It’s no secret that 2020 triggered a deluge of uncertainty and change.
Between a global pandemic, a recession, overdue social unrest, and a change in administration, the term “unprecedented times” is an understatement. On top of all this, the modern workforce was forced to accommodate monumental shifts in business operations seemingly overnight. Over a year later and many of those factors are still evolving. Many are still wondering: what happens next?
Business leaders: you may have pending plans, but nothing is guaranteed. And that’s okay -- as we learned in the pandemic, certainty is never promised. That being said, transparency with your people about the future and your current thoughts about future scenario planning is more essential than ever.
Why? Employees thrive when they have context.
They want to know their work contributes meaningfully to business outcomes. When companies are transparent with their information and have sturdy data foundations, their people can stay agile and move nimbly to respond to changing circumstances. That’s why open communication and access to critical information, when possible, are foundational to workplace transparency.
Create a culture of trust to support your employees through these uncertain times. Below, real leaders share real tips to foster transparency in the workplace.
4 Way To Inspire Trust in the Workplace During Uncertain Times
1. Start at the top
Building a culture of trust starts with leaders in the executive and C-suite. Uncertainty can be scary, and your people want to know that their leaders are ready to continue supporting them through unprecedented times.
Fostering a culture of transparency from the top is a reason why our Founder and CEO, Ian White, started ChartHop in the first place.
“I’ve seen the pain points of transparency at scale,” explained White. “When you don't give people clarity or transparency — when you cover up bad numbers, conceal that someone left the company, deliver confusing and inconsistent messages on organizational goals, compensate in secretive or biased ways, or fundamentally break peoples' trust — people fill in the gaps with their own (often worse) assumptions.”
Leaders: prioritize vulnerability during these uncertain times. Your people know that things are in flux -- it’s okay to communicate that.
At ChartHop, leadership uses our platform to share key information, progress to company goals, and new hiring plans. And if things change -- which they occasionally do -- we communicate those shifts so our people are never surprised. This keeps everyone looped in along the way, mitigating stress and variability.
When you don't give people clarity or transparency — when you cover up bad numbers, conceal that someone left the company, deliver confusing and inconsistent messages on organizational goals, compensate in secretive or biased ways, or fundamentally break peoples' trust — people fill in the gaps with their own (often worse) assumptions.
Ian White, CEO & Founder @ ChartHop
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Schedule company Q&As: Give your people a forum to submit questions and then address them honestly in a community or town hall setting.
- Provide a clear ‘line of sight’: Executives shouldn’t be these elusive, unapproachable figureheads. Make you, and your decisions, available to your people.
- Hold meaningful meetings: Don’t just run through the numbers. Even at the town hall level, you can host meaningful meetings about where the company stands currently and its plans for the future.
2. Centralize your people data, then make it accessible
In the remote workspace, employees can’t just swing by their manager’s desk for a quick update or catch-up with their teams in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, the nature of working from home can impede how essential information reaches your people.
To prevent this from happening, centralize relevant data and make it easily accessible across the organization. Beth Clutterbuck, CHRO at Relativity, suggests creating a resource for people to access company goals, strategies, metrics, and more.
“When you have transparent mechanisms to communicate information in a variety of channels, it allows people to do their jobs more effectively and pivot quickly,” she said. “People want to understand where we’re going, why we’re going there, and how we’re going to get there.”
Here at ChartHop, we use our platform as a self-serve resource that our people can use to access valuable information about the company, its people, and themselves. Whether it’s headcount plans, pending team restructures, department goals, or individual performance progress, our platform provides our employees with a crystal-clear understanding of what’s happening in the company and where they fit in.
When you have transparent mechanisms to communicate information in a variety of channels, it allows people to do their jobs more effectively and pivot quickly.
Beth Clutterbuck, CHRO @ Relativity
You can also:
- Leverage Slack: Consider creating a company Slack channel where you can streamline deploying company updates, employee announcements, accomplishments, and more.
- Over-index on communication: Clutterbuck explained that at Relativity, they have 4-5 global touchpoints a week. She suggests consistently sending out emails from leadership to reinforce messaging and goals.
- Share cultural metrics: Whether it’s eNPS results, metrics on DEI initiatives, or promotion rates, include corporate cultural metrics in the data you share for added transparency.
3. Make management knowledgeable and approachable
Management shouldn’t exist as a “wizard behind the curtain."
Show up as vulnerable and human on a much more regular basis. I think that dynamic really changes the level of engagement an employee has with their leaders, and therefore, their company.
Beth Clutterbuck, CHRO @ Relativity
Especially in the remote workplace when face-time is more difficult to come by, leaders and managers need to go the extra mile to communicate goals, scenario plans, corporate objectives, and more.
Clutterbuck encourages leaders to embrace honesty and authenticity “Show up as vulnerable and human on a much more regular basis,” she said. “I think that dynamic really changes the level of engagement an employee has with their leaders, and therefore, their company.”
- Know your company: John Renfro, former CHRO of Disney & The Capital Group, emphasizes how important it is for leaders at every level to really know what’s going on. Not just in their own departments or teams, but cross-functionally.
- Make time for your people: Schedule regular 1:1s or skip-levels where people can meet over Zoom to establish personal relationships and have candid conversations.
- Talk about things other than work: Know your people as people. “Transparency and trust come hand in hand,” said our CEO Ian White. “in order to trust someone you need to know them as a human.”
4. Embrace accountability
Being transparent about goals, metrics, and analytics helps distribute accountability throughout the org so that everyone feels empowered to drive change.
From DEI initiatives to engagement levels to hiring goals -- clarity into what the organization is working towards and how goals are tracking can inspire engagement.
For example, Renfro describes a scenario where a ChartHop customer had significantly grown on the Sales side and needed the marketing pipeline to support it. To emphasize accountability, the customer created a headcount planning visualization and strategy to share with stakeholders. By explicitly aligning expectations and objectives, everyone realized how much they needed to scale their marketing efforts, and were able to confidently execute on a revised hiring plan.
“Giving that transparent visibility between teams and creating a shared understanding really helped everyone advocate for the marketing hires they needed and ultimately built that strategy to grow and win,” Renfro said.
Accountability is cross-functional, and transparency can help you achieve success.
- Using data to ensure equitable practices: Whether it’s in fair hiring decisions or ensuring unbiased performance reviews, “Transparency on DEI metrics can be powerful to hold orgs accountable to staying true to DEI goals.”
- Updating everyone on a regular cadence: Establish a consistent practice of sharing progress, and err on the side of frequency.
- Asking for feedback: Metrics only go so far. Ask your employees for feedback on how things are tracking -- this can help uncover issues or areas of improvement that the numbers don’t catch.
Provide the Context for your Employees to Thrive
Unprecedented times or not, your people work best in a culture of trust. Transparency and vulnerability from the top-down and across can help ensure your people feel supported and empowered to do their best work.
Leaders: commit to leading with transparency. Take the leap and stick with it to drive a company culture that prospers, and the results to match.