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Building Trust at Work Starts with Committing to Transparency

building trust at workMIKE NATALIZIO
HNI CEO

More employers are creating a culture of transparency, because building trust at work sets a foundation for open communication and innovation.

When colleagues trust each other, they're more likely to try new things to advance your business without worrying about failure or embarrassment. At the core of this trust is communication that flows freely and never is "siloed" by department or rank.

If building trust at work appeals to you, but you're not sure what a transparent workplace looks like, check out the following characteristics:

1.) A transparent workplace leverages new technology

Technology is used to responsibly share information, data, and ideas with all team members. For instance, at HNI, we utilize the Chatter function of Salesforce (it's like Facebook for our company) and project management software called Open Atrium. What people are working on is out there in the open.

Sharing is intentional. It's not a glass box, meaning it's more than just putting information on display for everyone to gawk at. It's a stance where team members work with the mind-set of making data free for everyone. Communication is more active than passive, and it's deliberate and thoughtful.

Because the social technology of transparent workplaces eliminates the need for many meetings (because information is readily available to all), there's no worry that "big" personalities will dominate in-person interactions. Quieter folks will feel empowered to speak up, and these "small" personalities likely have lots of ideas to bring to the table. The keyboard doesn't have a volume control. With social, collaborative technology, you hear from more voices in a transparent organization.

2.) A transparent workplace respects values

The foundational elements of a workplace transparency are trust and respect. This is a face-to-face, hearts-and-minds operation. It's about the whole of employees, who they are as people beyond their role in the office.

This draws a clear line from someone's values. It's hard to treat one another with respect if we don't understand what one another's values are. Values come from people; they don't come from a job title. Values become an incredible source of energy for innovation and growth, and they can be leveraged to overcome challenges when things get off course.

3.) A transparent workplace is filled with leaders who "walk the walk"

Leaders in a transparent workplace never stop explaining why they're committed to a transparent culture. Employees who understand "the why" of the business take greater ownership in an organization because they have context for where they fit it.

The guys and gals at the top lead by example. They have regular communication meetings between leaders and employees to let them know what's going on, build a feeling of openness between all levels of the organization, and also to truly "walk the walk" when it comes to transparency. They get out in front communicating about what works, what doesn't, and addressing challenges head on.

Active listening also is a key component. People are going to talk about what's going on anyway; make sure there's a venue for it.

4.) A transparent workplace encourages critical thinking

In an organization that practices transparency, people are given more power, which means they have to be more present and conscious of what they're doing. Team members are self-aware about their communication. A transparent workplace makes public dissent possible in a way like never before, so employees are thoughtful about why they disagree.

Disagreement and constructive criticism are not failures of a transparent workplace. Instead, they are opportunities for deeper understanding, greater innovation, and increased accountability.

You can see how building trust at work can be supported by the principles of transparency. All participants in a transparent workplace are honest and respectful, because they know they get what they give in such an environment.

What other characteristics would you add to this list? How do you practice transparency at your organization? Please sound off in comments!

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Related Posts:

Why More Employers are Creating a Culture of Transparency

Why Your Employees Need to Understand 'The Why’

How Company-Wide Transparency Will Save You Money and Headaches

Employee Risk Management: What It Is and Why It Matters


Photo by Terry Johnston via Flickr

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