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How to get a transparent workplace without compromising security

Written by Mark Williams | 3 August 2016

A transparent workplace is becoming ever more important. Many companies think they’re good at it but few truly are. It’s a bandwagon worth jumping on, though, for the impact it has on your business.

A third of employees cite a lack of open, honest communication as the leading cause of low morale. Low morale leads to disengaged workers and they can be very bad for business.

But, like anything in life, the bounty of workplace transparency doesn’t come without a price. Most significantly, it can compromise the security of your business. So how do you strike the right balance between pain and gain?

It starts with engagement

Employee negligence or malice accounts for four out of five data security problems. But while they’re often your weakest link, employees can also be your best form of defence.

Negligent slip-ups often occur because the employee broke protocol to make their own life easier, whether that’s using an application they prefer or bypassing a firewall.

If you want to achieve harmony between workplace transparency and security, get your employees to understand how their negligence affects them personally, not just the company as whole.

‘Any time I’ve just come out with candid, honest information, I’ve actually been surprised at just how well my team has responded. It’s the only way to go when dealing with tough issues,’ says Danny DeMichele, CEO of Elevated.com

By engaging with your employees and involving them in the problem, you can work together towards finding the best compromise.

Need to know

Just because you’re aiming for a transparent workplace, it doesn’t mean you need to be open about every little detail. The line between transparency and over-sharing is different for each company and it’s up to you to find yours.

While transparency breeds a healthy work environment, this should not trump security. If there’s sensitive information that could seriously affect the business and/or doesn’t need to be shared with everyone then keep it on a need-to-know basis. Employee salaries are a classic example. A brave few have gone public with this, but it’s a sensitive topic and one you should consider carefully.

Transparency and discretion goes beyond the employee and the company, though – it extends to the client, too. Particularly if you’ve signed an NDA, there will be certain information you are restricted from sharing. In such instances, you need to keep on top of how you share details and who needs access to them.

It helps to have an approved process for this, for example, using a document storage application that allows you to restrict access and keep track of version control.

Find your balance

Making a transparent workplace is a hard enough task on its own. When you add security to the mix you’ll soon find it’s a tall order to manage both effectively. But, as they say, nothing worth having comes easy.

Start by finding out what level of transparency works for your business and what legal restrictions prevent it. Once you know your limits, categorise your data and find a secure solution for breaking down the office walls.

Even though it will be a tough journey, when you do find the balance between transparency and security you’ll see just how much it can benefit your business.