It’s no secret that transparency, more commonly expressed as “Open company, no BS,” is one of Atlassian’s most important values. Far from a boardroom buzzword, operating with integrity within and between teams is a vital part of your team and company’s success. According to TinyPulse, a B2B SaaS employee survey firm, transparency is the top factor contributing to employee happiness.
5 ways to create transparency at work
Transparency at work, or transparency in business, means communicating openly and honestly with your team members and cultivating a culture where information can flow freely between people and teams. Although transparency is often glossed over in vague terms, its benefits are tangible. Here are five simple ways to create a transparent culture at your work:
1. Be honest.
Think of the supportive honesty you’d expect from a mentor. Feeling like you can safely give and receive feedback is a hallmark of transparency. Open communication creates trust, pushes innovation, and cultivates a healthy work environment.
Expressing important information to all your colleagues creates a positive and productive platform for teamwork. On the flip side, withholding important information from your teammates can harm your team’s projects and break down trust between team members. When everyone feels like they understand what is happening on their team and why, you will see higher engagement with the work and more creative problem solving that aligns with the needs of your business.
A prime example of radical transparency is Buffer, a company designed to help users thrive on social media. Buffer made the decision to share employee salaries publicly. By doing so, the level of trust between team members at Buffer has increased dramatically, which has helped create a healthy and sustainable work environment. Salary transparency even helped recruitment efforts. After Buffer made its salaries and salary formula public in late 2013, job applications increased 230% in the next month.
How to do this: Start doing standups on your team. Having a single place where everyone can hear about work being done and relevant updates creates a sense of transparency in team communication.
2. Share your results.
One of the best ways to build transparency and create momentum in your business is to share your wins, losses, and challenges. Sharing wins is the easy part. What’s harder is admitting that things didn’t go as planned, but it increases trust and greater unity on a team.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has a great appreciation of failure. In a recent shareholder letter, he said, “To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”
How to do this: When giving updates on the status of your projects, resist the temptation to sugar coat the negatives. Be honest about failures, sharing with your team what you’ve learned and how you plan to move forward. Learning from our failures is one of the smartest things we can do.
3. Break down silos.
According to a McKinsey study, nearly 80% of senior executives said communication is crucial for growth, yet only a quarter of them felt their companies were good at sharing knowledge across the company. Doing a daily standup within your team is great, but making sure knowledge is available and open across all departments will create a truly transparent company culture.
Making transparency a priority makes it much easier to flatten your organization and avoid bureaucracy and a political work environment. Leaders can implement an open-door strategy, utilize town hall meetings, or even rearrange the office in a way that promotes expression. Consider an open floor plan with walls that double as whiteboards, and don’t forget fun team off-sites that help create bonds of trust and friendship. At Atlassian this means a weekly all-company townhall bringing together all our teams across the world, from Sydney to San Francisco.
How to do this: No need to (physically) tear down the walls. You can start building relationships between various teams by asking a colleague from another team to lunch, or scheduling a meeting to discuss how your priorities align.
4. Hire people who care about transparency.
At the end of the day, no “program” around transparency will work unless your people care about transparency, too. And what better way to promote a transparent culture than to recruit people who value transparency.
The good news is that 87% of people want to work for transparent companies, so by building transparency into your recruiting and interview process, you will attract many great candidates.
At Atlassian we do this by discussing our values around transparency during the interview process and then asking our candidates how they relate to them.
How to do this: Anyone has the power to introduce transparency into the hiring process. Write a job description that mentions your company’s philosophy on transparency, or if interviewing a candidate ask a question about working in an open environment.
5. Choose tools that support transparency.
How many hours have you wasted searching for a document in email, requesting permission to a file, or editing (and hopefully not losing!) multiple versions of drafts? The average employee spends 20% of their week looking for internal information and tracking down colleagues for help. And that’s a grand old waste of time! Everyone in your company needs to know where to turn to in order to find the right information, contact the right person, and quickly solve problems.
Tools that support and organize the flow of information break down barriers that disrupt progress within a business. You’ll want to look for something that can be shared and found across your team, department, and entire company – and quickly. You’ll want a place where your team members can give feedback and offer insights and help. And finally, make sure it’s accessible online so that everyone always has the most up to date information.
For Mercy Ships, an international nonprofit that runs the largest private hospital ship in the world, Confluence has been “the key component of expanding the organization.” By helping them connect their teams across geographic and operational spaces, they’ve “brought transparency to different aspects of the organization,” helping support offices all over the world and teams onboard the ship stay connected.
Transparency means meaningful work
Can transparency impact your bottom line? In a word, yes. But it’s much more than that. Transparency allows every individual at your company to feel like they are a part of something bigger. It’s about building trust. It’s about helping your team members to create work that is meaningful and makes a tangible difference.
Which is exactly how it should be.
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