Creating or increasing transparency at a company is often easier said than done, and it becomes increasingly difficult the larger the company gets, writes Aaron Bell for Fortune’s Entrepreneur Insiders online community. He compares transparency to glue — it’s what keeps a company together through the peaks and troughs of business.
He provides the following three reasons as to why transparency is valuable as your company grows larger.
- It gives employees context that helps them make better decisions, and perpetuates straight talk and honest discourse.
- Eliminating gossip and correcting any misinformation builds trust, loyalty, and morale in the organization.
- It empowers employees to participate in conversation and decision-making, which forces leadership to address issues, frustrations, and hard questions.
Here are Bell’s 4 tips for improving transparency at you company.
1. Embrace and Evangelize Transparency
According to Bell, holding weekly company-wide meetings is one of the best ways to stay transparent. These meetings shouldn't be merely about celebrating successes; they are also a time to air frustrations and uncertainties. He suggests inviting employees to submit anonymous questions and let everyone vote on the most compelling questions. Then you can address the most popular questions or concerns in front of the entire company.
Bell says a culture of transparency is most important when you have difficult news. In those instances, he suggests being prompt and honest and sharing the news with those who are most affected first.
2. Model Transparency in All of Management
Bell suggests you train your managers to be “radically” candid with the employees on their team. Managers who are able to both tell the truth and get in the corner with their employees develop the tightest and healthiest relationships with their teams, he says. “Tap into those gut feelings and find the confidence to say what you think. It sometimes helps to begin, ‘Here’s some tough love, but I think you need to…,’” Bell says.
At the same time, your managers also need to welcome candid feedback. The aim is to create a “bidirectional relationship” between management and employees, which Bell says will make transparency a habit over time.
3. Tools Can Help Create Transparency
Bell’s company uses Slack, a program that allows employees to ask him questions and read his response. Questions range from those about business strategy to the current valuation of the company, and everything in between. He says using this program rather than email makes it seem less formal and more personal.
4. Close the Feedback Loop
Finally, Bell says it doesn't matter how much you push transparency if people don’t feel it. He suggests executives ask for input from employees about how they are doing. One way to do this is through an anonymous survey to gauge their happiness. Share the results, even if there are areas that need improvement, he stresses. Discuss the challenges that surfaced and ways that you can do better, setting a plan for how you will improve. This shows employees you value their feedback and are taking steps to address their concerns.
Bell concludes saying that by increasing transparency in your organization you’re building “trust capital” — a valuable resource that can be called upon later. “The larger the company gets, the more valuable your reserves of ‘trust capital’ become for maintaining a winning culture.