How to ensure authentic organisational trust and transparency

What do many organisations have in common with the Illuminati? A lack of trust and transparency.

How to ensure authentic organisational trust and transparency, featured image

How to ensure authentic organisational trust and transparency

What do many organisations have in common with the Illuminati? A lack of trust and transparency.

How to ensure authentic organisational trust and transparency, featured image

Meet the author

Scott Docherty

Managing Consultant

Not all things are best kept secret, we should tell the Illuminati that…

The Illuminati. A Bavarian Enlightenment-era society that has grown into an organisation that secretly controls the world behind closed doors; or simply the work of imaginary minds generating conspiracies on Reddit? I am not here to give you an answer to that question, but more to demonstrate that the same forces that drive the rumour mill around this fabled group are doing the exact same in workplaces we work in every day.

The proliferation of the Illuminati story is primarily based on one thing: secrecy. At its core, it is a tale that lacks clarity, openness and shared understanding. We don’t quite know what is truth and what is fiction so we do what humans do best: assume the worst.

We have a tendency to catastrophise when we do not have complete information. Everyone knows a hypochondriac who is forever worrying if their sneezing fits are the result of deep-rooted sinus issues or just a tickle of the nasal. Convert that into a business environment and you see adverse manifestations such as the fact that a majority of employees feeling aggravated that they are being paid below market value, when in fact they are being compensated exactly as they should be.

And as people generate fears, what do they do? Yep, you guessed it, they gossip. People start talking, hypothesising and whispering all kinds of hearsay. All this gossip flying around naturally erodes trust that employees have in the processes and practices that keep the organisation afloat, and, more importantly, in their leadership.

The beautifully ironic thing about this is that almost every organisation will proclaim it holds transparency at its core. Undoubtedly, you will see company values plastered across walls stating words like “Openness”, “Honesty”, and “Trust”. In reality, more often than not, these principles turn out to be no more than lip service to values the chief exec has been told to promote on the MBA they went through.

For these kinds of values to be properly met however, a couple things must be true. The first is that this must all start at the top and it must incorporate the full range of information being provided to employees.

For there to be genuine trust in the organisation, transparency and openness has to be championed across the organisation, and particularly amongst those in more senior roles. We have all heard the stories about Google executives running the all-company meeting where employees can ask any questions and receive an on-the-spot response. It’s like a Prime Minsiters’ Questions for the corporate world (hopefully minus the blatant question-dodging). But what these kinds of activities do is engender a sense of trust in leadership, as they are forced to directly and candidly address the concerns of colleagues across the organisation.

On top of this, the information provided must take into account “fullness”. Providing the organisation with a summary of profit and loss statements that they could find in the annual report is not what we are looking for here. They need to be provided with a breadth of information about things that matter to them, including information that informed strategic decision-making, not just the decisions themselves.

Further, the information needs to allow team members and frontline staff to understand how their department is contributing to overall outcomes and objectives. That may mean providing visibility on different types of information, such as performance metrics. The dissemination of this kind of information allows you to celebrate successes and naturally provide more visibility on areas that require more focus.

This brings me onto the second prerequisite, which is that alongside the sharing of information we need to support our people in interpreting the information. Employees need to be able to engage with and interrogate the information they are being presented. They need to be taught how to understand and contextualise the information. Not everyone is an accountant and nor do they need to be, but they should be equipped to understand financial information. This will open up healthier channels of challenge, and leave employees feeling more like an active participant rather than merely a recipient.

Beyond this though, it encourages a behaviour where teams and individuals alike will act more as owners of the business. Let’s not forget that your job is what you spend most of your waking moments doing, so let’s get everyone more invested so it feels like time is better spent for all parties.


This blog is part four of a four-part series on people and change management. Find out more information on the series here, and if you need any support tackling your business challenges, get in touch.

You might also like