Trust is a vital component in building a great business. Typically, management thinks of trust as an outward-facing quality, and tries to win the trust of its customers, suppliers, regulators and other stakeholders in the business. The trust of its employees is left to grow or decay on its own. So bad is the state of trust in American businesses, that just a fifth of HR and engagement managers believe that employees deeply trust a company’s leadership. Half of employees believe that they can trust HR. Trust is even more vital in an era of remote workers and distributed teams. Trust is important for an employee to feel motivated and be productive. Companies who enjoy high levels of trust from their employees have employees who are 74% less likely to report feeling stressed; and 50% of their workers are highly productive; and their workers experience 40% less burnout. Building trust is clearly both very important and very much neglected or done badly if attempted at all. So how do you build trust in your business?
Exercise Empathic Listening
Trust grows in a welcoming space, where workers believe that they can express themselves without fear of their words being used against them, judgment or outright dismissal. Without this, it is hard for workers to imagine that their employer cares about their needs or is on their side. Without this, there can be no trust. To create a feeling that workers can express themselves, managers must listen empathically, with a spirit of unconditional positive regard. Unconditional positive regard means that a person is accepted and supported regardless of what they do or say. This does not imply that everything they say or do is condoned, it does mean that you listen while assuming the best intentions of your workers, and while separating their words and deeds from your high assessment of their inner worth.
Empathic listening means that managers are less concerned with getting their message across and more concerned with hearing what their workers have to say. This creates the basis for trust to grow and enrich relations within the workplace.
You can take active listening courses, or nonviolent communication classes, in order to learn how to listen in a way that is open and welcoming regardless of the emotional strain of the conversation.
Search for Feedback, No Matter How Bad
No matter how good an HR professional or manager is, they can never know everything about a company. To gain a fuller picture about what’s going on in a company, the good, the bad and the ugly, they need to actively seek feedback from employees. In general, employees like to be part of the decision-making at an organization. After all, the decisions management takes affect their daily work, salaries and future prospects.
Just-in-time manufacturing processes, which revolutionized Japanese manufacturing, relied on daily discussions with employees and among employees to develop continuous incremental improvements to an organization. There is no reason to believe that your organization will suffer by listening to its employees. Employees know they have valuable contributions to make because they can see aspects of the business that you cannot. It is hard to get them to trust you if you do not trust them.
Create an employee feedback framework so you can find the weak points in your business, and provide critical support for any employees who are struggling.
Soliciting feedback should not be something that is done ad hoc. It should be done continuously and as part of a systematic framework. The data shows that just 10% of employees are happy with annual feedback requests, whereas 64% would like to give feedback at any time. Incorporate things like pulse surveys, so that you can keep abreast of what employees are thinking, where they are struggling and where they believe the organization can be improved.
Open a permanently-on, employee driven feedback channel, like a chatbot, so employees can give their feedback at any time of their choosing. It would help to develop or find a tool that supports feedback and has a team around it to ensure that feedback is analysed and solutions developed. This team can use the results of their analysis to ask more targeted questions so they can zero in on the solutions that would work best to resolve any issues that have come up.
Although it is important to find where you are strong, a business needs to survive before it can thrive. You need to eliminate mistakes and learn to do things “less wrong” than before. Finding where your organization is struggling or failing and eliminating those hotspots can go a long way toward making your company more robust, and more effective going forward. Ensure that the results of feedback processes are communicated to all the relevant team members quickly, so that you can start looking for answers quickly. The more seriously you take feedback, the more trust you will gain from workers. Workers aren’t stupid, they know when feedback is being sort with no view to improvements, and when it is sort because management deeply cares about what they say and wants to improve things.
Having sought feedback, you need to act on it. Give the process credibility through actions. When your employees see that you are working aggressively to deal with issues they bring up, they will reward you with their trust. If you drag your feet, they will become dissatisfied and feel as if everything has been a charade, and rather than improving their trust in you and the company, trust will actually grow worse. Listening and acting fast communicates the values that you want to nurture in your employees: empathy, respect and above all, trust.
Bayhealth, Delaware’s biggest not-for-profit healthcare system, enjoyed immense benefits when it introduced an always-on feedback channel. Its frontline leaders are able to get real-time feedback on issues that affected the organization and needed their immediate attention. Employees started to share feedback from patient caregivers about a very difficult patient they didn’t feel safe around, and who caused them extreme stress, unhappiness and anxiety. So, they organized training seminars to teach everyone how to de-escalate situations and see signs of anxiety in their patients before a situation blew up. Bayhealth’s employees realized that they could trust management to help them with situations, rather than facing them alone, and Bayhealth was able to intervene in ways that improved outcomes for employees and for patient caregivers.
You can learn more about building a great business there and use the skills we have taught you today to build trust in your company.