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17 Mar 2023

Why transparency is key to employee engagement

It means sharing the good and the bad, and maybe even the ugly, but true transparency can help align employees with a company’s goal

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According to Gallup, only 21% of employees are currently ‘engaged’ at work.

It’s a worrying statistic when every leader knows that an engaged workforce is key to company success. Increased productivity, lower turnover and greater customer satisfaction levels are all proven results.

It’s easy to see why boosting employee engagement is a top priority for chief executives, HR teams and leaders across the globe.

There are countless initiatives to help companies with engagement, but one solution stands out above the rest: authentic, honest, and transparent communication (according to Neovation’s Reward Forward movement). Where transparency in business was once a taboo concept, now it is the expectation. We live in an age of information and, increasingly, consumers and employees want to be well-informed about the products and services they use and the companies they interact and work with.

Companies communicating transparently with employees can expect to reap the rewards.

A way to build trust

Trust is the cornerstone of all human relationships, in business or a personal setting. When trust is strong, it enhances problem-solving, promotes two-way communication and encourages mutual respect. Without it, relationships can become fraught with fear and uncertainty that can ultimately lead to their demise. 

Transparent communication and trust go hand in hand. When employees can rely on you to communicate openly and honestly, they trust that you are on their side. Being transparent also signals that you trust your employees with the truth, even in difficult circumstances. Trust is reciprocal, so when your employees feel like you trust them, they are more likely to trust you in return.

Connect employees to your purpose 

Employees can’t be expected to put all their energies and passion into a role if they don’t understand what they are working towards. Transparent communications help align people with the core purpose and values of the company so that they understand where the organisation is headed and the role they can play in its success.

According to McKinsey: “When employees feel that their purpose is aligned with the organisation’s purpose, the benefits expand to include stronger employee engagement, heightened loyalty and a greater willingness to recommend the company to others.

Give your employees a voice

For communication to be truly transparent, it must allow two-way dialogue. When you encourage dialogue, then respond to and act on feedback, you demonstrate to employees that you care what they think and value their input. When employees feel that their voices are heard it can have significant benefits for engagement.

Many of the most inspirational leaders embrace this approach, including M&S boss Steve Rowe, who credits the employee suggestion scheme ‘Suggest to Steve’ with multiple innovative solutions and fostering a positive company culture and workplace. 

Transparency starts at the top and benefits all colleagues

The benefits of transparent communications across an organisation are clear, but to have a real impact on engagement, transparency must start at the top. Leaders are responsible for setting the precedent that transparency is valued and expected. When leaders communicate transparently, other team members are more likely to follow suit.

People are biologically programmed to connect with others, so leaders’ communication with employees will land more effectively when it feels authentic. Sanitised content and corporate tone-of-voice lacks personality and ‘human feel’.

However, communicating with authenticity provides a much greater opportunity for connection and encourages similar behaviours in return. Beyond sharing the cold, hard facts, leaders should look to share successes and failures and their feelings along the way. Sharing feelings builds trust and stops employees from wondering whether leaders have something to hide.

Transparency is not always comfortable. It means sharing the good and the bad and welcoming honest feedback. Tact is required and transparent communication should always be timely and approached with sensitivity, particularly in periods of change that can cause great stress for employees.

However, if businesses truly embrace transparency, they can build a culture of trust and unlock the enormous potential of engaged employees. 

This article is provided by Caburn Hope, part of the Buck family.

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