March 11, 2016

10 tips to building organisational trust

Trust is one of the cornerstones of a good employer-employee relationship. Employees need to have trust in their colleagues, their line managers, in HR, in senior management and in the organisation as a whole. Most important in that mix is being able to trust colleagues and line managers.

However, as we all know, trust generally has been significantly eroded the past few years – the financial crisis, corporate scandals, public sector scandals, MPs expenses…..All of this has combined to damage trust in institutions and in particular, those at the top in institutions. So much so that in 2012, the CIPD produced a report called ‘Where has all the trust gone?’ This report talked about how low trust has a negative impact on employee engagement, motivation, performance and productivity, not to mention internal and external reputation.

Not surprisingly, high levels of trust have a positive impact on all of the above. The organisation, Great Place to Work, has a Trust Index© and its research shows that the average Trust Index© for the UK’s Best Workplaces is 86%, compared to a UK average of 55%. High trust organisations tend to be high performing organisations, with the UK’s Best Workplaces outperforming their peers.

What that in mind, we have come up with some top tips to ensure your workforce has high levels of trust. These are tips for you as HR professionals, but they are also tips about how managers, senior managers and the board should behave.

1. Earn the trust of the workforce. Behave with integrity. Be ethical and trustworthy in all your dealings, operations and communications.
2. Display the right behaviours. Model the behaviour you want employees to believe in and display themselves. It’s called walking the walk.
3. Reward the right behaviours. Give praise and recognition where it is due and promote those who display the right behaviours.
4. Tackle difficult situations and the wrong behaviours. Don’t let negative situations go unchecked or they will fester, spread and quickly lead to even bigger problems. Employees notice when the wrong behaviours are allowed or worse still, encouraged and they will either become disaffected or follow suit.
5. Be open, transparent and honest in all your communications. If there is any negative news about the organisation, make sure you tell the workforce first, rather than them hearing about it second hand. People lose trust very quickly if they think their employer or line manager hasn’t been honest with them or has kept them in the dark about a situation.
6. Develop management capabilities. Trust between individuals and their line manager is so important so make sure line managers and senior managers have the right management capabilities and competencies. Keep developing them and work on those interpersonal skills.
7. Be fair. Always be fair in your decisions and dealings.
8. Give people autonomy. Trust breeds trust.
9. Maintain confidentiality. Failure to maintain confidentiality is a big erosion of trust and is highly unprofessional. It should never happen.
10. Listen. This is something that is easily overlooked but is very important. Listening to people, listening well and with respect, engenders trust and good relationships.