Tell me what you really want: creating a culture of openness and feedback

Tell me what you really want: creating a culture of openness and feedback

Openness is one of the key qualities of a good relationship. How many times have you watched characters in a film put themselves through needless torment and heartache because they didn’t communicate or weren’t open and honest with each other? Take Rebecca for instance, [spoiler alert] if only Maxim had been honest about his feelings for the film’s namesake, Manderley might be safe in the hands of the National Trust instead of consigned to the ashes…

Workplace relationships thrive on openness too. A lack of communication may not involve your employees in heartbreak, but it could hold them back from achieving their best work or pulling together as a team. An open culture where people are encouraged to speak openly and share their honest opinions is one where everyone can feel connected and valued. Openness promotes creative thinking and encourages innovation – the hallmark of a successful business.

But how do you get there? Here are four ways to support an open culture.

Be transparent

Share regularly with your people. Without information people start to speculate. With it, they feel in the know and part of the team. It pays then to share news about the business, your goals and objectives, initiatives and people to help build trust and credibility. According to a study by, 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of alignment within a team has a negative effect on the outcome of a task or project. It follows that people who can see how they fit in and where they’re heading are more likely to work as a productive, motivated team.

It is equally important that your processes are transparent too – your people should understand your decision-making criteria and have confidence that company policies and procedures are fairly applied across the board.

Start a conversation

To be successful, openness must be a two-way process. As well as sharing, you need to understand what your employees are thinking, how they feel about the business and their roles in it. That means asking for feedback. Not just once a year in an employee survey – though these are really useful tools to foster change and engagement in the longer-term – but frequently and regularly. Pulse surveys, polls and digital suggestion boxes let you ask direct questions and help you gauge employee opinion about specific issues or developments. One-to-ones with line managers, informal conversations and group debates can give employees different ways to voice their thoughts and feedback on day-to-day business practice.

Whichever feedback mechanism you use, remember to:

• Make it count – report back to your employees about the results, what action you’ll take and show that you respect everyone’s opinion

• Make it confidential – while some feedback can be given openly, some subjects are better treated anonymously. If you want employees to give their opinions freely, they need to feel safe to speak out.

Create an environment of trust

Not everything can be confidential, so if you want to people to share and collaborate there needs to be trust. Your employees should be reassured that failure is part of the way we grow. Not every suggestion will be a success and mistakes are opportunities to learn. If something goes wrong, employees need to know that they will be helped up, rather than knocked down. This will give them the confidence to try new things, take appropriate risks and be creative.

Helping break down silo mentality can add to a more open culture too. By actively encouraging cross-team working and cross-team feedback you can help break down barriers and encourage people to trade ideas and inspiration.

Lead from the top

An open culture needs to be led from the top. Leaders have the responsibility to create an environment where anyone feels comfortable sharing an idea – or a concern – with someone senior in the company.

People will look to you to set the culture and follow your lead, so you need to actively practice openness:

• Have an open-door policy – and not just a physical door of course, make yourself available online/by phone for remote workers

• Act with integrity – live out your company values and aim to apply them in everything you do

• Admit your failures – be transparent, so others know it’s ok to make mistakes

• Share your concerns, your hopes and the things you feel strongly about – let your employees know that you’re human.

Employee comms – the place to start

Perhaps not surprisingly – this is coming from a communications agency after all – the foundation of a culture of openness is communication. You can only be open if you exchange ideas; your employee comms play a vital role in reaching out and starting the conversation.

The good news is that today’s communication arsenal offers some fantastic opportunities to interact with your workforce, from animations that bring a fresh perspective to your corporate communication, to consultative surveys, polls and instant messaging platforms that help you monitor the pulse of your organisation at any given moment.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

• Evaluate your current channels of communication – are you using channels that resonate with your employees and that easily reach them all, including hybrid and remote workers?

• Remember that every communication you put out is a chance to reflect an open culture – are you being inclusive, inviting debate, acknowledging differences of opinion?

• Clearly define your values – do your employees know what your organisation stands for and how to put your values into practice in their everyday work?

• Share your goals – are you all aligned on your purpose, mission and what success looks like?

Finally, remember that culture evolves over time and relationships need nurturing – so keep at it. An open culture will lead to a more engaged, valued and aligned workforce and a stronger, more resilient business. It will be worth it.

At Lucent, we’re experts at employee engagement and creating campaigns that reach out and invite measurable responses. If you’d like to find out how we could help ensure that your internal comms support a culture of openness then get in touch.