If ever the importance of workplace trust was in doubt, the damage done to the Qantas brand during its most recent industrial dispute has solidified its place on the HR radar.
The move to ground its fleet over the weekend was seemingly a surprise to everyone except the Qantas board, leading to speculation that the move was planned – and commentators have said this general lack of communication has been central to the erosion of the employee/management relationship.
Keith Ayers, Integro leadership institute CEO, said Qantas management and its board made huge strategic errors in its handling of the dispute, and pointed to two distinct areas where trust can both be built and broken down, namely ‘consistency’ and ‘communication’.
Ayers said consistency means companies following through on things it has promised, whilst acting honestly and ethically at all times. Secondly, communication is integral, and comes back to keeping all decisions transparent, and demonstrating respect to all employees by keeping them informed of why certain management decisions have been made.
Research conducted by Integro found that while most executives judge their own trustworthiness on their consistency, most employees judge their leaders on their communication.
Ayers said that while Qantas has focused very heavily on consistency elements, it has completely neglected the communication elements.
“[Good leadership] is about letting people know what’s really happening, and letting them know why they’re making the decisions they do, not just saying ‘Our people are our most important asset’, then laying off 100 for example,” Ayers said.
Ayers added that employees understand the constraints and limitations of businesses more acutely than many employers realise, and through good communication industrial disputes can certainly be stopped from escalating to the degree seen by Qantas.
- Stephanie Zillman -
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