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The Benefits of Transparency in the Workplace

| Ameya Deshmukh
Culture & Employee Experience | 12 min read
The Benefits of Transparency in the Workplace for Recruiting, Culture, and Growth

Do me a favor and call or email another talent acquisition leader you know. Ask them, “what do you think about transparency in the workplace and in recruiting?” Most likely, they’ll say “I’ve heard about this concept of transparency in business and recruiting, but I don’t know if I should apply it.”

No doubt you’ve also read about transparency in the workplace before. I’m sure you have an opinion on it, a strong one even.  Transparency is a contentious topic in recruiting and business as a whole.

But not too long from now, say in 2-3 years, that’ll change. You’ll call your friend and ask them, “what do you think about transparency in recruiting now?”

What do you think they’ll say? Will their opinion have changed?

More often than not, you’ll hear, “We’re working on building more transparency into our hiring process. Candidates want it and it’s creating some great results for us!”

I know you’ve heard it before. Transparency is the secret to attracting and retaining talent. But you’re not convinced and I don’t blame you. I know why.

Rob De Luca BambooHR's Copy Director A quote on transparency in the workplace

The confusion and controversy around transparency in the workplace

Every company can’t approach transparency in the same way. Different teams also need to approach transparency in different ways.
The very meaning of transparency changes depending on the context.
Is it transparency between co-workers?
Between managers and employees?
Between recruiting teams and candidates?
Transparency is a bit different in every situation. It’s nuanced! That makes it confusing.
When it comes to applying transparency in the workplace there is no one right answer. At least, not one I could generally recommend to everyone reading this article.
What I will cover are the theories and stories that make up the concept of transparency in the workplace. I’ll also show you how to apply transparency to recruiting.

Create ideas for transparency that work for you

Reading this article will help you create ideas that improve your recruiting teams, candidate experience, and your culture.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Defining workplace transparency
  2. The 4 types of transparency
  3. The 4 benefits of transparency
  4. The Inc 100 Study – transparency and growth
  5. How transparency saved CPO Commerce in “their darkest hour”
  6. Why recruiting leaders and teams should care about transparency
  7. Why Millennials care about transparency
  8. How to build transparency into your recruiting process

The definition of transparency in the workplace

You’ve read definitions about this before. They aren’t useful for understanding how to apply this concept. Instead of a definition, I examined research.

There’s a lot of research about transparency in workplace culture. The best of it, lives in the paper, “Making Transparency Transparent.” In it, Ethan S Bernstein identifies 4 types of transparency in the workplace.

  1. Transparency as monitoring
  2. Transparency as process visibility
  3. Transparency as surveillance
  4. Transparency as disclosure

If you’re curious, Bernstein is a researcher at LISH. LISH stands for Laboratory for Innovation Sciences at Harvard.

The 4 types of transparency in the workplace

Each subsection covers the following about the 4 types. Their meaning, application to a recruiting team, application to candidates, and benefits.

1. Transparency in the workplace as monitoring

In the workplace, employees can consume their colleagues’ activity in the form of data.
Research suggests that monitoring creates the following benefits:
  • motivates employees
  • improves sharing of knowledge amongst employees
Monitoring transparency in a recruiting team?
It could mean letting recruiters see how many calls their team members made each week.
How about between candidates and employers?

Ethan S Bernstein on workplace transparency

2. Transparency in the workplace as process visibility

This means employees can visually see each other in the workplace and customers can see employees working.

Restaurant staff is a great example of process visibility in action. Think back to when you went to a good restaurant. Notice something?

Most times you can see the kitchen from where you are sitting. Chefs in the kitchen can see into the dining room and in front of the house.

The benefits of process visibility:

  • improved effort and satisfaction
  • reduced customer uncertainty

Process visibility in a recruiting team?

This can be as simple as making calendars visible. Or something more complex like showing each other how they write emails.

And for candidates and employers?

How to Johnson and Johnson creates process visibility in recruiting efforts with candidates

Ethan S Bernstein on process visibility


3. Transparency in the workplace as surveillance

In surveillance transparency in the workplace, managers watch everything the employees do.

Managers of heavy machinery teams use surveillance. They need to watch work to keep their team safe.

The benefits of surveillance:

  • better control and unity
  • increased compliance
Use surveillance to improve the candidate experience. Try recording your recruiter’s calls with candidates.


