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What is Transparency in Communication?

January 17, 2023

two employees talking to each other

Effective communication is essential for any thriving organization. Without high standards in place, your company is likely to experience significant hurdles. Productivity and efficiency are among the more obvious areas that can suffer from poor communication. But you can also find company culture, worker engagement, and your company reputation could also be derailed.

One of the key pillars of good communication is transparency. At its core, this is about maintaining honest interactions with your workers and other stakeholders. Yet, it can involve a range of other components to utilize effectively. This is why so many business leaders find establishing and maintaining transparency to be challenging.

Let’s explore what transparency in communication means and how you can implement it more effectively in your organization.

Remove Unnecessary Filters

Filters are a common feature of social communication. Often, they’re in place to soften the blow of difficult conversations. At other times, they’re intended to protect individuals or companies from too much exposure. Transparency is not the same as radical honesty. It isn’t straightforwardness that eschews important and respectful mindfulness about how to navigate conversations. However, it does involve removing any filters that aren’t genuinely necessary.

Internally, you should avoid filters that are designed to limit knowledge. Your staff isn’t going to be able to perform at their best if they don’t have clarity on operational information. Indeed, a sense of concealment here can contribute to disengagement. You should be providing your staff and stakeholders with key information as soon as it is available and as openly as possible. Your business is a team and everyone should feel as though they’re on the same page.

Externally, there are likely to be some necessary filters in terms of operations. This is particularly common with respect to protecting intellectual property and tailored methods from competitors. As such, the filters you need to remove here are more likely to be those that hamper the customer experience. Communicate openly about issues when they occur and how you plan to solve them. Invite feedback on all your channels and publicly respond.

Discuss the Good and the Bad

Transparency in communication involves a willingness to talk about both the good and the bad elements that are present in your organization. Certainly, celebrating the successes and positive aspects bolsters the reputation of your brand both internally and externally. However, only communicating these can leave employees and consumers feeling as though your business is inauthentic. It’s vital to get the balance right here.

When communicating the good aspects, transparency here involves elaborating on how you got there. Your success isn’t just the result of your executives or your brand characteristics. Be specific about what led to positive results. Highlight individual contributors and their efforts. Talk about the impetus for changes you made. This willingness to communicate openly about the cause of success helps bolster employee engagement and demonstrate that success is a joint effort.

When discussing the bad aspects, transparency in communication here revolves around accountability. Discuss what contributed to these failures. This isn’t about blame. Rather, it’s about helping everyone to understand the root of the issues and how to move forward. Not to mention that your transparency in communicating these elements supports your trustworthiness as an organization. 

Trust Your Employees

Perhaps one of the most important elements of transparency in communication is trust. Firstly, communicating with transparency requires a significant amount of trust from you as a business leader. You may be communicating sensitive ideas, information, and principles that could cause damage if handled incorrectly. Nevertheless, your transparency in communication also plays a role in building trust within your organization. Your staff will recognize your efforts to be open and can be more willing to both trust you and engage more fully with your organization.

This begins with being willing to let go of some of the baggage of business secrecy. Too much of the contemporary business climate is hampered by suspicion and paranoia. Particularly when it comes to your internal operations, keeping things too close to your chest can derail relationships and inhibit contributions. Business leaders need to take the first step in honest and transparent communication. Let your guard down.

As with any aspect of business, this can certainly be risky. However, it’s important to remember that your hiring processes should be designed to build a workforce you can trust to operate with the best interests of the company and their colleagues in mind. Your choices mitigate the risk in this regard. Not to mention that your demonstrations of transparency, honesty, and vulnerability can inspire similar behavior in your staff. The result is that this transparent and trusting communication develops a culture of openness.

Train Transparency

Transparency in communication is vital, but it doesn’t always come naturally. In many ways, we’re socially conditioned not to be entirely straight when interacting with one another. We gloss over truths to make them more comfortable to hear. We avoid discussing our failures to protect our reputations. Unfortunately, these learned social habits don’t always make transparency in business communication easy to maintain. 

This means it’s important to train your workforce in utilizing transparency. From day one, make it clear in workplace documentation that transparency is one of the key values of the organization. Teach your employees what transparency looks like in relation to their roles and interactions. Help them to understand how to be open and honest without being rude or unnecessarily harsh.

Your efforts to train transparency should be an ongoing feature of your development program. After all, transparent communication becomes more important the higher up the ladder of seniority your workers rise. Not to mention that a consistent reinforcing of this trait helps to keep it a core element of your organization as you grow.

Adopt Supportive Tools

Transparency in communication isn’t just reliant on open conversations and attitudes. It’s also about adopting the right tools to make this type of interaction practical and effective. The more supportive resources you can provide, the more likely your staff are to incorporate transparency into their everyday communications. Make it an easy and positive experience for them.

One helpful method is to provide dedicated channels to give anonymous feedback to management and executives. It may seem that anonymity is contrary to transparency, but it can be a useful stepping stone. This allows workers to see how your company responds to critiques and gives employees confidence that their feedback will be treated respectfully. Similarly, utilizing regular employee surveys can encourage stakeholders to provide you with more transparent insights into the experiences of your workforce.

Another useful tool for transparent communication is as simple as regularly keeping staff updated. This can be in the form of newsletters, emails, and in-person round tables. Use these to talk openly about key company issues. Importantly, take the time to invite feedback through them. These forums can be effective in encouraging and demonstrating mutually transparent discussions.

Wrapping Up

Transparency in communication can be challenging to achieve, but it’s an invaluable aspect of effective business interactions. Identify the unnecessary filters in both internal and external communications and remove these wherever possible. Be open in expressing both the positive and negative contributors to your organization. Remember that transparency doesn’t always come naturally, so offering training and resources to support this can make a significant difference. The more transparency you can implement in your operations, the stronger your culture is likely to be.