Transparency in the Workplace: What it Looks Like and How to Create It

Transparency in the workplace can boost productivity, inspire company loyalty, and increase job satisfaction... but it's not as simple as just sharing everything, all the time.

The Meetingnotes Team
February 13, 2024

Transparency in the workplace can boost productivity, inspire company loyalty, and increase job satisfaction. Initially, you might find it difficult to pin down precisely what it means to have workplace transparency. If that’s the case for you, then this article’s a perfect read. 

Whether your business is a shining example that seeks to encourage transparency at every turn, or you are just getting started with transparency, we’ll guide you through this core company trait.

From improving your company’s performance to reaping a whole range of personal and professional benefits, this article will cover the foundations of transparency in businesses. We’ll cover:

  1. What transparency at work means
  2. Why transparency in the workplace is essential
  3. Four key tips to instill transparency in the workplace

Let’s get into it. 

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1. What does it mean to have transparency at work?

The core value of transparency focuses on creating an open environment where information is shared freely. A transparent workplace is created with a free flow of information, moving across team members, departments, and from managers to their employees. 

In these workplaces, information is more accessible, allowing for better decision-making and increased employee engagement. That’s not to mention employee happiness; positive workplace culture is one of the most effective methods of boosting productivity in the workplace.

Cultivating transparency at work starts with honest communication. As a manager, you should aim to build rapport with your team members, therefore inspiring them to have open communication across the department. 

It takes everyone working together to foster a transparent culture in the workplace.

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2. Why is transparency in the workplace important?

Workplace culture has a tremendous impact on the productivity and success of workers. From employee satisfaction to employee engagement, creating transparency in the workplace can ensure that everyone enjoys coming to work. Instead of an ‘every man for themselves’ type of work-life, transparency helps boost communication and make people feel happier at work.

It’s challenging to define transparency as it comes in many forms and manifests in different ways. One form of transparency might include sharing wins and ensuring people get credit for their work. Another may be revealing salaries for the entire department to ensure that people feel justified with the amount they’re making. 

No matter what form of transparency we discuss, it all comes back to building a level of trust - both with others and with the organization itself.

Transparency and Building Trust

The Edelman Trust Barometer was a survey that took in over 33,000 responses across 28 different countries. This monumental survey focused on trust and transparency, and its findings further demonstrate the need for trust in organizations.

Currently, one in every three workers doesn’t trust their employer. Similarly, trust is a decreasing principle from more executive positions down, with 64% of executives trusting their organizations, while only 48% of regular staff demonstrating that same trust. 

Trust bubble chart

A hostile workplace culture like this is formed, in part, by a lack of transparency. When team members feel like they’re not given all of the information they want or are purposely left out of conversations, they’re less likely to trust their organization and more likely to quit.

On the flip side of this, when you actively promote transparency across your team, your employees are more likely to demonstrate more passion for their job and subsequently perform better. 

By having an organization that focuses on building trust through transparency, you’ll create an organization that thrives.


Lowers Job Stress and Boosts Productivity

Academics at Ohio State University recently published a study that traced the relationship between financial transparency at work and worker stress levels. According to this study, the general stress level was much lower in firms that had salary information available and open for all of their employees to view. 

Primarily, this comes back to giving each worker a sense of security. Instead of hoping that they’re being paid a fair wage for their time and effort, everyone knows that they’re being paid a similar figure. 

With this knowledge, not only are workers more satisfied with their work, but they’re considerably more productive.

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3. The best practices to instill transparent communication

If you’re looking to boost communication within your team and forge a transparent workplace, then we’ve got four essential tips for you to follow.

To create workplace transparency, you should:

  • Schedule frequent meetings and actively engage in open feedback
  • Never withhold information
  • Avoid workplace hierarchies
  • Use information-sharing tools

Let’s break these down further.

Schedule frequent meetings and encourage feedback

From one-on-ones to weekly team meetings, frequently scheduling meetings encourages employees to actively participate in discussions. Alongside this, these meetings give a vital platform for sharing information such as the status of a team member’s projects, or even just constructive feedback.

According to statistics published by PWC, 72% of workers would like feedback on a daily or weekly basis, meaning that meetings provide an excellent space for your employees to feel heard and seen. Therefore, workplace transparency and meetings go hand in hand. Use these meetings to get all of your employees on the same page. 

If employees have any questions during the meeting, either about a project or company culture as a whole, be sure you encourage them to share their opinions. After all, you need your whole team to feel valued if you want to create the most effective working environment. Treat these meetings like town hall meetings where everyone has the same value, power, and impact, not a hierarchical structure. 

Create a space where your team members are honest, embrace openness, and work with kindness. It would help if you also aimed to hire people who show respect for transparency during their interview process. 

Don’t withhold information

Controversially for many businesses, salary transparency is becoming more and more of a global strategy to entice new hires and embed transparency into their company culture.

The best example of this is the country of Sweden, which allows all of its citizens to request the tax returns of someone else with just a phone call. Of course, this works both ways, as that person is also notified of who’s asked to view their tax forms. Because of this, discussing your salary is incredibly common within Sweden.

This salary transparency has led to incredibly high levels of trust. Fantastically, due to the openness of these policies, problems impacting many American companies like gender pay gaps cannot be found in Sweden. Thus, an open discussion of salary allows individuals to quickly identify whether or not they’re being underpaid.

The American company Buffer took a leaf out of Sweden’s book in 2013 when they publicized all of the salaries that they pay in their company. Interestingly, overnight applications to this company increased by 229%, demonstrating the great extent to which people value transparency.

Right from the beginning of your hiring process, you should aim to create a transparent company culture. Not only will this boost the number of new applications you receive, but it’ll also ensure that those already working for you are much happier in their positions.

Remove workplace hierarchies 

Although there will almost always be a form of working hierarchies in businesses, with employees reporting to managers and managers reporting to the executive team, your office doesn’t have to feel that way.

You can make changes to your office plan to inspire transparency and boost personal and professional relationships around the office. One of the most effective ways to do this is to invest in an open floor plan. 

With an open door strategy at the heart of this principle, you should get rid of office cubicles and move towards a more open floor plan. Not only does this boost communication, but it also removes the physical sentiment of separation that individual cubicles can foster.

Making the transition to this floor plan creates openness, allowing your team to communicate freely and move across the office without running into closed door after closed door. Take your office space as a metaphor for your company culture - openness and transparency is always the way to go.

Use the right information-sharing tools

With information-sharing at the heart of transparency, you need to make sure you’re using the right tools to do so. The best tools for quickly and easily sharing work information are meeting management software. When in a meeting, you’ll be able to use these in-meeting note-taking feature to create a live sheet of notes.

These notes can then be forwarded to those that didn’t attend the meeting, keeping everyone in the loop regardless of whether or not they were present. Additionally, the ability to schedule appointments right to people’s calendars ensures they’ll never feel left out. 

4. Transparency Takeaways

One of the easiest ways to create transparency is by opening up any previous barriers to communication, freely sharing information, and making sure that all of your team members feel that they can openly discuss their thoughts in the workplace.

When incorporating this key component into your team, you’ll start to see the benefits almost immediately, as you begin to build trust, boost honesty, and ensure that your employees feel secure and happy at work.

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