Employees Want More Transparency—Why It Matters and How to Provide It

With all the recent focus on workplace culture, it’s clear now more than ever that employees want accountability and transparency from their employers; but are they actually getting it?


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Dedicated but in the Dark

When my company, Kimble Applications, undertook a survey about how much employees know about the performance of their organization, we were surprised to find it was still so little. We called the survey “Dedicated but in the Dark” because that seems to be how many workers feel.  Many of these employees are being let down by managers who are missing an opportunity to build on this dedication to create stronger teams.

There seems to be a big gap between the overwhelming majority (75%) of employees who care deeply about the success of the business and the less than one quarter (23%) who have full insight into how it is doing.

Most employees don’t know the revenue, the forecast, or even the headcount of the organization they work for—and almost half are not confident that the small amount of information which they do have access to is reliable.

Employees want to know what’s going on. Around a third (31%) feel that more transparency would help them to better understand their employer’s goals and 23% said it would cause them to be more motivated. Most felt they could handle the truth—only 7% said they thought that more transparency would lead to them being more stressed.

One statistic in particular struck me—two thirds of employees don’t feel they make a major impact on the company’s performance. It seems that lacking insight into business performance means many are simply not aware of the importance of their own contribution.

More Inspiring Management is Needed

The world of work is changing. It is no longer enough for managers to simply pay lip service to the idea of a culture of transparency. They actually have to make this happen on the ground.

Habits of not passing on information grew up when staff mainly worked in the same place, under the eye of supervisors. In this hierarchical environment, many workers had very little insight into the bigger picture. But those kinds of working practices are outdated.

The digital workplace requires capable staff who are empowered to self-manage. They have to make decisions and act in the best interest of the company and that means they need to know what is going on.

Having a structured and organized process in place for information sharing means organizations can function in a more agile and dynamic way, rather than being slowed down by decision-making bottlenecks. It also creates an opportunity to inspire and engage employees and to make them feel valued.

Here are three steps towards changing that culture of keeping staff in the dark.

1. Aim to give all employees a sense of what the goals are for the organization as a whole.

What does success look like? How will we know when we get there? Sometimes the mission statement isn’t translated into operational reality. Business leaders have to create a metric that represents this in a clear and numerical way.

For example, a chicken soup company mission statement is to “become the most successful chicken soup producer in the state.” How are we going to measure that? How much soup do we need to sell and at what price?  These numbers should be shared with everyone. This enables the whole team to get involved in the effort to achieve them.

2. Have regular, company-wide meetings on the goals and how the organization is performing against them. Make this information readily available.

Break down the company-wide target into a “performance cascade.” If we are aiming to sell this much soup at this price, we need to approach this number of new outlets, we need to get our marketing material in front of this many people, we need to be scoring these levels of customer satisfaction when we test our soup. How is everyone doing in their part of this team effort?

Every department should present at a regular meeting about their strategy, challenges, and results and this information should be readily accessible to all. Technology allows all employees to attend the strategy meeting in-person, tune in remotely, or catch up later.

3. Be constructive. Highlight positive information—and where the news is not great, understand the underlying issues and help people to fix them.

Business leaders should adopt a positive and focused approach. Telling everybody in the organization that they are falling behind on their targets and leaving it at that is not going to create a motivated team. The emphasis should be on understanding what issues caused the failure and giving constructive help to people to fix those. There should be a culture in which everyone is encouraged to learn from the most expert and successful team members and supported to perform at that level.

This practice of sharing information constructively ensures employees will feel trusted and valued. Where they have insight into the goals and performance of the organization, they will also be able to contribute more effectively. Creating a culture of transparency is an important part of building and retaining a high-performance team.

Mark Robinson, serial entrepreneur and cofounder of Kimble Applications, has more than 25 years’ experience in the IT consulting industry. In addition to founding the company, he also serves as Chief Marketing Officer where is he is responsible for business development, channel management, and market analysis. Mark started his career in management consulting before working for Oracle Corporation where he witnessed first-hand their rise from start-up to software giant. He started his first IT Consultancy Company, Fulcrum Solutions, in 1997 and cofounded IT consultancy Edenbrook in 2001.

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