When you hear the word transparency, politics and business ethics often come to mind. But I want to talk about a different area of transparency that is often forgotten: internal transparency.
In a recent webinar, Workfront CEO Alex Shootman explained that as automation becomes more common, it will be imperative for companies to invest in technology that allows people to see the benefits and risks of all initiatives, or in other words, technology that allows for greater transparency.
One study found that “management’s communication of organization’s goals and strategies” was ranked as an important employee engagement factor by 52% of employees. Sixty-four percent rated “trust between employee and senior management” as important to engagement.
Greater internal transparency translates into more engaged, productive, creative, and satisfied employees, and it goes without saying that businesses with these kinds of employees are more successful. Transparency brings greater levels of trust and authenticity to the workplace, which benefits workers, managers, and entire businesses.
Shootman described four ways to use different kinds of transparency to make work more purposeful and increase individual and team motivation:
1. Keep your mission statement front and center at all times.
For your work to matter, you need an authentic purpose. You need to know what you are working for day in and day out and what your greater cause is. You need a clear, consistent, and well-understood mission statement.
A mission statement isn’t a marketing tactic that is added to your website, brochures, or email newsletter. It’s a purpose statement that tells everyone—including employees—why you do what you do. It illustrates the greater vision behind a business, and everything employees do should tie back to that.
To achieve mission transparency, your mission statement needs to be manifest in the culture of the organization and embodied in its leadership. To do this, make sure every employee knows the mission and how their job supports it. Reference your mission while making strategic plans, assigning tasks, setting goals, and reviewing projects.
2. Continually connect individual effort to organizational objectives.
It’s hard to find motivation and feel fulfilled in your work if you don’t know what you’re working toward. Objective transparency ensures that each team member knows exactly what their work is accomplishing and how their efforts are helping to fulfill team and organizational objectives.
Shootman explained that there is a strong correlation between your team’s definition of success and motivation. “If you can’t define what success looks for, motivation is gonna be elusive.”
One very effective way to attain objective transparency is to use a work management platform that allows everyone to see goals, timelines, deadlines, individual tasks, and live status updates, so everyone is clear on current objectives.
Kevin Kruse, founder and CEO of LEADx.org, explains that employees need more than one-way informational meetings; they need a constant stream of two-way communication.
“Rather than relying solely on annual employee engagement surveys and occasional town-hall meetings, companies should build in methods for more real-time monitoring and information flow.”
This kind of communication makes objective transparency easy, and the right software solution can make it almost automatic.
3. Be transparent about individuals’ roles within teams.
In today’s world of knowledge work, the success of teams is essential, and strong teams mean progressive businesses. Shootman believes that the success of teams is going to be more important than the success of individuals:
“We think, for example, that the future of performance management in organizations is going to be more and more about the performance of the network of people you’re working with as opposed to the performance of you as an individual.”
A sense of unity and collective pride in what your team is accomplishing is only possible when each team member knows where they fit in and what their role is. And when they know this, their work becomes more purposeful because they know how they are contributing to the big picture and how their team is helping the business succeed.
4. Be clear about the underlying importance of even mundane tasks.
Ultimately, each team member needs to know why they are assigned tasks and what the point of their work is. Often, it’s easy for businesses to accomplish task transparency in the sense that everyone knows what they should be working on, but that does little to instill a sense of authentic purpose.
Shootman explained, “If you and I don’t see the point of what we’re doing and how it fits into a wider pattern of an objective, we’ll always struggle to feel motivated.”
Workfront’s 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report found that employees only spend 44% of their time on the job they were hired to do. That means they are spending a lot of time reading and responding to emails, sitting in unnecessary meetings, and taking care of administrative tasks instead of focusing on their actual work.
When everyone understands the underlying importance of the tasks on their to-do list, work becomes more meaningful and people do better work. Managers need to embrace complete task transparency by ensuring team members know how their tasks contribute to overarching goals and why their work is important to the team’s success.
Internal transparency is essential to helping employees feel like their work matters and enabling teams to perform at their best. These four types of transparency will take your team from one that is burned out and overwhelmed to one that feels a sense of purpose and pride in their work.
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