Why Workplace Transparency, Alignment, and Trust Matter

By Betterworks
Updated September 16, 2022
7 minute read

A transparent work environment isn’t just a workplace culture initiative: Transparency, alignment, and trust help business leaders set and execute more effective business goals.

Transparency brings other benefits by enabling company leaders to align the organization and promote trust. Those traits together are essential pieces of a growing business. 

Without these elements, top-line leaders, middle managers, and front-line employees can find themselves working in different directions instead of all moving toward the same goal. 

Here’s how fostering a transparent and aligned company culture supports better business outcomes.

What Is Transparency in the Workplace?

Many companies list transparency as a core value. But what does transparency actually look like in the workplace? While the specifics may differ from culture to culture, here are some common indicators of a transparent culture.

Clarity on Company Goals

In a transparent organization, the business plan and goals are visible to everyone across the workforce. When a company is truly transparent, leaders can’t hide behind vague terms. Goals have to be clear and visible at every level of the company.

That clarity produces several benefits, especially for leaders. Being able to see what your peers are working on and how that affects your team’s work provides clarity on business goals that simply don’t occur in an opaque culture. 

Increased goal clarity resulting from a transparent culture also improves each employee’s sense of purpose. A higher level of transparency makes it easy for individual contributors to see the larger goals and understand how their contributions drive business results.

Accountability and Ownership at All Levels

In a highly transparent organization, there’s no murkiness or confusion about ownership and accountability for business outcomes. Transparency forces leaders to take a more granular approach to assign tasks and breaking larger goals down into smaller, more manageable components. 

In a transparent organization, each small task related to an objective has a clear owner who can be held accountable for achieving results. With clear ownership over each piece of your larger objectives, achieving your company strategy becomes much easier. Because responsibility is clearly defined for each task, leaders can spot breakdowns in processes or where someone is under-delivering at a glance. 

In this way, transparency and accountability feed into your larger commitment to agility and continuous improvement. When you’re able to recognize that something isn’t working, you can put a plan into place to solve it.

Open and Honest Communication

In a transparent company, communication has to be more open and honest. When goals are visible and tasks have clear ownership, it’s impossible to hide the state of a task. Leaders and managers can ask targeted questions and expect satisfactory answers from an objective’s owners.

In a transparent culture, instead of trying to hide a problem, employees at any level are encouraged to raise concerns and seek help from peers and leaders. 

Knowing you can reach out and receive constructive feedback enables better work processes and higher productivity. And because each project is easily visible, managers can jump right into problem-solving mode without requiring an extensive brief on the situation.

What Is the Connection Between Transparency, Alignment, and Trust?

Transparency creates additional benefits for your company beyond clarity, accountability, and honesty. A transparent culture fosters better business outcomes by aligning the workforce across a set of shared goals and by building trust that everyone involved will achieve those goals.

Transparency Drives Alignment

When everything’s out in the open, it’s easier to see how goals set at the lowest levels of the organization drive results at the very top. Each smaller objective builds on the preceding tasks to produce a significant business impact. 

That level of alignment supports a greater sense of purpose for employees. And with a vision of the end in mind, goal alignment helps employees become more targeted in their actions. When employees face challenging decisions in the course of their work, for example, a clear line of sight helps them take the right action — one that’s oriented toward achieving the end goal.

Ultimately, transparency and alignment encourage employees to think critically about how they can drive business goals forward more quickly and with better results.

Transparency Builds Trust

When nothing is hidden in the organization, members of the workforce will begin to trust each other more — from the bottom to the top, vice versa, and laterally.

Employees will become more trusting of leadership if they feel like leaders are communicating with them honestly. Employee trust fosters loyalty, which supports higher retention and increased employee engagement. Sharing information regarding salary ranges across the company, for example, garners trust from the workforce — especially because individuals can verify that information. Employees are more likely to trust that leadership is being honest with them, and they aren’t left wondering whether they’re making less than their colleagues for the same work.

Leaders at all levels will become more trusting of employees, too. This produces better work habits at lower levels, as managers who trust their direct reports are much less likely to micromanage them. When managers can trust that employees are performing quality work in a timely manner, there’s no need to micromanage when or how they do that work. Leaders can set aspirational goals knowing that, as long as they provide the right resources, employees will work hard to achieve them.

Trust is important laterally, too, especially when employees need to rely on colleagues outside of their immediate teams. Employees must be able to trust that their peers in other departments are doing their part to produce positive business outcomes.

Alignment and Trust Foster Productivity

A transparent culture produces alignment and trust, driving a greater business impact. 

When goals are clearly aligned across the company, work becomes easier to manage. Employees can see what they need to do to move the needle or achieve the next step toward each goal. Clear goal-setting processes also include metrics for measuring progress toward each goal’s completion. These metrics, or key results, provide additional clarity about what employees must achieve to keep business goals on track.

