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The Voco View on... Transparency

Voco Team

In an age when we can find out what our favourite celebrities ate for breakfast, it is incongruous for important information about the places we spend most of our time to be withheld. It creates a lack of trust and, ultimately, contaminates the culture.

In HR, we are used to being the conduits of information between the top teams and the rest of the organisation. It can be difficult to get the balance between sharing relevant information and creating mass panic. So, here are our thoughts on how you can meet the demands of transparency without leaving yourself over exposed.

Clear a path

As a people professional, it’s easy to become a gatekeeper and, though this may give us a sense of authority, it also means that we can easily become the target of ire when we have to deliver difficult messages.

Challenge tradition and use your influence to make information more directly accessible to people within the organisation. By controlling the process rather than the message that’s delivered you will encourage people to take more personal responsibility and give senior leaders the opportunity to really own the decisions they make.

Access all areas

Consider what information could be made open in your organisation. The ultimate transparency would be to make salary information accessible to all but it’s always worth questioning the impact this would have. Will it really be helpful or could it cause tension?

Many of us work on internal shared drives but they can be clunky and inaccessible (think layers, upon layers of folders). Encouraging the use of software like Trello and Asana as a way for teams to share actions, progress and information. Creating cross-functional documents could cut down your email and messenger traffic considerably e.g. creating a shared Trello board with the team you support to share progress on the annual review process.

Fast feedback

One of the best ways to create transparency is to cultivate a feedback culture. The first step to achieving this is to make it possible for people to feel safe delivering regular, direct feedback that really makes a difference. Training on feedback ‘techniques’ can be helpful but the use of models and styles of feedback can get in the way of what really needs to happen: we need to be honest with each other.

Stumbling over our words to deliver feedback the ‘right’ way can create more anxiety and frustration. Instead, more can be done to educate people on why feedback works, why it’s important and that it’s the intent behind the feedback that matters most; now may be the time to revisit books like Kim Scott's, ‘Radical Candor’.

It is also worth thinking about who gives feedback to who. If feedback is only ever given and received ‘top down’ then this can create negative associations. Creating structures that allow feedback to flow between peers and teams, as part of everyday life at work, could be the key to normalising feedback enough for people to get comfortable with it.


More transparency means a fairer distribution of power in your organisation. It gives people a sense of ownership, choice and freedom. We will always have to filter some information; people cannot be privy to every discussion that goes on at the top - it would be far too distracting. But, when transparency is tempered with clear messages and the opportunity to have a say when it’s appropriate, we will sow the seeds of a healthier and more collegiate culture.

More resources

Article: ‘Why we all need pay transparency’ Glassdoor

Book: ‘Radical Candor’ Kim Scott

Article: ‘Pay transparency: what’s driving the interest and how should people professionals respond’ CIPD

Article: ‘Transparency in the workplace: why it matters and how to practice it’ Glassdoor

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