Review them with your recruiters and offer tips to help them improve.


Give candidates information about other candidates.


How you can use LinkedIn Job Postings to create surveillance transparency for your candidates

Ethan S Bernstein on surveillance transparency

4. Transparency in the workplace as disclosure

CPO Commerce gave all employees visibility into the company’s financials. 

The benefits of disclosure:

  • improved efficiency
  • stronger relationships across organizations, industries, and countries
Recruiting leaders can create disclosure in their recruiting teams by sharing information.


Are you keeping your team informed about what you are working on? Are they aware of your objectives?


Create disclosure for candidates by sharing “hidden” information. Salary ranges are one example.


How Glassdoor Salary Estimates create disclosure transparency

Ethan S Bernstein on disclosure transparency

The benefits of the application of transparency in the workplace

  • Sustainable long term growth
  • More effective recruiting teams
  • Improved employee retention
  • An employer brand that attracts the US Workforce

A culture with high perceived trust and transparency makes teams more effective. A culture with these elements also keeps employee retention high.

But how does this matter for recruiting teams today?

Today, trust and transparency are already critical cultural elements for candidates. In 2 years time, they’ll become even more necessary for attracting the US workforce.

Let’s dive into the details.

Inc. Build 100 and the connection between culture and growth

The Amazing Findings from Inc Buld 100s study

Inc. Build 100  showed culture and talent were the strongest drivers of sustainable long term growth.

But what were the elements of these successful cultures? How did transparency play a part?

We’ll find our answer in the story of CPO Commerce.

What’s the impact of a culture of trust and transparency in an organization? 

CPO Commerce, is an e-commerce company that was part of the 1.5% group in Build 100. The company sells power and hand tools online. When they underwent a significant IT overhaul, malfunctioning software caused orders to go unfilled.

Then inventory management became a mess and staff had to be retrained on new systems. All of this led to the company missing its first two quarterly forecasts after having previously grown at a 30% rate.

CPO’s CEO Rob Tolleson explained that this was the “darkest moment” for his company.

The remarkable story of CPO commerce and workplace transparency

Trust and transparency influences retention at CPO Commerce

At CPO Commerce’s transparency in the workplace meant an open-book management style. Employees could see financials. Being open about their financial information built trust.

Over the six-months it took to fix their IT issue, zero employees quit. Transparency kept morale from plummeting.

“There was more respect and confidence than there might have been otherwise,” said Alan Lenertz, CPO’s vice president of operations, as quoted in Inc. “They didn’t have to worry that any other, unacknowledged things were also out of control.”

CPO was able to successfully recover.  What might have happened had employees lost faith in the company? What if they had decided to leave because they didn’t understand what was going on? Hiring new talent during this chaotic period would have been incredibly difficult.  CPO might have failed.

CPO continues to practice an open-book management style to this day.

Why talent acquisition leaders need to embrace transparency in the workplace

By now, I hope you have a sense of how transparency in the workplace, company growth, employee effectiveness, and employee retention are all interconnected.

But what we haven’t covered yet, is the connection to recruiting.

Do you currently believe in using transparency in your recruiting process?

Would you give transparency in recruiting a second thought if I showed you a clear connection between it and things that matter to you as a recruiting leader?

Here’s a statistic from a Glassdoor study to kick things off.

Robert Hofman, Glassdoor's leader's opinion on transparency

In the next 2-5 years, talent acquisition teams that apply the concepts of transparency in the workplace to recruiting are the ones who will win.

Why Transparency in the workplace is necessary for attracting the U.S. workforce 

Candidates are trying to determine whether your company has a culture that they will enjoy and thrive in.

One key part that candidates are looking for in your company’s culture is transparency in the workplace. Why?

Millennials became the largest segment in the workforce in 2016. They’ll account for 50% of the U.S. workforce by 2020. And by 2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor forecasts that Millenials will comprise 75% of the U.S. workforce.

But why are transparency and trust so critical for attracting and retaining a Millennial workforce?

Millennials don’t trust companies to behave ethically 

Research by Deloitte shows that Millennials trust companies far less than previous generations.

A millennial labor force is one where a majority of workers believe that corporations do not behave ethically. That business leaders are not committed to helping society approve. That businesses have no ambition beyond wanting to make money. The workforce doesn’t trust employers.

