Blog Performance

Transparency and employee performance – what’s the link?

Helping your people to do great work is the main thing you’re expected to do as a manager. But pushing the boundaries of employee performance is much easier said than done.

You might try all sorts of things to boost productivity. From running training courses to buying new tools. But consider this: could being open and honest with your people get you the same results? Research shows there’s a definite link between organisational transparency and employee performance.

The idea of having a transparent workplace culture is pretty nerve-wracking for some employers. Regardless of whether you feel you’ve got something to hide, there’s an element of vulnerability in the idea of being totally transparent with your people.

Transparency helps your people to understand purpose

If you want a workplace where your people can trust each other, then being transparent is essential.

But transparency must start from the top. The best way to inspire transparency in others is to model it yourself. If you demand total transparency from your people while playing your cards close to your chest, you’ll just end up looking like a hypocrite. Lead by example.

Transparency requires goal alignment and employee visibility. If your employees don't know your company goals then they won’t know how they can make a personal impact.

Goal-setting is an essential part of managing people regardless of the method you use. Set top level goals and cascade these down the organisation. That way, everyone’s working to the same objectives.

Transparency builds trust

Transparency applies to customers too. Your staff aren’t the only people who deserve transparency. If you really want to know how to improve business performance, Forbes Council Member Michael Weinhouse suggests you start by getting on the level with your customers.

It might seem risky to show your warts-and-all to customers, but people really do appreciate honesty. Keeping customers in the dark just makes them more liable to get impatient. That’s why delivery tracking apps are so popular.

Being transparent creates an honest workplace culture. The Great Resignation has forced employers everywhere to re-evaluate their workplace cultures. You can’t just expect people to stick around in a toxic work culture. Everyone has their breaking point. They’ll either find work elsewhere or burn out entirely.

A lack of transparency at work can be a huge stressor for employees. There’s the issue of perceived fairness. Without transparency, who’s to say you’re promoting the right people for the right reasons? Your people will worry about their long-term wellbeing and financial stability, too.

How transparency and employee performance are linked

Being transparent improves trust at work

By definition, trust has to go both ways. If you can’t trust your people by being honest with them, it sends a clear message that they should keep you at arm’s length too.

And workplace trust is really important. In fact, PwC stats have shown that employees in high-trust work environments were a whopping 76% more engaged than employees from low-trust environments. And as we’ll always take the chance to point out, engagement plays a key role in financial productivity.

Employees are motivated by seeing their impact

One of the big reasons people tend to connect transparency and employee engagement is that it motivates your talent. By letting employees in on the goals of the business, you help them to understand the value of their work. This is vital for inspiring self-motivation. By understanding the value of their contributions, employees are more readily able to take ownership of business success.

Transparency increases innovation

It's tough to assess just how much productivity gets lost to a lack of transparency each year. But even so, there are clearly gains to be made.

Workplace transparency boosts innovation by bringing all of your people to the table. When everyone’s on the same page about the business, potentially anybody could be the one to come up with the next big game-changer. Using Pass-ups in the Weekly10 check-in helps surface those great ideas.

As for efficiency, keeping secrets is busy work. When you’re transparent with people, you never have to worry about who knows what. People can be assigned to the tasks they’re best suited for. And you don’t have to waste time with formal announcements when the cat gets out of the bag.

How to start being more transparent with your people

Figuring out where to start can be a bit of a head-scratcher. So, let’s go over some practical tips for how to improve business performance using a transparent management philosophy

Start with regular, two-way feedback

Engage your people on a personal level. Check in with your people regularly to give them a voice. That means they can bring up any problems affecting their wellbeing or ability to engage with their work. And by providing regular feedback of your own, you make sure your employees aren’t ignorant about the state of their own performance.

Use goal alignment to provide context

There are benefits to both SMART Goals and OKRs. And you’ll probably want to use both at different levels in your business. But that’s not to say you should never give ground-level employees OKRs to follow.

While SMART Goals are preferable for workload management, they don’t give the recipient much in the way of deeper context. OKRs connect employee goals to management objectives in a way that’s clear. For instance, you could connect an employee’s task to create 12 pieces of new web content to the company goal of increasing web traffic.

Have an open dialogue across the board

And finally, if you're serious about the link between transparency and employee performance, then it needs to be universal. That means cluing your staff in on the latest business developments. But it also means providing open and honest customer service.

The customer may not always be right, but most people can tell when you’re being disingenuous. And if employees are pressured to be dishonest with customers, it’s going to be reflected in their customer service. That’s why you should commit to providing the best and most informative service possible.