How to make transparency part of your company's DNA

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3 mins, 15 secs read time

In the early days, transparency happened on autopilot. But as your company grows, visibility often starts to dissipate, meetings move behind closed doors and communication becomes less frequent.

And the worst part? You can’t just walk in and say: let’s be transparent. It’ll have the same impact as a fly on a windshield.

Good news – you’re a quick scroll-down away from learning how to propel transparency in your organization.

Get a Reading on Current Transparency Levels

First, you want to know where you stand. Otherwise it’s like wandering in the dark with no flashlight. The best way to do this is through 1:1s and skip levels. They’ll help gauge staffers’ take on transparency on a team- and company-wide scale.

Here are a few questions you can ask your employees:

Question: “What does transparency mean to you?”

Purpose: This will help nail down the fuzzy concept of “transparency” and allow you to agree on and communicate its common definition.

Question: “How transparent is your direct manager on a scale of 1–10?”

Purpose: This will reveal how transparency is being practiced on a managerial scale.

Question: “What’s one actionable thing our organization can do to be more transparent?”

Purpose: This will help you understand what your employees want to see in concrete terms.

Allow for Better Alignment

Here comes the bitter truth: most staffers don’t know what their peers do, let alone colleagues from other departments. The result? Transparency gets torpedoed.

Thankfully, you can turn things around if you introduce OKRTs (Objective-Key Result-Tasks).

It’s a management system Andy Grove, the former Chairman and CEO from Intel, developed that helps make an organization’s objectives crystal clear.

Essentially, each employee sets individual goals based on their expertise and experience, which are then tied to the team’s and, ultimately, the company’s goals. In the end, staffers can view others employee’s goals in relation to the goals of the organization.

Keep Staffers in the Know

Can you say your people are your biggest asset? If yes, you need to default your transparency to “open.” Share the details about plans, revenue and priorities (e.g., at all-hands meetings or in a newsletter.) Emphasize that nothing is off-limits and be honest with your people.

Google does this well. This kind of radical transparency is a cornerstone of their culture. When a new hire joins the search engine powerhouse, they get access to product roadmaps, launch plans, etc.. Google also holds weekly TGIF meetings with Co-Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, where they answer employees' questions. Any question is a fair game, and they all deserve an answer.

“Pull back the curtain on what’s happening, how and why. Be raw with your people and see transparency rise from its ashes.” —Maciej Duszynski, career expert at ResumeLab

Foster a No-Blame Culture

The only thing people learn from being blamed is to be better at hiding their mistakes. And that is detrimental to transparency.

It’s not surprising that many managers think that failure is a bad thing and call out people’s mistakes without excavating insights. But the problem is that failure is actually inevitable for most companies where there’s experimentation, like startups and small businesses. Additionally, if employees don’t feel comfortable admitting to failure, there will be little hope for reviving transparency.

Here’s how to create a no-blame culture:

Tip 1: Zero in on the problem, not the person. Don’t ask whose fault is it, inquire about where the process broke down.

Tip 2: See problems as learning opportunities. Understand that no one is perfect and no one knows everything. Use a mistake as a chance to engage your teams in figuring out how to prevent the failure from recurring.

Tip 3: Be a strong leader. Manage people with more regard for positive behavior than results.

A workplace culture that doesn’t penalise employee mistakes is one that can better foster retention, effective problem solving and high performance.

Don’t forget to tune into Greenhouse’s upcoming webinar with Hubspot, Wayfair, Seen by Indeed and Greenhouse to learn how to attract and retain top tech talent.