For any relationship, personal or professional, to be successful, it must be built on a foundation of mutual trust. While most of us find it easy to trust our own family and friends, we may find it harder to trust those we work with. And yet, given that we spend much of our days interacting with colleagues and clients at the workplace, wouldn't you agree that it's equally, if not more, essential to cultivate a culture of trust at the organizational level?
I was going through an article summarizing a global survey conducted by Workplace Intelligence in 2021. The study, called 'Trust in the Modern Workplace', covered nearly 4000 employees and business leaders across 11 countries, including India. According to them, when employees find trust is lacking from their workplace relationships, it has many negative consequences. Conversely, a culture of trust at the workplace helps to drive employee engagement and improve business performance. Isn't that something we all want to achieve at our own organizations and for our businesses?
We are very happy we have been able to build a culture of trust in our agency which has sustained us through many challenges, including the disruption caused by the current pandemic. Let me share some of the ways in which we nurture this relationship of trust with our employees and our clients.
Nothing but the truth will earn your employees' trust. Even if the truth may not always be what they want to hear, they will appreciate your honesty and make them more likely to be honest with you in turn. When Covid affected our business, we frankly shared our financial difficulties with our staff, and they promptly came forward and helped us reduce costs.
Engage actively with employees to reassure them that their opinions matter to you and to the organization. Ask questions; be open to their answers and act on their feedback so they know that their voices are being heard.
Show your commitment to relationships at work by keeping to the promises you make, in a consistent rather than sporadic way. With clients too, deliver value and keep to time schedules. This will slowly but surely build trust over time.
Respect differences in values, opinions and methods of working, especially if you work in a multi-cultural environment. "Showing that you respect their way of living can play a big role in smoothing the beginning of the relationship," was how an Indian manager explained how he bridged cultural differences, while talking to a team from Harvard Business Review which was researching trust with business partners from other cultures.
Be accountable for your actions, even when you make mistakes. This will not only give you credibility but also foster a healthy environment of honest dialogue and accountability within the organization.
Set an example of the kind of behavior you seek at your workplace. A blog for Great Place To Work says 'Nothing speaks more loudly about an organization's culture than the leader's behavior, which influences employee action and has the potential to drive results'. So if you want to gain their trust, you must trust them in return.
While the 'workplace' may no longer be the same as before the Covid pandemic, trust in professional relationships has never been more important. In TIC's blog about communicating during the Covid-19 crisis, we recommend the management send a comforting message to build confidence and mutual trust that eventually strengthens the bond between the organizations and all its stakeholders.
I'd like to leave you with the words of Dr. Chris Mullen – Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at UKG. "Trust must constantly be nurtured, and when the organization's default position is to presume trust and good intentions, they can reimagine outdated processes and policies to focus on driving performance through a truly modern employee experience. Trust makes it safe to pursue new innovations and challenge the status quo. It's a critical element to deliver meaningful and connected experiences."