Until recently, businesses did not realize the value of transparency and accountability within their organizations. Guarding “best-kept secrets” and keeping the order of operations “under wraps” from the public was thought to improve the chances of a business’ success. However, it has become necessary to remain transparent and accountable to all stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and community members. This article aims to explain what transparency and accountability mean in the workplace and how businesses can achieve these goals by using corporate governance principles to create a healthy company culture.
What are workplace transparency and accountability? Why do they matter?
Workplace transparency is explained by an organization sharing information freely to benefit the organization and its people. This could entail executives sharing company details with the team or individual teammates. Involving key stakeholders (employees, customers, and community) in decision-making processes also falls under this idea. Transparency in workplace operations has proven to attract premium talent. 87% of workers surveyed by Slack in their 2018 “Future of Work” study stated that they hoped their next opportunity would incorporate transparency. Another study from an employee-feedback company, TINYpulse, noted that transparency was the number one factor contributing to the overall happiness of more than 40,000 workers. Most of today’s workforce, including Millenials and Generation X, wants to work for ethical, transparent companies. The best workers will pick jobs that satisfy this desire. Transparency in business also strengthens trust, performance, efficiency, and accountability.
Transparency and accountability work cooperatively to improve a company’s overall performance. Operating with accountability means that there is an established expectation that all employees are responsible for their actions, behaviors, performance, and decisions. As with workplace transparency, accountability leads to a general increase in employee commitment and morale. When employees are more engaged with their work, the result will be higher performance rates.
How to adopt good corporate governance through transparency and accountability by creating a healthy company culture.
Leadership needs to communicate the company vision, mission, and values to the entire team and create a sense of employee buy-in. These principles should be a constant motivator for employees to complete their work. Businesses that achieve high levels of transparency and accountability frequently emphasize their mission and values, invoking these statements during critical decision-making sessions. Changes to business practices are only undertaken if they mesh with the company’s vision. These organizations view these guiding principles as essential for directing everyday decisions and ensuring success and resilience.
In practice, transparency entails measuring and reporting on processes and performance. Continuous improvement in transparency calls for establishing a rapid feedback loop for employees to remain informed of how the organization is performing when it comes to consistency with the strategic vision objectives. Quality and consistent information can be produced using repeatable, measurable processes. In addition, creating efficient systems for recording measurements puts the entire organization on “the same page.”
Valuing employees and taking input are essential aspects of running any business, no matter the industry. Businesses that value transparency and accountability encourage their employees to share their feedback on key issues and provide safe spaces for dialogue, discussions, and even sharing concerns anonymously. Transparent leaders are willing to listen with an open ear, accept critical comments and be accountable for their decisions. Hence, company leaders should routinely solicit input from employees at all levels of the organization. Taking input and feedback could range from periodic “ask me anything” sessions to engaging employees while taking a walk around the workplace. An emerging practice is for C-suite members to hold weekly breakfasts or lunches with a number of employees, rotating the invitation list so that everyone in the company will be able to give critical feedback and build trust with their higher-ups. This creates an opportunity to talk in an informal setting and highlights the importance of transparency and accountability to company leadership.
Accountability, ownership, and clarity of workplace responsibilities and duties should be established at each level of the organization. Accountability may be easier to define than transparency at the workplace, but it is harder to enforce. When information regarding the company’s progress with its vision has been communicated to all stakeholders (via quarterly and annual targets), organizations can use these details as a starting point for measuring future performance and production. This metric is useful for keeping individuals accountable, as workers’ ownership of specific tasks has been documented and the expectation for their performance has been clearly conveyed. Experienced business leaders recognize that transparency and accountability are not established overnight. Leaders must step up by (patiently and consistently) committing to and demonstrating follow through with company goals. They can do this by removing misunderstandings within the organization, resulting in a corporate culture and governance structure that fosters growth, innovation, self-improvement, and self-development for all within their company.
Experienced in corporate sustainability in both developed and emerging markets, Fatima Fasih has over 5 years of experience in advising businesses on their sustainability strategies and reporting. She also assists businesses in identifying their progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Currently, working as an independent Sustainability Consultant, Fatima holds a Masters degree in Sustainability Management and Bachelors in Health Sciences and Environmental Science from the University of Toronto.
She is also certified a Greenhouse Gas Inventory Quantifier (GHG-IQ) and aims to work towards pushing businesses to play a larger role in solving the world’s biggest sustainable development problems: hunger, poverty, and inequality.