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Workplace Transparency - Cultural Benefit or Requirement?

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Todd Black
on April 27, 2016

Transparency in the workplace has become a major topic recently. The perfect storm of changing demographics within the workforce clamoring for knowledge, visibility and trust in their employer, combined with technologies that provide anonymous, on-demand access to facts and opinions on details that were once reserved for privileged eyes only, has fueled the fire for workplace transparency.

“New research shows that among Millennials, transparency from leadership rates as among the most important drivers of company loyalty.” – Josh Bersin, Bersin by Deloitte. Today, not only is a company’s brand available online, but news and perspectives on personnel, management, culture, salary, customer service, product, financials and virtually any point of interest is simply a Google search away.

It’s not just new technologies and workers’ mindsets driving the conversation around workplace transparency; new regulations, trends and movements could mean that full disclosure of workplace information is becoming a requirement. For example, CEO and executive pay is now being scrutinized and regulations are now requiring rates to be publicized. Gender pay equity has recently been a major focal point as women fight to close the pay gap and gain equal pay. It is safe to assume that this could be regulated and audited in the near future.  And while affirmative action regulations has long existed to remedy discriminatory practices in hiring minorities, diversity metrics and strategies are now a critical component of an organization’s overall engagement, retention and culture goals.

As HR leaders have aspired to drive employee engagement and improve retention by focusing on workplace culture, transparency has evolved into a strategic differentiator for more progressive organizations. Simply defined, transparency combines honesty, communications and easy access to company information. Transparency must go beyond the sharing of good news with employees (most people would prefer to hear bad news versus no news), or the financial information shared by publicly traded companies.

For example, in his book “Work Rules!” Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google, refers to their transparency strategy as “default to open”. They emphasize a culture of transparency that includes access to the entire Google code base for every engineer, access to any employees’ goals, and weekly Q&A sessions with senior management for the entire company where any question can be asked. A culture of transparency fosters a sense of trust and empowerment to every employee.

Talent Management Enables Transparency

Clearly, you just can’t flip a switch and be transparent. In addition to promoting your company’s goals and priorities, once your organization agrees to embrace a more transparent culture, HR leaders should evaluate how they can share and promote information such as pay equity, clearly articulated performance goals, succession plans, pay gaps, executive pay ratios, compliance issues, calibration across the organization and interdepartmentally. Additionally, HR can begin coaching individual managers to expose their employees to the data that reflects progress against goals as often as possible (perhaps your goal is monthly) to keep employees from being surprised at their annual review or other performance dialogue.

Integrated talent management solutions can provide tools that enable this access and visibility:

Talent Acquisition

  • Video job descriptions by actual hiring managers provide candidates with a glimpse of who their manager would be
  • Corporate culture videos by location can provide a preview of what the work environment is like
  • Posting diversity and inclusion goals and metrics highlight your commitment to an inclusive work environment
  • Publishing financial information as a private company can provide insight and trust for job seekers
  • Responding to statements on Glassdoor shows a company’s awareness of difficult subjects and provides an opportunity to show a commitment to improving

    Performance Management

  • Published goals and status updates highlights how individuals and teams are performing against objectives at any point in time
  • Clearly defined rewards for goal accomplishment provide credibility for pay for performance programs

    Succession Planning

  • Visibility into succession plans provide validation that your organization is building a sustainable workforce
  • Promotes talent mobility and career management

    Talent Development

  • Providing career paths, learning requirements and objectives highlight career development and leadership opportunities


  • Clear communication of Total Rewards gives individuals a true, accurate representation of their compensation plan
  • Gender pay equity metrics highlight a company’s commitment to equal pay for equal work
  • Educating and training managers on your pay philosophy, pay strategies or pay practices enable them to communicate more effectively

    Diversity & Inclusion

  • Emphasizing and promoting diversity metrics on gender, race, ethnicity & sexual orientation highlight your company’s commitment to inclusiveness

Building a transparent culture will create a more efficient business where your employees are fully aligned with and focused on the same goals as the business. To do this, businesses are investing in new talent management solutions like PeopleFluent’s Mirror Suite that increase employee engagement, improve retention and support a culture of transparency, while boosting productivity, innovation, collaboration, feedback, recognition and development.

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