A great work culture thrives on open and transparent communication at all levels, creating an environment where everyone feels heard and valued. Transparent communication at the workplace is essential for building trust and engagement in the workplace. You need to share information upward, downward, and laterally to do that.
As SHRM mentions, "A psychologically safe environment allows more of the "bad" news to be shared upward, but a culture of fear increases the probability that the information needed will not be communicated upward. Instead, the tendency in this environment is to engage in cover-ups, finger-pointing, and avoidance, resulting in top management being unaware and sometimes blindsided."
So, if you're building a culture of innovation in the workplace, transparent communication is the only way to bring openness to communication. People must feel safe to share information, put across their innovative ideas, and collaborate.
In this article, we'll discuss in detail how to build transparent communication in the workplace. But before that, let's understand what transparent communication is.
What is transparent communication?
Transparent communication is the act of both good and bad information being shared upward, downward, and laterally in a way that allows all to see the why behind the words.
A workplace with transparent communication is more collaborative and trustworthy, with information being openly shared between employees and across levels of the organization.
The importance of transparent communication
Gartner's Survey found that employees who work in a “high fairness” environment perform 26% more than those who don't. The survey also revealed that they're 27% less likely to quit.
Meanwhile, research by Oak Engage highlights that employees who experience a lack of open and honest communication have lower morale at work. This eventually leads to higher levels of employee churn, losing the best talent to a lack of motivation.
For HR leaders, creating a fair workplace is one of the top priorities in 2023. And to achieve that, companies need to go beyond their usual policies and practices.
The four areas where HR leaders can work to build a fairer workplace are:
Keeping employees informed
Support their employees
Acknowledge their efforts
Considering their employees for the next level role whenever there's an opportunity
To work on these areas and implement them, organizations need to foster a culture of openness and transparent communication across the organizational hierarchy.
Benefits of transparent communication
A study by The Economist found that workplaces that don't foster transparent communication directly impact business outcomes. A survey done among a panel of over 400 US employees found the following results:
52% percent said poor communication added to the stress
18% associated poor communication directly impacted sales
44% said lack of transparent communication impacted project completion
Encouraging a culture of transparent communication in the workplace can bring about numerous advantages that are essential for the success and growth of any organization.
When communication is open and honest, it can lead to improved trust and respect among team members, which can, in turn, enhance collaboration, increase productivity, and create a more positive work environment. Some of the most significant benefits are:
Increasing trust among employees
More engagement among employees
A better workplace culture
A strong employer brand
How to establish transparent communication in the workplace
1. Leadership and management need to set the right example
Lead by example by fostering transparent communication consistently. Employees look up to their leaders, and when they see the leadership and management fostering a culture of open communication, they will start practicing the same.
A research study revealed that "effective leadership communication has a significant influence on organizational behavior, their direct subordinates, and coworkers." So, encourage leaders at the C-Suite level to be more transparent in their communication efforts.
2. Encourage honest feedback and act on It
Ask your employees for their opinions and ideas to bring positive changes to the workplace and your communication strategy. Foster an open feedback framework through surveys and feedback cycles.
Once you receive the feedback, act upon it. Ask your managers to devise an action plan and work effectively towards implementing the suggestions. When employees see their feedback is being considered, they feel heard, valued, and encouraged to contribute positively to building a transparent connection structure.
3. Make cultural alignment a priority
If you're an organization that promotes inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, ensure to define your organizational culture clearly. This includes being descriptive about the company values, policies around inclusivity and creating opportunities for the team to share their cultural backgrounds with one another. When employees understand each other and where they come from, they’re better aligned for effective communication.
You can do this by simply reworking your team-building activities. Look for ways to let employees share their cultural stories and experiences with others. Giving them a platform will not just show you care, but also help build empathy, understanding, inclusion, and effective collaboration.
4. Build a culture of psychological safety
The only way to build a culture of psychological safety is by manifesting clear and transparent communication, especially when employees have an opposite view to share during a one-on-one discussion. Respect their ideas and tell them they will be evaluated and considered.
Being genuinely involved, open, and transparent in communication creates psychological safety for the employees, which in turn drives a culture of innovation. According to a report by HBR, approximately 42% of employees tend to remain silent and withhold their opinions when they do not feel at ease to express themselves openly in their workplace.
Creating an open workstyle is often not that tough. All that an organization needs to do is instill the freedom to share information and ideas without the fear of being judged, make two-way feedback possible, and help the team build stronger interpersonal connections.
5. Make information easily accessible to everyone
Transparent communication is based on the easy accessibility of information to everyone.
This can be divided into four elements:
You disclose all key information publicly for employees and clearly describe your organization's internal processes.
You involve all the stakeholders and your employees in the decision-making process.
You remain accountable for all the actions.
You empower your employees with tools that make their life easier. For example, Deputy offers solutions that help your teams easily communicate, share critical information, videos, and documents in one place. The app can also record confirmation when key updates or policies have been reviewed.
6. Create a communication handbook for employees
Apart from having the right tools and technologies, another good idea is to create a handbook to enhance effective communication. It should lay down some rules, regulations, and guardrails around communication in the workplace.
Such a handbook can provide guidance on how to create an environment that encourages open and honest communication, how to address conflicts constructively, and how to establish trust and build strong relationships.
7. Define roles and responsibilities clearly
To ensure your employees know clearly who to reach out to in case of a need, define roles and responsibilities properly. Creating an organizational chart is a great way to get started. That way, everyone will know who to report to across the organization, which will help foster a culture of clear and transparent communication.
To further ensure that everyone in the team is working in alignment, a good idea is to work on clear job descriptions. This should include what their role is, how it impacts business growth, KPIs they should be working towards, the tasks they will need to accomplish, and which teams they need to communicate with.
8. Share real-time updates
To ensure that your business keeps running smoothly, it’s important for team members to share work updates in real-time. By sharing how they’re tracking on key tasks and any problems, they can enable managers to problem solve and other team members to jump in where needed to support.
This is where having a scheduling app for your team can help. It gives everyone an overview of who is available when, what they are working on, and a space to communicate in real-time.
9. Don’t go overboard
While it’s important to maintain a culture of transparent communication, don’t fall for the ‘transparency trap’ where too much transparency may backfire. For example, if you’re going overboard with information like how employees are spending their time, employees may feel intrusion in their personal space — so remember to find a balance.
Transparency is the key to a healthy and innovative workplace. It fosters an innovative culture for the organization and creates a space where everyone feels safe to open up and share their ideas without fear.
Transparent communication paves the path for better employee engagement and retention. However, building a culture of transparent communication takes time. Remember, the process might be slow, but you will need consistent efforts to build an organization driven by transparency in communication.