Millennials want to work in a culture of trust and transparency

Millennial employees want to understand how companies operate. They want to feel a sense of inclusivity and trust while part of your company. They’re attuned to this more than any other previous generation. Transparency in the workplace will help you recruit and retain millennial employees. In fact, it’s one of our best practices for hiring Millennials. When Millennials work at a company with a high-trust culture, they’re 22x more likely to work their long term.

Recruiting teams need to draw candidates in with a talent acquisition process that demonstrates transparency.transparent work culture quote from Korn Ferry

It’s on talent acquisition leaders to show companies the way forward

In order to attract and retain talent, your company needs to believe in becoming more transparent. As a talent acquisition leader, you don’t have control over the operations of other teams. But, you can change the culture of your recruiting teams.

You can also change how your recruiting teams communicate to candidates to provide more transparency.

How to use transparency in the workplace for recruiting 

Create monitoring transparency for candidates on diversity

Intel does an incredible job of showcasing their diversity initiatives. They provide monitoring transparency to their candidates by sharing their numbers on gender diversity and ethnic diversity. This information is provided through a website that features an interactive graph. Candidates can sort the data based on the type of work and seniority.

For example, if a candidate wants to see the diversity in technical positions only – they can do that. Or, if a candidate wants to see the ethnic composition of senior management, they can view that as well. Intel has proven that their commitment to inclusivity is more than just talk.

By providing this data and updating it on a yearly basis they’ve built a reputation as an employer that diverse candidates can trust.

Intel provides monitoring transparency of their diversity programs to candidates.

Source: Diversity at Intel

Create process visibility in your application process

Johnson & Johnson offers transparency and access by letting candidates reach out to their talent acquisition team through Twitter.

Not every candidate has a Twitter profile

Depending on the roles you are hiring for, some candidates may not even have a laptop or use a smartphone.

In these cases, conversational AI is a better solution and can give real-time updates on candidates’ progress throughout the hiring process and answer questions candidates have about where they stand. You could use conversational artificial intelligence(CAI) along with an ATS/HRIS integration. The CAI would send status updates to candidates.

You could even configure it so that if a candidate’s application was in review by a hiring manager, the CAI would message them about it. Maybe you’d want your CAI to include the hiring manager’s first name in the message. Wouldn’t that be a neat way to improve the candidate experience?

Show candidates how they stack up against other applicants

LinkedIn does a fantastic job of this with their applicant insights feature. Have you ever tried it? It appears on job postings and shows potential applicants how they compare to others who’ve applied to the position. Candidates can see how they stack up based on top skills, seniority level, education, and more.

Using LinkedIn Job Postings will give your candidates’ surveillance transparency.

LinkedIn Job Postings show candidates competitive intelligence and create surveillance transparency.

Source: LinkedIn Products

Make your job descriptions more transparent by presenting salary ranges:

Doing so demonstrates transparency at a time when third-party sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn are providing similar data. It’s a common belief in recruiting circles that showing this information causes candidates to self to select out.

This belief isn’t actually supported by data. More than two-thirds of job seekers report that listed salaries and benefits are among the top factors they look for in job descriptions. Furthermore, a heat mapping project showed that job seekers primarily scan ads for information on pay, qualifications, and duties.

Sharing a salary range in your job postings is a great way to provide disclosure transparency to your candidates. If you choose to do it, you’ll be in good company. More and more companies are deciding to be transparent with salary ranges. Glassdoor released a list of 18 that featured noteworthy names like TMP Worldwide, Connect Wireless, and Taboola.

Source: Glassdoor Jobs

A culture of transparency is important for recruiting

As the Build 100 List study shows, culture and talent create sustained growth. Building a culture of transparency company-wide isn’t something that talent acquisition leaders can control. Even if your company doesn’t fit a companywide culture of transparency, it may still be an effective proposition for your recruiting teams and strategy.

Transparent hiring practices make a great first impression on candidates. By creating more transparent job descriptions, providing a place for candidates to monitor their progress, or using conversational AI to provide status updates, talent acquisition teams can make a great impression on candidates.

Whenever or wherever your introduction to the world of recruiting began, transparency in recruiting culture and recruiting strategy is a winning proposition for the future.

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