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A transparent culture will make your employees feel engaged and invested in the health and growth of the company, or so common wisdom would suggest. People like having insight into company decisions, and they feel more secure when they know what the future holds. Nobody enjoys living under a shadow of uncertainty regarding their livelihood and job security, and most people like to be assured they’ve signed on with a company that prioritizes ethics and responsible behavior. If you haven’t taken a close look at your approach to transparency, now may be a good time to start.

What is transparency?

The term means different things under different circumstances, but generally, if you maintain a transparent culture, your employees and other shareholders can trust you to share information that may impact them. To achieve transparency, you don’t have to bring your teams on board for every stage of every decision, but you do need to loop them in when the outcome might affect their daily routines, their income, their prospects or the resources their work requires.

When do ordinary decisions become a transparency issue?

As you review each line of your budget for the year, you may not bring every line item to your teams for public discussion. But when you address an item that could bring deep cuts to their projects and resources, let them know. When you’re about to make changes to the social structure of the workplace, share the news in a timely and diplomatic way. Don’t pull employees away from projects or partnerships without warning, and if you see changes in the future but can’t yet envision the long-term outcomes, err on the side of transparency. Don’t hide or hoard information unless you’re facing specific risks and have specific reasons for doing so.

Decisions have outcomes, and they also have rationale.

Transparency means announcing coming changes, but it also means something else: Providing reasons for decisions that have already been made. Pulling a curtain over your rationale may seem like a protective instinct or a way to ward off criticism and backlash. But over the long term, using silence to deflect criticism and backlash can generate toxicity, rumors and distrust. When people need answers, silence rarely brings positive results. Choose your path carefully.

Trust and delegate.

When employees have access to information, they may take action. The action may be wise or foolish, helpful or obstructive, organized or chaotic, and the difference may depend on you. If you expect your employees to act on the information you share, offer guidance and trust. Steer them in the right direction and trust them to apply judgement and act in the best interest of themselves and the company.

For more on the benefits and risks that come with cultural transparency, rely on the Milwaukee management and staffing team at Extension, Inc.

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