To create a work culture that will both provide a gravitational pull for talent and enable teams to do their best work, full transparency is required. And although the proliferation of cloud-based work tools and social media has lifted the lid on individual working practices, there is still a way to go. Just asking your teams to share their calendars and CC in colleagues is not enough.
We know that employees increasingly want to work for a company that has strong ethics, a meaningful purpose and a progressive culture, as a recent report by PwC on millennials in the workplace confirms, and trust and transparency play a major role in that.
But how can leaders create that work utopia while ensuring employees don’t feel like they’re being watched by ‘big brother’?
Set the tone
As a business leader or manager of a team, it is your responsibility to uphold the company’s vision of ‘the way things are done around here’. Whether it’s intentional or a happy accident, an engaging and inspiring company culture can have a knock-on effect, creating brand ambassadors within your teams.
These in-house brand evangelists can help a company attract new talent, but will also work harder for you with next-level productivity. According to research from leadership consultants Bain & Company, engaged workers are 44% more productive than those who are simply ‘satisfied’ with their work.
If you’re asking others to be open about their work, you should be open too.
One company that has pushed transparency to a new level is social media scheduling company Buffer, which has been bold enough to share salary details of all employees, including those of its CEO. That doesn’t mean that model is right for all businesses nor does it mean that employees should be privy to all sensitive company information.
What it does mean is that you should try to lead by example. You should work openly in collaboration on projects so colleagues can see that you have a role and are committed to a transparent approach – that you have nothing to hide. If you’re asking others to be open about their work, you should be open too.
At Yack.net, we are big believers in being fully transparent, not only because it builds deeper relationships and better alignment across our teams, but also because it helps prevent unnecessary gossip and suspicions that can breed a culture of mistrust.
Managing your meetings in a transparent way ensures that all members of your in-house team and any wider collaborators on a project can be held accountable to one another – which leads to better results for the task or project.
Switch the narrative
Of course, not everyone will find this a comfortable transition – particularly those who have got things to hide. There may be a feeling from employees that you are only doing this because you don’t fully trust them and you want to micromanage your teams.
So how do we tackle this misconception and ensure this is seen as a positive step?
The narrative needs to be switched so that employees can see that transparency levels the playing field, providing equality of access to information allows them to hold their managers accountable and can address any resentment for other team members, who may or may not be as focused as they are on their work.
Provide clear guidance
So, assuming you do get buy-in from your team to move towards a fully transparent approach, how do you make sure that processes and procedures are upheld?
It is likely that in order to work effectively in a see-through fashion you will need to use a cloud-based technology tool that everyone has access to and can be updated in real-time. Whether that is a project management tool, a document collaboration tool or a voice-attuned collaboration platform, there are plenty of options to choose from.
It’s about shining a light on great work and streamlining processes to boost productivity.
It is important to establish some ground rules, so HR teams should work closely with their CIO or IT support to work out how tools will be used and, for instance, what sign-off procedures will need to exist within that environment.
These guidelines need to be easy to follow, allow for flexibility in case projects evolve beyond their original scope and work for all parties. Without employee buy-in, it just won’t work.
Remain respectful of the individual
Allowing your team members to draft a piece of content offline until they’re happy to share it with the wider team, or encouraging teams to have creative workshops with old school pen and paper to come up with and refine ideas, should not be sniffed at – even if you move to a more collaborative and transparent technology-enabled approach.
You still need to demonstrate an understanding that people work in different ways, and that respect for the individual is key to getting the most from your employees. If sophisticated personality tests have taught us anything, it’s that we’re all different and that diversity in the workplace can lead to innovative ideas and help us pioneer new ways of working. Something you don’t want to miss out on.
It’s all about finding the right balance. You need to both trust your employees to work on a task in their own way, but also encourage them to share and play a part in the wider picture to build closer relationships and understanding for the collective good of all.
It’s about shining a light on great work and streamlining processes to boost productivity, by creating an environment where a culture of transparency and collaboration is at the heart.
We have felt the benefits of making that shift and I would encourage all HR teams to work towards this new work utopia in their organisations, which is something that Barack Obama was doing before Trump. “We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration,” Obama said when he was US President. “Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness.”
About Alan Mortis
Alan is the founder and CEO of Yack.net, the company behind a technology that combines collaboration and call transcription capabilities in one platform. The ground-breaking tool automatically records and transcribes calls into text, marking up 'who said what' so users can search and replay any part of the call to check what was said. Founded only a few months ago, Yack.net’s new software took two years to create and is already being used successfully by a number of SME businesses to ‘capture their conversations’.
Having graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Physics, Alan started his career working for Micro Focus. Following spells at Xara and Circdata, Alan decided to take the entrepreneurial jump in 2010 and founded Connected Digital, a software development company that focuses on helping businesses connect with customers. The company has offices in the UK and Poland, and has completed a number of developments including the BoardPacks mobile apps for eShare, the Actors and Actresses apps for Spotlight Casting and apps for numerous magazine publishers. Connected Digital is responsible for creating the technology behind Yack.net – as well as funding its development.
A true tech devotee, Alan has dedicated his career to bringing innovations to the software industry. He is a strong advocate of transparency and accountability in the workplace, and actively promotes the equality of access to information. He keeps his feet on the ground by spending time with his wife and three daughters, and teaching sailing on Sundays to the next generation of sailing enthusiasts.