EngagementCOVID-19: How can organisations create transparency without co-location?

COVID-19: How can organisations create transparency without co-location?

Studies show that transparency and openness in an organisation are top priorities for employees. How can HR nurture transparency during prolonged isolation? Sam Alberti and Dipika Sawhney, EU Scaled Engagement Lead, Amazon Advertising, examine transparency during COVID-19 and its aftermath.

Whether verbal or non-verbal, communication is a fundamental aspect of human life. Unsurprisingly, this principle reflects strongly on the world of business.

It is no secret by now that healthy communication is a one-way ticket to success in the corporate world, with one study suggesting that organisations with ‘connected employees’ are up to 25% more productive.

Whilst communication is a broad topic, transparency is an element of it that prevails as one of the most crucial aspects of a functioning workplace – particularly given the scale and severity of the current disruptive climate.

In simple terms, transparency in the workplace is a culture of openness between managers and their teams, and is thought to have a significant impact on employee satisfaction. One study even showed that 87% of employees said they want to work for a company that is transparent and open.

But as is the case with many fundamentals of the business world at present, a great challenge exists in replicating the experience and functionality with a remote team.

How can employers achieve this transparency in the current climate? We spoke to Dipika Sawhney, EU Scaled Engagement Lead, Amazon Advertising, first examining the importance of transparency in the workplace.

“Transparency is another way of talking about communication which is honest, positive and two-way,” she said. “That results in employees who feel safe and valued. By creating confidence, we make sure everyone can openly share their ideas and their big wins as well as their mistakes.”

Such is the multi-faceted nature of communication and the benefits it can produce, that Sawhney also invokes diversity and inclusion as being a potential by-product of it.

“Through better communication we can unlock greater inclusivity and create the right working environment for innovation to take place,” she said.

But what are the fundamentals of workplace transparency? In order to effectively implement it, leaders must be able to distinguish the values and inner workings of transparency from that of the broader concept of communication as a whole.

Crucially, whilst communication may be primarily concerned with the effectiveness of conveying a message or a value, transparency is generally more rooted in compassion and openness.

Echoing this, Sawhney cites “approachability, friendliness and compassion” as the fundamental principles of transparency. “It’s about encouraging an honest and authentic flow of information,” she said.

“In my experience, these relatively simple mechanisms will have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, retention and performance.”

This is partly reflected in Deloitte’s Talent 2020 report, which shows that employee trust, a key factor in workplace transparency, ultimately leads to greater retention.

The study shows that more than 60% of workers who plan to stay with their current employers reported high levels of trust in their corporate leadership.

However, this, along with many fundamental aspects of the workplace, has been significantly challenged by the onset of the coronavirus, and organisations must be ready to adapt and remedy the situation.

“My suggestion would be to over-communicate,” said Sawhney, offering guidance as to how leaders can navigate through this disruption and create transparency amongst a remote team.

“Share everything you know, share your thinking about your decisions, check in often and be honest about what you do not know. That means you are regularly underlining how your organisation is fulfilling its responsibilities during these uncertain times.”

The Deloitte report also cites leadership as a central factor in employee retention, with 22% of respondents citing dissatisfaction with their manager or supervisor as a top reason to look for a new job.

So too does Sawhney in her explanation of how organisations can re-establish transparency. “Leadership from the top is particularly important – senior leaders and managers need to be visible, clear and calm on how they are supporting employees,” she said.

But as is the case with any issue facing the world of business at present, we must also consider how the situation could potentially carry forward and permanently change the corporate landscape.

“As new ways of working and communicating become more commonplace, we will find more ‘open door policies’ being adopted,” said Sawhney. “That means encouraging employees to talk about their suggestions, questions, concerns or feedback within their leaders.”

“Overall, it’s important to understand that any challenge arrives with opportunities. Leaders who step up and communicate with compassion will quickly prove their value.”

With remote working disrupting the normal flow of business, now is clearly the time for organisations to go the extra mile in fostering a healthy culture of transparency.

Leaders must remain compassionate, honest and approachable in order to establish a deeper level of trust between leaders and their teams.

With transparency being the top factor contributing to employee happiness in the modern workplace, the benefits of implementing these measures should be profound, with workers being made to feel more respected and included as a result.

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