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Up, up and away: Employee engagement can take flight with transparency

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Leveraging the power of transparency may well be the future of employee engagement. Find out all about the what, why and how of it inside. Bringing you… transparency 101!

“Transparency is the new marketing.” - Neil Patel

Our lives are powered by numerous fragile bonds of trust - on the road, in the home… and at the workplace. As a result, we are always on the lookout for a basis for trust… or distrust. In this search for trust, openness and honesty go a long way. When we sense these qualities in the other party, it becomes a basis for trust to develop. When translated into the context of work, here’s what this means: transparency on the part of the employer can engender trust among employees.

“Transparency breeds trust and trust is the foundation of great teamwork.”
- Joel Gascoigne, CEO, Buffer

And it’s not all talk. This principle is being put into practice by some of the most well-known companies out there. It was Buffer that pioneered “transparency marketing” by sharing employee salaries as well as the formula used to arrive at these. HubSpot declared all its employees “insiders” when it went public a few years ago. The insider designation meant that they could now see the company’s financial data before it was released to the public. Unbounce joined the transparency game at the beginning of 2014 with their “Inside Unbounce” blog - a candid and uncurated blog that runs on employee contributions. Yahoo’s devel-random too merits a mention here. A massive email list that boasted over 8000 subscribers at one point, devel-random saw conversations ranging from inspirational to downright vitriolic. The moot point here is that no employee was disciplined or discussions censored on the portal. A step in the direction of open conversation, no doubt.

The need for transparency in employee communications

Harvard Business Review’s 2013 employee engagement survey revealed that 70 percent of those surveyed say they’re most engaged when senior leadership continually updates and communicates company strategy. With reference to a recent poll, Forbes magazine noted that 71 percent of employees felt that their managers failed to spend enough time explaining goals and 50 percent said that their organizations were held back by a lack of transparency. TalentCulture notes that a majority of employees (60%) feel as though they aren’t receiving enough feedback. Only a small portion of companies (14%) have employees who understand the organization’s strategy, goals, and direction. With the state of affairs being such, transparency can breathe new life into your employee communications. Driving the desire for greater transparency and authenticity is also an increased focus on employee engagement and employer branding.

Also, with unprecedented amounts of information available at the click of a button and social media platforms that encourage you to share everything from your relationship status to how your day went, the expectation to receive more information from management too is hard-coded into the DNA of millennials.

Now, throw AIR (AI, IoT, and Robotics) into the mix. By their very nature, applications that run on AI are learning machines. And if you do not understand what inputs they are working with and what types of analyses they’re performing on an algorithmic level, control may be lost. Thus, as AI penetrates HR, it necessitates the adoption of transparent policies by companies. IoT too is ushering in an era of hyper-transparency. By 2020, it is expected that there will be 80 billion devices connected to the internet. With such interconnectedness, there naturally comes an openness of information that is difficult to manage. That is to say, AI and IoT may soon force our transition to transparency.

So, how is one to go about being transparent?

Transparency refers to how honest and open an organization is in its communications. A good place to start being transparent is by re-examining what is being communicated to your employees and how. Does information come directly from you, the CXO, or does it trickle down the hierarchy? Are strategic decisions kept under wraps for the most part? Is there a possibility of being more open to your employees in communicating such matters?

A common approach to transparency is to make financial data available. The rationale behind this is multifold. On the one hand, this approach helps draw the crucial link between individual and organizational performance and thus sets the direction for the individual performance. On the other hand, it provides a clear view of expected and delivered performance. When one sees how each piece fits into the larger puzzle, one is more motivated to go the extra mile.

If you’re going through a time of change, it can be a good time to espouse transparency. Communicate any changes in the company’s direction directly to employees. By displaying trust in your employees, you send out the message that they are in fact trustworthy and will act in the best interest of the company.

In the final analysis, transparency is a powerful tool that can improve both a company’s performance and the engagement levels of employees, when wielded wisely.

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