It’s easy enough to talk about having a transparent culture and the benefits are certainly compelling. Transparency in business encourages collaboration, exposes areas of improvement, and sparks ingenuity. When everyone knows the primary goal and works towards it, your company is laser-focused on producing quantifiable results.
Transparency breeds motivated employees. But practically, what does it look like to create and maintain a culture of transparency in your business?
Here are six proven ways to actively promote transparency at work.
1. Hire the right people - transparent people.
Hiring is first because it’s at the very heart of a transparent culture. If you don’t have the right people - people who are transparent - trying to change the culture will be frustrating and nearly impossible.
Look for individuals who aren’t afraid to fail. When these folks do fail, they admit the failure and share what they learned from it. We all make mistakes, but those who are open about them foster a culture of transparency.
Another characteristic to look for is solid communication skills. Transparent individuals are open and honest when asked probing questions. They share ideas and seek out feedback. They’re not afraid to ask questions.
Michael Hyatt, a New York Times bestselling author and leadership mentor, explains the connection between hiring the right person and creating the culture you want:
“For me, the first guideline [for hiring the right person] is to define the institutional culture you’re trying to create. What we sometimes fail to realize is that when we add people to our companies...we’re going to alter the culture. We’re going to either change the culture or reinforce a culture that already exists. We have to be clear about what it is we’re trying to create.”
If you want to cultivate a transparent culture, you need to hire transparent people.
2. Set clear KPIs and metrics for the company and individual employees.
One of the primary characteristics of transparency is clarity. What better way to bring clarity to your business than identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics? By clearly showing where you’re headed and what expectations you have, your employees will unite to achieve those goals.
In order to identify your KPIs, you need to ask two questions.
- What main objective are you trying to achieve (as a business)?
- How will you know if you’ve achieved it? (Or what’s the best indicator?)
The answers should give you a good idea of the most important metrics for you to track. While it’s helpful to focus on just one KPI at a time, you’ll likely need to monitor several other supporting metrics for context.
When you choose your KPIs and metrics, make sure each person understands how they’re contributing - this is where individual metrics are derived. You can ask the same two questions as above for each team and then each person. Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a great tool for breaking down the company objectives and setting individual performance metrics.
3. Communicate KPIs and metrics regularly.
Communicating the KPIs and metrics you’ve set for the company and for your employees should be a no-brainer, but it’s scary how many times this step gets overlooked. The goal is to track how the company and individuals are performing against the KPIs, whether good or bad. Communicating metrics can take a couple different forms:
- TV dashboards displayed in the workspace are a great way to keep the most important metrics front and center. Create team specific dashboards so employees can see how they’re contributing to the overall company numbers and what action they need to take to hit their targets.
- Weekly/Bi-weekly all-hands meetings are another way to make sure everyone is on the same page and focused on the same overall goal. Give a quick recap of how the company has performed over the last period and what the key metrics are for the next period. This kind of transparency within a business promotes teamwork and collaboration.
- Quarterly reviews based on individual KPIs help keep employees focused and promote transparent performance reviews. If individual goals are clearly defined at the beginning of the quarter, it’s much easier to measure progress and identify areas for growth.
4. Encourage open communication and innovation.
Transparency thrives on open communication. And thankfully, a variety of tools are designed for this very purpose. But at the end of the day, they’re just tools - they only work if you use this effectively.
As an example, at Geckoboard we use Slack on a daily basis to keep everyone connected - both our in-office staff and remote staff (spread across six time zones). Of course we have team specific channels for more focused conversations, but anyone can join any channel.
Everyone is encouraged to ask questions, share ideas, and learn from other teams. Our ‘Shenanigans’ channel provides plenty of laughs and reflects another aspect of our culture: we have fun while we work.
Another practical way we promote transparency at Geckoboard is through our bi-weekly Show and Tell sessions. Anyone can share something they’ve built or created. Not only is it fun to show off your work, but you get a better understanding of what others are doing.
As it turns out, some of the best ideas happen when people who might not normally interact, communicate. This is why most innovation happens in cities and companies obsess over office layouts. A transparent culture encourages employees across the company to connect, communicate, and collaborate.
Source: Hugh Macleod @gapingvoid
5. Avoid mushroom management and reward ownership.
Don’t be a Mushroom Manager - a manager who leaves their team in the dark, failing to share any company-wide data. One way to avoid this trap is sharing data openly with your employees and empowering them to take action based on that data.
A recent study on Mushroom Management found that over 80% of employees want bosses to share more info and data about the business. Over 50% of employees say that more company info and data being shared had a significant positive impact on their productivity and performance.
Encourage and reward employees for taking ownership. Individuals who know what’s going on in the company and feel they ‘own’ a part of the success of the company are more committed and motivated to do their best work.
A transparent culture is one that acknowledges the effort of every single person - not just the C-suite - as an integral part of the success of the business.
6. Support risk-taking.
Some of the best feedback I’ve ever received in my career was to take more risks. Enabling people to take risks - and yes, at times fail - is the true test of a transparent culture. Well-known for their open culture, Facebook has a quote you’ll find posted around their offices: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
Source: Confessions of a Book Geek
Part of creating a transparent culture is making a safe environment for people to try new ideas and learn from their mistakes. A transparent culture holds two thoughts in tension: this project, idea, process might work or it might not work. And that’s okay. It gives employees the freedom to fail and the resources to learn and try again.
Creating and maintaining a transparent culture is a continuous process. The key is to start now. Whether you need to make big changes (maybe hiring or firing someone) or little changes (like using an existing tool differently), begin today.
Need help setting your KPIs to share with your team? Learn how to set your business KPIs and metrics.
Or view our dashboard examples for inspiration in creating a dashboard.