By Cornerstone

01 Jul 2014

Today there is a growing need for organisations to provide seamless and transparent information sharing amongst employees; whether it is visibility of employee goals at different levels within the company to ensure alignment between the individual and the businesses objectives or reporting on financial targets. 

By adopting a transparent approach, it ensures that every employee knows what is expected of them and what they can expect in return. The desire for greater transparency has been driven by a number of factors in the working landscape – not least of all, understanding of its benefits.

Why be Transparent?

The core benefit of transparency is engagement; transparency encourages a better working environment as employees will feel engaged with the company and have an increased understanding of its operations. This helps motivate staff as they are able to see how their role supports the organisation and having a clear career path to follow. It also creates a fairer working environment when employees are kept informed of any policies implemented by the company.

The second core benefit of transparency is in reducing churn. Social media sites like LinkedIn have made it far easier for people to get information on external vacancies. This makes it more important for companies to engage their employees and communicate what they need to achieve to progress. This is backed up by the CIPD Employee Outlook: Autumn 2012 Survey which highlighted the link between employee engagement and employees looking for a new job. The survey found that just 7% of engaged employees are looking for a new job compared with a country average of 19%.

A further reason why transparency has become more important in the workplace is the development of the UK economy. Nowadays, the primary industries contributing to the economy are the Tertiary (service) sector and the Quaternary (knowledge) sector, where there is a large overlap between employee roles and responsibilities. Roles have become increasingly less defined resulting in confusion and a greater need for transparency to ensure that everyone within the organisation knows what is expected from them.

Challenges in implementing transparency

However, there are two main obstacles for companies aiming to increase transparency. The first of these is that the UK is not traditionally transparent. This was highlighted in 2005 by a report by the consulting firm ISR, which found that UK managers were the worst in Europe for staff communications. The study found that the lack of communication resulted in staff feeling left out of the decision making process and becoming less inclined to put in extra effort.

This has not changed much since then - a vast majority of employees are still not fully aware of their organisation’s aims. The CIPD Employee Outlook: Autumn 2012 Survey emphasised this point further as it found that only 28% of employees were aware of their businesses values.

The second challenge companies’ face in embedding transparency is mindset. Some people are not open to change and some employees may find it uncomfortable to have their feedback listed and recorded openly. By making appraisals transparent, open and ongoing, it becomes clear which employees are continually performing and those that are not and makes it easier for organisations to cut out inefficiencies. However, the benefits for employees need to be clearly communicated as well and help avoid certain, often underperforming employees, feeling victimised in these situations.

Making the change

Making this change can be very difficult and good communication is key throughout the process. Indeed, one of the key things to remember when moving to transparency is the importance of being transparent! However, there are a few other tips which can help to ease the process:

The benefits need to be communicated clearly. It is very important to make it apparent to employees how the transparency approach will benefit them and improve their working lives. If a company can persuade the employees that transparency is a good thing, then the implementation of it will be far easier.
The change needs to be gradual; processes have to be implemented over a long period of time and companies have to be clear when making these changes and their expected effects.
It is crucial that the changes are implemented from the top of the organisational pyramid, with CEOs and senior managers, and filtered down to employees. Employees are unlikely to embrace transparency if they are unable to see their managers doing the same. This view was emphasised by David MacLeod, Chair of Government-sponsored Employee Engagement Task Force. MacLeod argued that if you try to engage your workforce without first engaging your managers you may get limited results.

The benefits of becoming transparent

There are numerous benefits associated with the inclusion of transparency within an organisation. Increased transparency results in higher employee engagement which is extremely significant in the current economic climate. This is supported by research from New Century Financial Corporation, a speciality mortgage banking company, in 2012, found that 28% less revenue was produced by account executives that were ‘actively disengaged’. The report also found that moderately disengaged account executives generated 23% less revenue than their engaged counterparts.

Towers Perrin, a global professional services company, in 2010, which found that organisations with higher employee engagement had significantly better financial results over a three year period than companies with low employee engagement. The research found that companies with highly engaged employees saw a financial increase of 5.80% whilst businesses with low employee engagement saw a decrease of 3.39%.

Engaged employees want their organisation to grow, and therefore they will do their best to maintain the brands reputation by providing good service levels and product quality. This is supported by the ‘Getting employees to go the extra mile’[1] report which found that if employees understand what is expected of them and how this supports their business then they go beyond expectations and work harder.

Furthermore, transparency allows employees to fully understand what they have to do in order to progress within an organisation. In a transparent company, employees are able to see what qualities and requirements are needed to gain a promotion by viewing the progress of their already promoted colleagues. This highlights what skills they need to work on and ensures they know what training they need to get the most out of themselves.

Lastly, increased transparency not only demonstrates what a business expects from its employees but also what an employee can expect from its organisation. This can be very valuable in creating a rewarding environment in which to work; employees do not simply have demands placed on them, but are also shown what the company will do for them – for example, the frequency of performance reviews and promotion. This ensures that both parties know what is expected of them and where they stand.


For UK organisations, it is becoming increasingly important to implement a transparent model because it increases engagement which in turn increases productivity. Embedding transparency comes with its own set of unique challenges, not least of all because the UK is not traditionally transparent. Employers need to ensure that the transition into a transparent model is communicated in the right way to highlight its numerous benefits to their employees. If the challenges are overcome and transparency is delivered in the right way, there are many benefits to be reaped including its positive effect on employee engagement. Businesses that can achieve transparency, particularly in the current volatile economy, can expect to be more secure in the future. 

Click here to read more about how to get ready for transparency



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