In this blog, we will go over the reasons why building trust in the workplace is more important than ever and share best practices for earning employees’ trust.
Trust in the workplace has been emerging as one of the most popular topics since the beginning of the current pandemic.
According to the Edelman “Trust Barometer” (a survey of 33,000 people in 28 countries), one in three people doesn’t trust their employer. But how to successfully build trust in the workplace with geographically dispersed teams?
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In the same Edelman research, it was also discovered that trust decreases from top positions to the lowest. For instance, 64% of executives trust their organizations, while only 51% of managers and 48% of other staff trust their organizations.
In other words, employees trust their peers more than the CEOs and upper-level executives. The higher up you go, the more critical it is for you to build trust with those that you supervise.
In this blog, you will learn more about the importance of trust in the workplace, as well as some best practices around how to build and maintain trust.
Top Reasons Why Building Trust in the Workplace is so Important Today
Some of you may already have experienced working in a workplace where people are unreliable, disengaged, disloyal or uncommunicative. If so, you know how hard it is to strive and be successful within such a working environment. This is exactly how employees who work in low-trust workplaces feel.
Negative working atmosphere creates a highly stressful and undesirable environment for everyone. Within such organizations, employees withhold their talents, creativity, energy and passion. As a result, they lose productivity, their innovation capabilities, their competitive edge, and more.
Let’s take a look at some examples and real data from Harvard Business Review, SHRM, Great Place to Work, Accenture, Gallup and Trust Edge that prove the benefits of building a highly-trusted workplace.
Trust enhances teamwork and collaboration
Trust in the workplace has a big impact on how employees collaborate and work together on the same project. Most employees work from home or have hybrid work these days. Thus, employers have started realizing how important it is to build trust.
In most cases, poor employee communication is the reason number one for poor collaboration. The first step towards building trustworthy and collaborative workplaces is to drive open and honest communication in the workplace.
Trust improves organizational alignment
When employees trust their employers, they are much more likely to work together towards achieving the same ultimate business goals.
Yet, such organizational alignment is not easy to achieve, especially in large enterprise organizations with offices around the world. In order to have all the employees on the same page, organizations must do a much better job communicating their core company values, mission and vision to their employees.
Trust improves efficiency, engagement and productivity
Let’s take a look at some numbers from the previously mentioned sources. According to research, disengagement costs U.S. companies approximately $450 billion to $550 billion annually.
What does this have to do with trust in the workplace? A lot!
Indeed, 96% of engaged employees trust management, while 46% of disengaged employees trust management.
Besides engagement, research shows that highly-trusted workplaces enjoy:
- A 50% higher employee productivity
- 106% more energy at work
- 13% fewer sick days
To add, companies with high trust levels outperform companies with low trust levels by 186%.
Trust enhances decision-making
Within highly trusted workplaces, trust goes both ways. Meaning employees put trust in their superiors and other executives, while managers trust their teams.
When such synergy happens, managers are more likely to empower their employees to make their own decisions, and employees have the confidence and courage to make them.
Trust decreases stress and burnout in the workplace
According to the research mentioned above, employees who trust their employers experience 74% less stress and 40% less burnout.
As stress and burnout have many negative impacts on employee motivation and productivity, employers are trying to find ways to eliminate these emerging challenges in their workplaces. To do so, they have no choice but to build trust in the workplace!
As trust starts with open communication, employers need to find ways to create company cultures that foster transparency, and they need to frequently communicate with their workforce in order to lower the stress levels within the organization.
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Trust increases employee loyalty and retention
Employee burnout is often followed by employee turnover. Moreover, according to Accenture research, burned-out employees are 2.5 times more likely to leave their current employer.
The same research shows that 67% of US workers feel burned out sometimes, often, or always, and they are 63% more likely to take a sick day off. Such feelings are often caused by fear and anxiety about their work, and employees may not feel comfortable speaking up about it.
To add, one-third of employees indicated that they would stay longer with an employer if its leaders kept their promises, and 28% said they would extend their tenure if transparency were practiced at all levels.
Trust overcomes resistance to change
During the pandemic, many employers had to go through significant changes in their operations and Human Capital Management.
Adjusting to remote work wasn’t easy for everyone. It required organizations to adapt quickly and align their entire workforce with the new initiatives. But most people don’t like change. Getting employees’ buy-in and cooperation is crucial for a change to be successful. Like many other examples, internal communications play a crucial role in communicating the importance of change and leading people through it.
When communication is effective, trust in the workplace increases, making people more confident about your organization’s decisions and new initiatives.
Trust improves innovation and creativity
When people feel free to communicate, express their ideas, and when they trust their employers and superiors, they are more prompt to innovate and come up with new solutions.
Moreover, research highlights that when there is more trust in the workplace, employees are 23% more likely to offer more ideas and solutions.
Remember, promoting a culture of trust rather than fear encourages collaboration and builds a creative workplace. When employees are afraid to make mistakes or have a fear of being punished, they are far less likely to take initiatives, yet risk is essential to innovation.
8 Ways to Build Trust in the Workplace
In its global CEO survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth.
Even though the importance of trust in the workplace appears to be self-evident for most organizations, many are still unsure how to achieve it. Remember, one in three people don’t trust their employer.
The thing is, business leaders are now facing new challenges: building trust when teams are geographically dispersed. Indeed, remote work has become the new normal, which leads organizations to adjust their strategies.
So let’s now take a look into what you can do to create a highly trusted workplace in a post-COVID-19 world where remote work is the new normal.
1. Encourage employees’ share of voice
58% of employees believe they themselves are responsible for ensuring they have a successful career. Yet 63% of employees say that employers have “too much power and control over their professional lives and well-being”.
