August 16, 2018

Organizational Transparency: Why It Matters to Today’s Employee

Whether we’re talking politicians, CEOs, celebrities, or influencers, the world is losing trust in the leadership of people in power.

Of all generations in the workforce, Millennials in particular are having an adverse reaction to leaders who can’t disclose the whole truth to them. They’ve grown up watching disasters in corporate leadership, like Enron. They’ve seen corporate leaders say one thing and do another, which, for ages, they could get away with doing. However, this has created a significant loss of trust in corporate structures, and many unsuitable leaders.

With the power of Google reviews, Glassdoor and social media, this distrust is being voiced. It’s no longer easy for people to stay in the dark. Conversations are taking place, whether  companies like it or not. Today’s employees are changing how things are done in the workplace, and one of their key demands is greater transparency.

No transparency equals no employee engagement, but for some in power, the term ‘organizational transparency’ can feel like “fluff.” However, there are several reasons why it’s important for organizations to take charge and decide what narrative they want to create, by always being open and honest with their employees, particularly Millennials.

Getting Clear on Organizational Transparency

Beyond being a buzz word, there is a deeper meaning to transparency. However, some leaders still aren’t sure how to work through this, because they haven’t quite grasped the full meaning of it.

Simply put, organizational transparency is a company’s willingness-turned-to-practice to make its who, what, when, where, and how transparent to its employees.

An organization that’s transparent…

  • Lets employees in on the inner functioning of their company, not merely what pertains to the individual’s department
  • Informs everyone of the purpose and deeper WHY of the company
  • Includes team members in significant decision making (policy changes, compensation discussions, structural reorganizations, etc.)
  • Encourages communication between the employees and management, as well as among the employees themselves
  • Promotes honesty in every segment of business operations
  • Talks about their problems and seeks employee input when things aren’t going the way they expected
  • Makes its hiring process information available to candidates and employees
  • Promotes an inclusive and diverse environment
  • Challenges roles and focuses on the outcomes rather than output
  • Has an open hiring policy available to new candidates and current employees, respectively
  • Keeps employees regularly updated on the changes in the work structure as well as the new employee expectations that come with them
  • Is willing to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly without giving people answers that seem like a coverup

Employees understand that some information should remain confidential, but when they aren’t told why this information is being withheld, that’s when they begin to become suspicious. If you have a legitimate reason for withholding, share it with your employees.

Not everyone might agree with the reasoning, but if you’re justified, they can’t claim you didn’t talk about the why. Saying something like “this doesn’t pertain to your department,” or “do what’s asked without questioning it,”just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Transparency and Millennials

Millennials have been perceived as the people who don’t settle. The truth- some are nonconformists because they are frustrated by smoke and mirrors. They merely want to understand why things happen, and what’s so wrong with that?

Old-school business structures have a reputation for being intolerant to change and the necessity of business upgrade. This is precisely why they consider Millennial employees their biggest rivals. As the generations who refuses to settle, Millennials are disrupting the known and, in doing so, are questioning structures and leadership methods that the old-school employees have tolerated for decades. When it comes to hiring and keeping Millennials in your company, honesty and transparency are vital. Things Millennials won’t put up with include:

  • Being manipulated or lied to by their managers
  • Being underestimated by senior workers and their leaders
  • Feeling unfulfilled with their daily tasks
  • Having no feedback on their work and being advised not to share their suggestions and opinions  
  • Getting nothing for something (and everything)

Is Transparency Equally Important to Millennials and Employees from Other Generations?

With the currently available studies on the value of transparency for Millennials, it is safe to say that Gen Ys value workplace transparency in everything from issues to objectives, and much more so than the majority of their generational cohorts.

If a Millennial is left out of a conversation about the significance of their role and the impact they can potentially make to the success of the organization, they’ll lose motivation, fail to participate and – as a final point – leave.

The more you cultivate the culture of honesty and shared information, the more will your Millennial engage. Why? Because Millennials perceive trust as the best reassurance of their importance within the firm they are employed in.

Sharing information and having open communication with their leaders and colleagues alike signals a Millennial that they have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to their teams and have their voices heard.

Transparency produces trust, and if you’ve got a Millennial working with you – make sure you openly share critical information with them.

Transparency, Loyalty, and the Generation Gap – Where Are Millennials in All That?

Classical management systems that worked for older generations are not effective ways of engaging Millennials.

Strict boundaries, micromanagement, limited communication with the management and lack of trust that used to be the norm in past business structures are no longer accepted by Millennial employees.  

Unlike the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers or Generation X, Millennials are less likely to see value in staying loyal to an organization that doesn’t value their participation at the office and/or doesn’t trust them with the firm’s operative dynamics.

The average Gen Y will be selling their skills to the highest bidder, and won’t find it disrespectful or perfidious to their current employer.

As opposed to Traditionalists, who were extremely loyal to their companies and lived by the “honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work” motto, Millennials don’t see themselves plowing through a job they are not satisfied in.

For the Gen Ys, job satisfaction plays a huge role in their level of engagement and their general business attitudes. Similarly, disparate to Baby Boomers and the Gen X (who used to find motivation in financial compensations), Millennials rather choose shared information and trust over monetary rewards.

This doesn’t mean you can’t motivate this generation with money, but Millennials don’t see why one has to exclude the other. Transparent communication, honest teamwork, time off, flexible schedules, and the usage of the latest technology to communicate are somewhat a norm of the healthy work environment for an average Gen Y.

Viewed as a sense of entitlement by some, and a relentless desire to make a difference by others, Millennial behavioral patterns speak for themselves: they won’t ever settle for disrespect or for less than they deserve. Gen Zs seem to have taken a leaf out of the Millennials’ book and have so far developed very similar behaviors to that of the Gen Y generation.  

Final Thoughts

Organizational transparency in the workplace is crucial to engaging Millennial employees. It helps improve communication, strengthen trust and encourage teamwork, solve problems efficiently, encourage people’s creativity, aspirations, ideas, and dreams, as well as their freedom to speak up. It even invites open discussions of unpleasant topics, fears, and conflicts.

Transparency helps join an arena of differences vocalized through fearless employee expression and engagement. The final result? Job satisfaction skyrockets and so does your ROI.

Simone Brown is a performance coach who helps leaders and teams increase productivity. Her approach is grounded in behavioural and brain-based strategies. She believes success isn’t just about talents and smarts, it’s about the development of emotional intelligence. Simone is also a speaker, and talks about topics such as emotional intelligence, millennials, and the importance of purpose.

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