Goal alignment software can help convert alignment into greater trust. Leaders, managers, and employees can see when peers are achieving their goals, which keeps larger goals on track. This creates transparency and drives trust between team members.

3 Ways Transparency, Alignment, and Trust Help You Execute Your Goals

Your company culture has a significant impact on your ability to achieve business goals. Here’s how a healthy culture of transparency, alignment, and trust creates an environment where employees can thrive — and drive business results.

Better Understanding of Workforce Capabilities

Transparency is essential for setting effective goals. In a transparent organization, top-line leaders have better visibility into the workforce’s capabilities. This knowledge allows leaders to set goals that are simultaneously realistic and aspirational.

With a greater understanding of not just the workforce’s capabilities but also of individual employees, company leaders can reassess goals and assignments to ensure that the right people are in the right positions to drive business results.

Increased transparency makes it easier to spot gaps in capabilities, too, so that HR leaders can include goals for filling them.

Clear Line of Sight to Goals Across the Company

Transparency allows each and every employee to see goals up, down, and across the company. Leaders can see how each department breaks down the larger goals and how individual teams break them down even further into manageable parts. A clear line of sight also allows leaders to see who’s taking ownership of smaller portions of the larger whole.

This visibility helps leaders monitor business goals in action. They can see, at a glance, what is happening in the company and which performers are having the biggest impact.

At the same time, employees at the company’s lowest levels have visibility into what they’re building or working toward. Greater visibility empowers employees to propose better ways of doing things to support business goals. Let’s say your overall goal is to improve diversity hiring outcomes, for example. A recruiter with intimate knowledge of the hiring process may suggest changes to the interview process to mitigate bias, which gives candidates from historically excluded groups a better chance.

Greater Visibility Into Evolving Opportunities

When everything is laid out transparently, it’s easier to see strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the business. That visibility allows top-line leaders to set objectives that bring the company closer to its larger goals.

Transparency, alignment, and trust can guide your ongoing business initiatives, too. For example, once your business plan is put into motion, seeing the opportunities for improvement can spark future-oriented conversations and collaboration.

3 Steps for Building a Culture of Transparency

To leverage the benefits of transparency in your business, you need to cultivate it in your company culture. Here are three steps you can take to encourage transparency at your company.

Overcommunicate With the Workforce

It’s better to overcommunicate with employees than to under-communicate with them. If employees feel like you’re hiding information, then they will become suspicious, and their trust — not to mention their productivity and engagement — will drop. Sharing data on your diversity, equity, and inclusion statistics, for example, shows employees that you’re willing to communicate that state of the organization.

Create clear channels for communication that flow both ways. Engagement software can help support transparency in workforce communication, for example. Set guidelines for when to use each channel, including situations when communication should be public to the rest of the workforce and instances when it should be kept within the team.

Develop a targeted communication plan that includes regular business updates and all-hands meetings where leaders are available to answer employee questions and concerns.

Foster Accountability for Objectives 

Develop a habit of assigning ownership for every activity, task, or initiative at your organization.

Without clear ownership, accountability typically falls to managers and team leads, and ownership at that level can be vague. Oftentimes, managers just expect employees to do their part effectively, but this often results in last-minute scrambles to fill the gaps missed on the initial run. 

While each team leader is ultimately accountable for team objectives, assigning a clear and transparent owner from within the team produces better accountability and builds transparency. 

Review the habits of high-reliability organizations (HROs) that foster accountability to mitigate risks. Many HROs set accountability at the top, making sure that each leader knows that they’re accountable for the work of the people below them. This incentivizes leaders and managers to be more thoughtful about assigning tasks and learning who they can count on to carry out tasks.

Build clear ownership into your daily processes. Assign project managers to help define accountability for each team. Review open assignments in daily standups so that objective owners are always prepared to answer and leaders can keep better track of the current state.

Create Visibility With Goal Alignment Software

A culture of transparency, alignment, and trust depends on greater visibility into where each person falls in the company structure. It’s challenging to communicate goals across the company if employees aren’t familiar with organizational charts.

To foster transparency, you need goal alignment software to ensure that roles and the reporting structure across the company are visible to the entire workforce. By adding goals that are visible to everyone in your software, you can give employees a complete picture of what each person, from the bottom to the top, is prioritizing this quarter.

Leverage the Benefits of a Transparent Work Environment

Organizations that embrace a culture of transparency generate several benefits for their business.

Transparency, alignment, and trust bring your goals into focus. Company leaders have a clear line of sight to goals throughout the organization, and employees can see how their contributions power business results.

Transparency has powerful consequences for your business. Purpose fosters productivity so you can achieve business goals. Transparency supports employee happiness and a better experience. The more transparent your business is the better your potential for growth.

Start leveraging your potential by designing and empowering transparency, alignment, and trust in your organization.

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