Why Transparent Leadership Matters to Millennials

Why Transparent Leadership Matters to Millennials

Millennials are changing the way we lead — and this is a good thing. Leadership styles shouldn’t be static. We need to frequently adapt our leadership styles to get the most out of our workforce. The same is true for our performance management systems. They are dynamic and evolving, adapting to the needs of new generations.

Millennials are the largest working cohort today. What they want matters — we need to make it our business to understand what motivates them, what inspires them and what disengages them.

Counter to prevailing stereotypes, Millennials don’t want to be coddled. They don’t want their feedback sugarcoated and they don’t want to sail through their careers without challenge. What Millennials want more than anything is simple — transparent, authentic leadership and meaningful, regular communication. But why is transparency so important to Gen X? Why have they come to expect a certain degree of openness and what benefits does increased transparency really offer?

Millennials Grew up with an Abundance of Information

The first thing to remember about Millennials is that they have grown up with easy access to information and real-time feedback — so they have come to expect it in the workplace. But the quantity of feedback isn’t as important as its quality. Millennials want to be able to trust their leaders — they aren’t likely to believe their managers if they sense they aren’t forthright and transparent.

Managers should be aware that Millennials reward transparency with transparency. If leaders share information with them, they will reciprocate, making it easier for managers to judge performance, provide training, and improve productivity.

Millennials Equate Transparency to Security

It’s been shown that the more transparent the organization, the more Millennials engage. This is because Millennials equate transparency with reassurance and job security. When Millennials feel they are in an honest environment, they are more confident of their value within a company. Transparency signals open communication and lets Millennials know that they are more than just a cog in a machine. If they are worth sharing valuable information with and if you are receptive to their feedback, they will feel a sense of belonging and stability.

Millennials Want to Feel like a Valuable and Integral Part of Your Company

It’s been shown that Millennials are happier — and more productive — when they feel connected with their “work family” and to their workplace. According to another source, one of the top three motivational drivers at work for a Millennial is “feeling valued.” Increased transparency results in more frequent and authentic communication, which heightens a sense of social belongingness and a feeling of importance.

Transparency Gives Millennials a Sense of Autonomy and Empowerment

One crucial reason transparency is so important to Millennials lies in their innate desire for autonomy. In an ideal world, the average Millennial would be their own boss. This isn’t possible for most Millennials, but managers can meet them halfway by empowering them with the ability to address their work in their own way.

When managers are transparent with regards to company objectives, obstacles, and direction, Millennials can digest this information and use it when making workplace decisions. This allows them to contribute in meaningful ways while keeping them engaged with their work.

How Does Transparency Benefit an Organisation?

Organizational transparency is important to business success in a number of ways:

  1. Improved communication — Opening up discussion and encouraging transparency allows for more frequent, honest, and authentic communication throughout an organization.
  2. Improved trust — When we are transparent and honest, this signals to employees that we trust them. Trust promotes trust, so transparency often results in a much more trusting and confident workforce.
  3. Job satisfaction — When managers are more honest, they can give employees all the information and tools necessary for them to do their jobs well, which serves to improve job satisfaction in the long run.
  4. Easier problem solving — Transparency means employees are armed with more information, meaning they have more capacity to collaborate and address pressing issues in innovative ways.
  5. Collaboration and teamwork — When we feel we are part of a transparent, authentic company, we are more likely to feel part of a team, which leads to increased workplace collaboration.

How Can I Build a Transparent Company Culture?

Organizational change is never easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to cultivate a transparent organization, but below are a few pointers to get started:

  1. Hold regular coaching conversations — You aren’t going to develop a transparent and healthy relationship with your employees if your interaction is limited to an awkward, pressure-fueled yearly appraisal. According to research, Millennials want to meet with their managers to discuss performance 71 times a year. The more frequently you meet to discuss progress, concerns, and training, the more transparency has an opportunity to flourish.  
  2. Be prepared to answer difficult questions — If you embrace transparency, you need to be prepared to answer employee questions — even less comfortable ones, such as: “Why have bonuses been cut this year?”, “Why do we hire externally rather than prioritize internal promotions?”, and “Why aren’t we investing more into employee development?”
  3. Hire honest employees — Transparency needs to start with recruitment. Hire employees who are honest and who prioritize transparency as a company value. This will ensure everyone is on the same page.
  4. Be vocal about company values — Make sure you are clear about your company values — including your commitment to transparency. Plaster your values on your walls, on your website and make them part of your everyday working life. This will serve not only to satisfy and engage your current employees, but it will also help to recruit enthusiastic, transparent employees.

Stuart Hearn

Stuart Hearn is a people management specialist and performance management expert with over 20 years' HR experience. Stuart is currently Founder and CEO of Clear Review, where he helps organizations embeds practices to engage, develop, and retain quality employees.

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