The term “Silicon Valley culture” has become a little controversial – on one hand, it stands for innovation and flexibility. On the other hand, it’s also a term associated with a particular image of small, aggressive start-ups working in tech-heavy fields. To us at Brighttail, ‘Silicon Valley’ means innovation – and it starts with transparency in the workplace.

Transparency is the practice of being open and honest with the people you work with. An open workspace is one that encourages clear communication and collaboration between employees. Information on projects are open to the whole team and teammates can share honest feedback with each other. 

It’s a key part of our culture at Brighttail, and one that we’ve aimed to incorporate from day one.

Why Transparency in the Workplace is Important to Us

Every company defines transparency in the workplace differently. There are many companies out there that believe in keeping information on a need-to-know basis and erecting walls around their data to make sure it’s only accessible to a select group. But doing so can lead to silos and stifled innovation. 

In contrast, allowing people open access to information and the freedom to choose their own work process creates a happier work environment. It also helps maintain smooth day-to-day operations; transparency can help troubleshoot work processes, identify areas for training, and develop opportunities for improvement.

As a company that got its start in Silicon Valley, we believe in the innovation-focused, agile, open culture popularized in the area. We’ve tweaked it here and there to meet our needs as a marketing agency. We believe that growth happens when you invest in creating an environment that encourages collaboration. We’ve found that the best ideas are born in the moments when teams come together to talk, bounce ideas around, and freely exchange information.

How We Do It

We focus on keeping two aspects of the work transparent: our decision-making process and how we communicate. We shaped our workflow process to ensure transparency and invested in tools that support this. Here’s how.

1. Allow open access to information and people

Ideas come from information and collaboration – you’ll never know what ideas could spark when you’re discussing a project with a colleague or looking back at past work. In fact, a recent Trello survey found that more than half of employees avoided sharing files with a colleague and kept it to themselves because they thought it would be hard to find or they just couldn’t find it.

That’s why we store all our information – from current and past work to audits and strategies – on cloud-based platforms like Confluence and Google Drive, which are open to everyone in the company. We’ve found that this helps our team find answers to questions without needing to ask. It also helps onboard new hires.

But if there are questions that can’t be answered by searching our database, our management team maintains an open-door policy to address questions and concerns. We tell our people from day one about the many different channels for communication, from one-on-one Slack messages and team stand-ups to town hall meetings where people can ask questions and share their concerns.

2. Be agile

Transparency in the workplace is key for agile teams. Agile transparency reveals problems early so that the team can resolve them quickly.

We do this in several ways at Brighttail. Our scrum teams meet twice a week for stand-ups to discuss the progress of work so far. The focus for these meetings isn’t to police the team, but provide a safe space to bring up any blockers that may have hampered progress. That way, the team can discuss solutions and agree on the best way forward. We structure our sprint retrospectives around a discussion of what went well, what didn’t, and what can be improved so that the team is always learning and improving.

We also ensure that all important communication is shared across the team. A recent Trello survey found that nearly 60% of remote workers missed important information simply because it was communicated from one person to another rather than in a group chat. To avoid this, we use team Slack channels to share key updates and keep a record of what has been discussed.

3. Ensure alignment on goals big and small

Another key part of transparency in the workplace is ensuring everyone is on the same page, especially when it comes to setting goals. Team members who are involved in goal setting are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged.

For larger goals, we hold monthly town halls to discuss current and upcoming projects and share updates. It’s also a great time to seek opinions on company policies, such as discussing whether to restart office hours or maintain a WFH policy.

We also maintain similar transparency for our scrum teams. Proposals to clients are collaborative and discussed as a whole, with each team member contributing input based on their areas of expertise before being presented to the client.

4. Practice accountability

One of the biggest challenges is balancing transparency in the workplace with accountability. We’ve found that good transparency requires us to be accountable for the way we communicate with each other. Comments should be honest, but also constructive and mindful of boundaries. It’s important to avoid situations where people share unhelpful or cruel feedback, and no one wants to take responsibility.

Something else that we’ve found is key to a transparent workplace is fostering personal accountability for the work assigned. Everyone makes mistakes. Accountability is owning up to your mistakes, admitting them, and seeking support so that future mistakes can be avoided. Rather than being penalized, mistakes can be turned into a learning opportunity.

Likewise, wins should be acknowledged and celebrated. Celebrating wins is a great way to encourage accountability and is good for company morale!

Create Transparency in the Workplace

Every company draws the line a little differently between what can be shared and what should be private; it just depends on management style. Ours is anchored on our mission to bring out the best in every person, whether it’s a client or the newest member of our team.