Trust in the workplace is critical to employee satisfaction, their performance, and therefore central to the success of organizations. So why do so many leaders get it so wrong?
What does trust in the workplace mean? It is a gauge of relationships and how much one group feels valued and understood by another. The presence of trust indicates a healthy workplace culture and brings a range of benefits to organizations, from resilience and innovation to increased value creation.
A trust-based workplace culture is one that focuses on the importance of trust, emotional intelligence, and collaboration. Unlike a command-based workplace culture where the leader is more dominant, the trust-based workplace culture encourages employees to be creative and innovative.
In this type of work environment, people are generally happier because they feel they can make a difference. They also enjoy a higher degree of autonomy, which allows them to take responsibility for their work and feel more invested in it.
There are a number of misconceptions about trust that leaders often make. These are five of the most common mistakes:
1. Building trust is HR's job
Many leaders believe that HR is responsible for establishing a good culture. They think of motivational benefits, events and the like.
Yet culture lives every day through every interaction we have: How do we make decisions for the company?
How do we communicate our decisions? How do we listen to feedback? How do we show appreciation?
The actions of leaders, then, directly impact how employees experience and judge the culture of the organization.
2. Trust is not necessary to get work done
Many leaders believe that, yes, employees are compensated for their work with a salary. Accordingly, no further trust is needed for them to do their job.
But employees who feel supported by their employer are more likely to innovate and commit to the organization. The best employers know that they need to care about their employees at least as much as they care about their customers. This has a direct and positive impact on sick days and turnover.
3. Trust can be built quickly
Trust is something that can only be built by repeatedly delivering on promises. After an organization surveys its employees, they often expect problems to be fixed immediately. But building trust takes time - it's not instantaneous.
Culture change realistically takes at least 18-24 months. The same is true for building trust in the workplace. Discernible progress can only be made over the course of years; anything less is not realistic. But that makes it all the more important to start early. The course for a trust-based culture can and must be set today.
4. Money can buy trust
Expensive benefits, high social benefits and seemingly motivating bonus models are no substitute for genuine trust in the workplace. These often feel transactional and employees emotionally distance themselves from them. If an employee is dissatisfied with the work culture, her colleagues, or the leadership team, an excellent childcare offering will not make up for the lack of motivation in the workplace.
5. Engagement and trust are the same thing
Engagement and satisfaction alone are not good indicators of a trust-based workplace culture. While they are part of it, they can change over time and all employees go through periods of higher and lower engagement.
That's why trust is so important as the foundation of culture. It provides employees with the psychological security to be themselves, even during difficult periods, and to be able to address problems openly.
Do you know if your organization has a trust-based workplace culture? And are you sure that this applies to all employees? An employee survey helps you make the culture measurable and tangible. With the results, you can then derive evidence-based effective measures.