generate more creative ideas for the business.

When Jack Stack, CEO of SRC Holdings, shared the inner workings of the business with his team, he found that they could contribute remarkable decisions about profits and margins just by using this data. Seattle-based software company Moz, which sells marketing analytics software subscriptions, is also an advocate of a culture of openness. CEO Rand Fiskin has made their funding decks open to the public and talks about some of their failures, so that others can learn from them.

You Have More Engaged, Higher-Performing Employees 

In 2013, Harvard Business Review did an employee engagement survey, which revealed that employees felt the most engaged when their leaders frequently communicated with them about company matters. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is a firm believer in heart-to-heart communication, and conducts bi-weekly meetings where he keeps employees in the loop about the state of the business and actively solicits their feedback. 

Have an open-door policy (across all teams regardless of rank or hierarchy), establish consistent policies and encourage your staff to champion ideas for overall improvement. Once a week, organise a townhall session and invite employees to offer their candid feedback on the issues they are facing. Don’t simply fake a smile and brush aside their opinions. Take time to listen carefully to them and make them feel valued. When you show employees that you care about their opinions, you will build an unwavering loyalty in your people and inspire staff to perform at their best.