It will come as no surprise to those reading this article, that an engaged workforce is key to company success. Increased productivity, lower turnover and greater customer satisfaction levels are all proven outcomes, but according to Gallup, only 21% of employees are currently ‘engaged’ at work. It’s easy to understand why boosting employee engagement is a top priority for CEOs, HR teams and leaders across the globe. The big question however, is where to start?
Countless initiatives exist to help companies on their engagement journey, but there is one solution that stands out above the rest: authentic, honest, and transparent communication (a key takeaway from Neovation’s Reward Forward movement). Where once, transparency in business was 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. Here are our four key insights:
1. Transparent communications build trust
Trust is the cornerstone of all human relationships; just as valuable in business as it is in a personal setting. When trust is strong, it enhances problem-solving skills, promotes effective 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.
2. Transparent communications 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 your 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.
3. Transparent communications give your employees a voice
For communication to be truly transparent, it must allow for two-way dialogue. When you actively encourage two-way 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 in the country embrace this approach, including M&S CEO Steve Rowe who credits the employee suggestion scheme ‘suggest to Steve’ with multiple innovative solutions and fostering a positive company culture and workplace.
4. 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 other people, so leaders’ communication with employees will land more effectively when it feels authentic. Sanitised content and corporate tone-of-voice lacks personality and that ‘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 stories of success and failure, and their feelings along the way. Sharing feelings builds trust and stops employees from wondering whether leaders have something to hide.
Transparency won't always be comfortable. It means sharing the good, and the bad and welcoming honest feedback along the way. A certain amount of tact is required, and transparent communication should always be timely and approached with sensitivity; particularly in periods of change which can cause great stress for employees.
Transparency requires buy-in from the top. However, if businesses truly embrace it, they can build a culture of trust and unlock the enormous potential of actively engaged employees – a panacea in today’s world of work.
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