How Transparency in the Workplace Can Improve Productivity

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transparency in the workplace

No matter the size of your team, no one likes to be left in the dark.

But, how transparent do you need to be so that everyone can do the best version of their job?

If you’ve ever lost revenue or valuable time because a key piece of “sensitive” information wasn’t conveyed prior to the start of an important project, you probably have a sense of where this is headed.

You probably don’t need to share every single piece of information company-wide, but trusting people with the right information at the right time can increase revenue, employee retention and satisfaction, and even your team’s ability to innovate.

Open, ongoing dialogue between leaders and their teams is good for business. Conversely, a lack of transparency can stifle new ideas, lower productivity and efficiency, and decrease trust, satisfaction, and retention.

What transparency in the workplace means

Making transparency part of company policy—or at least a defined aspect of your company culture is a good start. But keep in mind it’s one thing to say your company values transparency, and another to follow through on that intention in the day-to-day.

Really, it starts at the hiring level. If you hire people you trust with expertise you can rely on, it’s a lot easier to share information freely and give them the agency to make innovative, productive decisions.

For Palo Alto Software (creators of Outpost), chief operating officer Noah Parsons says that building a culture of transparency has been key.

“We don’t officially define transparency, but we define it by what we share,” explains Noah. “We share our weekly sales numbers and our monthly financials with the entire company. We also share all the data we collect about how our customers use our applications. Essentially, if someone wants to know what’s going on in any other department, they can easily get the information.”

In turn, everyone in the company takes customer privacy and security very seriously. They’re all trained on privacy policies and what to means to be a responsible steward of the information entrusted to them by both leadership and customers.

If you’re not candid about the big picture—how the company is doing financially, or the real reasons behind changes in team structure, for example—you might be unintentionally promoting toxic culture, and an unproductive work environment.

But even in challenging times, if you bring your trusted employees into the conversation, you’re more likely to gain their trust and loyalty. Then they’re your partners in figuring out the best way forward. But how should you share information and how much?

What’s the best way to increase transparency in the workplace?

At Palo Alto Software, the foundation for a healthy culture is making sure the whole team understands they can ask questions and share their concerns at any time. “We have an open-door policy for all managers and executive team members,” says Noah. “They are all available at any time to answer any question.”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

1. Have regular company-wide meetings

Access to management is an important component of transparency, but also integral is the company consistently sharing information across teams and throughout the organization. That might include anything from big-picture idea meetings and ask-me-anything (AMA) sessions to regular ongoing sharing of company initiatives, key metrics, challenges, losses, and gains.

If your team has a window into the company as a whole, they can use that broader, big-picture thinking to make better choices and be more productive.

2. Make it easy to collaborate

While that regular touchpoint provides consistent data and status, day-to-day interactions and systems reinforce Palo Alto Software’s culture of transparency. In addition to the open-door policy, online forums also help employees communicate and share ideas in real time.

“We keep most of our Slack channels open so that anyone can drop into any team’s conversations at any time,” says Noah. “That also helps with information sharing.”

“Transparency increases collaboration,” says Noah. “The more that teams are sharing what they are doing, the more collaboration opportunities reveal themselves.”

When employees know they are trusted, employers can realize another benefit of transparency: increased retention of quality staff.

“There seems to be a correlation between transparency and turnover,” explains Noah. “The more people understand the big picture, the mission that we’re trying to accomplish, the more invested in the company they are.”

3. Measure effectiveness and share the results

“We have a monthly company update meeting and aggregate all data and updates into a single monthly presentation that is shared with everyone,” says Noah. “We put together a ‘monthly update’ presentation that gathers data and updates from every department and share that with the entire company.”

The team is then more inclined to problem-solve across departments and work harder and smarter at their own projects and initiatives. Sharing results also helps the full company understand what is working and what isn’t—and gives employees the opportunity to come up with innovative solutions.

“People in different departments can contribute ideas to other teams if they know what’s going on,” says Noah. “Sometimes the best ideas come from people who aren’t working ’in the weeds’ on a particular project.”

4. Be transparent with customers, too

Palo Alto’s transparency doesn’t stop at the office door, however. The company also keeps customers in the loop.

“We provide regular product updates, and more importantly, always solicit feedback on our products and on features we are actively developing,” explains Noah. “We try and get our customers involved in the product development process as much as possible.”

That doesn’t mean that Palo Alto Software shares all its company information with customers, of course. But it does mean that they look at customers and team members as mutual partners.

“Getting everyone on the same page helps us all understand our big-picture goals,” says Noah. “The more that everyone knows how their bit of work impacts the larger company, the more that their work matters.” Understanding the meaning behind what you are working on and how it contributes to the larger goal improves the quality of the work people produce.

transparency in the workplace

A transparent workplace is a productive workplace

Today’s employees expect to know what’s happening in the broader organization, and they expect to be part of decisions.

Transparency is not always an easy road—but it’s ultimately a more successful one.

“I’d say that the biggest gain from increased transparency is ensuring that everyone sees ‘the big picture,’” says Noah. “If we management is clear with our goals and our performance as we try to reach those goals, then everyone knows the direction that we’re trying to take and how they can help achieve those goals. Transparency ensures that everyone is pulling in the same direction, toward a shared objective.”

Posted in Company Culture

Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair is a business copywriter, author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series, and a craft beer writer specializing in Oregon. Learn more at anthonystclair.com.