When employees feel like they are not in control of their careers, they can’t feel high levels of trust either.
In order to fix this issue, employers must give employees a voice, create opportunities for shared actions and empower them with information. It is important that employees feel like they can speak up about important issues, their needs and concerns without being held back.
The biggest mistake that employers make is practicing one-way communication with their employees. Meaning they send out newsletters to inform their employees without giving them an opportunity to join the conversation and share their voice.
2. Create a better company culture with open and transparent employee communications
IBM conducted a study of over 1,700 CEOs from 64 countries and 18 industries. One of the major findings is that companies that outperform their peers are 30% more likely to identify openness as a key influence on their organization.
Unlike organizations with many hierarchical levels and closed company culture, today’s successful CEOs are intentionally incorporating openness and transparency into their workplace cultures.
Transparency is showing accountability through communication. Being honest, vulnerable, giving frequent feedback, setting expectations and keeping employees informed and connected are all forms of transparency. Without transparency, people tend to make up their own truth about something, which may lead to extensive misinformation in the workplace, where people feel frustrated and left out.
3. Share important information with your employees
Topics around trust and transparency in the workplace are especially popular now as we are facing a lot of uncertainty about the current pandemic. Many employees feel scared and worried, and a lack of relevant information is the most common culprit for that.
On the other side, there is an extensive information overload that employees are facing. When employees don’t get the right information, when they are not able to find it quickly or when they have to deal with a lot of irrelevant information coming their way, both their trust and productivity are disrupted.
Employers have to find better ways to keep their employees informed about the important company updates as well as updates from other relevant and trusted sources. Many of them still haven’t found ways to inform their employees in a timely manner and make communication more personalized.
4. Foster peer-to-peer communication
A great research by Edelman shows that the most common source of workplace information is other employees (37%), even more than personal communication from one’s manager (35%). Therefore, keeping employees connected and enabling them to communicate efficiently not only does build trust among employees, but it also creates better relationships and empowers knowledge sharing in the workplace.
Yet, many organizations’ employee communications ecosystems are very complex and, therefore, highly unproductive. When employees have to deal with and pay attention to multiple different communication channels, the chances for frustration and important information getting lost are very likely.
Consequently, your employees may feel uninformed, lost and confused. Therefore, employers need to switch to more centralized employee communication solutions that have the ability to connect multiple communication solutions into a single platform that serves as a source of relevant information.
5. Authentic and approachable leadership
The same Edelman research showed that 71% of employees agree it’s critically important for their CEO to respond to and talk about challenging times and sensitive topics. We all have witnessed this during these hard times that COVID-19 has brought to us.
Therefore, building trust starts with leadership.
A recent Harvard Business Review study found that three key factors drive trust in leadership: consistency, good judgment and positive relationships.
Out of 87,000 360-degree leadership assessments, those who achieved ratings at or above the 60th percentile for the three factors—marginally better than average—achieved an overall 80th percentile trust score. When none of these qualities were displayed, a 20th percentile trust score was given.
This ultimately proves that an emotionally connected leader who speaks with an authentic voice and has a clear vision is more likely to be trusted and receive support from the entire workplace.
Moreover, when leaders’ words and their actions are disconnected, employees are less likely to be engaged and committed to the organization.
6. Create a sense of purpose
Because employees are looking for certainty in an uncertain world, businesses now have the opportunity to take a stand on issues and drive informed conversations about what their organization stands for.
Edelman research proved that one in four employees say they would never work for an organization that lacks greater purpose or fails to deliver meaningful societal impact, 71% of them are looking for a greater purpose and 71% of them want to do more meaningful work. Another 42% of employees say they would need to be paid significantly more to work for an organization that didn’t offer these elements of shared action.
Without these trust-building efforts, employers risk losing their best talent and hurting their overall workplace culture.
7. Engage your employees in change management and digital transformation efforts
Employers should partner with their employees on change. As mentioned before, many people are resistant to change. However, instead of leaving people out when such projects are implemented, employers need to engage them as much as possible in order to earn their trust.
Employers must be transparent and inspirational about where they want to take the organization in the future, they should address their employees’ concerns, and provide training that enables the employees of today to be the employees of tomorrow.
Leading transformation in the workplace is not an easy job, and proper employee communication is what separates companies with successful transformation from the ones that haven’t been so successful.
Still, only 38% of employees who have experienced workplace transformation say that their employer communicated effectively about the changes, and only 36% say their employers were honest about changes their organization would face.
8. Adopt the human-centric approach and enhance employee empowerment
Within the context of change and transformation, employers are only partially delivering the information employees need to co-create and be successful.
Employee-centric workplaces are the ones where trust levels are high. In order to have your employees believe in what you say and work with you towards the same goals, you need to put your people first and make them feel more empowered.
When employees’ expectations around how they think people should be treated are higher than what employers actually deliver, the trust is hurt and employees don’t feel empowered.
The image below from Trust Barometer is a great representation of the current gap between employees’ expectations and employers’ actual deliverables.
Before you begin to invest into initatives to improve trust in your workplace, it is critical that you understand the current state of trust among your employees. The best way to measure the level of trust in your organization is by distributing a simple survey.
Here are some survey question examples that can help you better understand how much your employees trust their employers and leaders:
- I have positive feelings about the future direction of [company name]
I feel like I can honestly express my opinion at [company name]
I do my job knowing that [company name] will recognize my work
Employees commonly believe that they are treated fairly at [company name]
I feel that information can be shared openly within [company name]
- I feel that my manager listens to what I have to say
I do my job knowing that my manager will keep his/her word
I feel that my manager is available when needed
I believe that my manager acts on my feedback
I feel that my manager trusts his employees to work without excessive supervision and micromanagement