Most of the companies are facing issues like low engagement, below par employee productivity levels. Any organization is bound to be concerned about these factors, given the amount of value they are losing.
Ad-hoc solutions are designed to address these challenges. Can you offer high job satisfaction by offering random job perks? Maybe you can address these workplace issues in the short term but not in the long term.
Do you find your organization staring at similar situation? If not, congratulations you are one of very few out there. Majority of us are finding these challenges looking right into our face.
Lack of trust at workplace is one of the top challenges leaders and HR professionals are facing today. It is impacting talent retention and performance adversely.
As per a global survey PwC reported, 55% of CEOs agree that lack of trust is a major threat to their organization’s future.
If building a strong culture of trust is what makes the difference, then how do we not only build it effectively, but also sustain it in the long term?
Let’s try to get an answer here.
What does culture of trust mean in the workplace?
Trust is the foundation of any relationship, be it Personal or Professional and once it is hit, it takes lots of effort and time to repair it. In many cases effects can be irreparable.
Culture of trust at workplace means that:
- All involved stakeholders strongly believe that everyone will behave and act in a mutually beneficial manner.
- Everyone has a strong faith that everyone is working towards a common goal, achieving which will make everyone win-win.
- One has full trust in skills, intentions, and knowledge of other individual.
Strong culture of trust means we can depend on others, and they will deliver on time on their commitments, and they will not act opportunistically at another’s expense.
Why is trust important in the workplace?
When you have a strong culture of trust in the workplace, it makes much easier to get all the resources putting in effort in one direction. When all force vectors add up to one direction, the net effect becomes an unstoppable force.
Workplaces that exhibit strong culture of trust, leads to stronger working relationships, happier work environment and better performance.
You can find high level of productivity, commitment, open communication, teamwork, respectful environment, innovation, risk taking ability in such an environment, which ultimately gives a huge competitive advantage for an organization.
As per an HBR article, employees at high trust companies report:
- 74% less stress
- 50% higher productivity
- 76% more engagement
- 29% more satisfaction
- 40% less burnout
It is clear from above that lack of trust can affect the workplace culture very badly. It can severely reduce the transparency and open communication.
When employees feel lack of trust, they feel unsafe and slowly their efforts start aligning solely with their own interests. Problems can go unaddressed, which can impact the bottom line of any company.
What destroys trust in the workplace? (Why do employees lose trust?)
There could be multiple ways a trust can be affected at the workplace. However, as per the studies following are top 2 reasons:
- Lack of transparent & regular communication
- In-efficient Leadership
Employees can lose trust if they feel that they are being kept in the dark or being neglected. You can undermine trust of your employees if you are not regularly taking time out to let them know how they are helping to achieve company’s objectives, growth opportunities for them etc.
Promoting wrong leaders can also terribly impact the trust of employees. Knowingly or unknowingly leaders can demonstrate behaviors like favoritism, micro-management, failing to walk the talk, inconsistency in taking decisions, not setting clear expectations etc.
These behaviors are common reasons where in-efficient leadership can adversely impact the trust in workplace.
What are some of the signs that trust is lacking in an organization?
Showing any of below signs or behaviors points towards lack of trust in your organization & demands your immediate attention.
- Sudden change in the behavior: Have they stopped working on initiatives or taking risky projects? Have they stopped asking questions or bringing new ideas on the table?
- Lack of open communication: People find difficult to get along, lack of co-ordination between different teams, hesitant to share honest feedbacks, excessive gossiping, blame game.
- Low employee retention: People keep leaving. You are finding yourself unable to retain your top talent.
Above symptoms should be considered as warning signs for low trust and demands a proper corrective and preventive action immediately.
How do you build trust in the workplace?
Your role as a leader or human resource professional is to foster a great workplace culture. Building and sustaining trust is the first step towards achieving this goal.
Building a strong culture of trust can mean all the difference in the world when you want your business to growing exponentially and your employees thriving.
We recommend following 6 Steps framework to build trust in the workplace.
Step 1: Acknowledge the problem
In order to address any issue, first step is to acknowledge that we have a problem and why it is important to address it.
All involved stakeholders should understand the issues due to lack of trust in the workplace and if it is not addressed how it is going to impact them as well. This way you are getting everyone involved in the process and getting their commitment to get this resolved.
Being a leader, it is your responsibility to spot the problem, however, it becomes collective responsibility to get it addressed. This cannot be achieved without collectively acknowledging the issue.
Step 2: Identify the root causes
Once everyone has acknowledged lack of trust, now is the time to identify WHY & WHAT of the problem.
We need to dig deeper to understand WHAT are the causes which have damaged the trust, as well as we need to understand the WHY behind these causes i.e. why did these causes surfaced in the first place.
Without knowing both Why and What of root causes, you will be just scratching the surface and not addressing the real causes.
Step 3: Address the causes
After identifying the real root causes, now is the time to plan for the corrective system to address them.
Putting this system in place will depend upon the key causes of lack of trust at your end. However, below are some tips which can help your employees to increase their trust and cooperation:
- Reward risk taking: Give people space to take risk and safety net they need if they fail.
- Encourage accountability: It is not about expecting less from people but to hold them accountable without micro-managing them.
- Job crafting: Give people an option to work on side projects of their choice
- Openly sharing information: Employees should be well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and their role on achieving these objectives.
- Regular communication: Conduct review meetings time to time, give honest feedback and set clear expectations.
- Offer opportunities to build relationships: Give employees opportunities where they can nurture relationships and know each other well.
- Career development roadmaps: Help employees with their career plan and offer training and development opportunities to achieve their career goals.
- Show vulnerability: Admit when you make mistakes. Leaders should ask employees to help them rather than always telling them what to do.
- Follow through with commitments: When you commit something and upheld it, you are helping others to build their trust in you.
Step 4: Monitor the progress
Identifying the causes and putting the system in place will not be sufficient to address the issue. You need to have a system in place where you are monitoring if the system in place is working towards solving the trust problem or not.
You need to clearly define how does success look like in this case and then monitor if those behaviors are visible across the workplace. You can conduct surveys to identify the honest feedback of employees to confirm the progress is being made or not.
Step 5: Acknowledge the progress
You should share with employees about the progress made and its impact on the bottom line. It is important that you not only involve employees or stakeholders at problem identification stage, but also actively share results achieved with them.
Reward people who have actively participated and demonstrated the right behaviors. Set the right examples and recognize them.
This way employees will feel involved and part of the process. This will also make them to stay committed to the right behaviors.
Step 6: Be patient
Trust can be easily damaged. However, it takes time and lots of effort to rebuild the trust. One of the most important steps is to be patient and give process the time it demands.
Whether you are building the culture of trust for the first time in a workplace or re-building it once it has been lost, the most important step is to identify the problem and take proactive steps to build the relationship and then continue to sustain it over time.
Building meaningful relationships and fostering culture of trust are fundamental to the success of any business.
Being a leader, you need to lead the change with an example to follow.