Why trust is important in the workplace

One business consultant says there are four ways employers can foster a culture of trust within the organisation

Why trust is important in the workplace
Business consultant Sue Bingham said that the thing that best defines high performing workplaces “is the high level of trust between managers and employees”.

She cited a survey routinely conducted by PwC with Global CEOs that found that across industries 55% of CEOs were concerned about the lack of trust within their organisations.

Meanwhile a survey done by the World Economic Forum revealed that less than 50% of employees trust the companies they work for, she wrote at Harvard Business Review, adding that this means “employers have to carefully consider how they can build trusting relationships with their employees”.

“When trust goes down (in a relationship, on a team, in an organisation, or with a partner or customer), speed goes down and cost goes up.… The inverse is equally true: When trust goes up, cost goes down, and speed goes up,” she said, quoting from Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust.

Bingham said there are four ways to address trust issues in the workplace that usually stem from traditional environments where the focus can sometimes be on rule enforcement.

‘Hire for trust’
Use smart hiring practices by asking behaviour-based questions, she said.  This technique will help you gauge a candidate’s level of honesty and accountability ensuring that you are fostering a culture where workers can depend on one another, she added.

She also stressed the importance of background checks and references to uncover falsities about length of stay at their previous employment and past salaries. 

“Checking references might seem tedious, but replacing bad hires takes a lot more time and money,” she said.

‘Make positive assumptions about people’
Don’t let your cynicism cloud your judgment, she said. Managers who make negative assumptions about their employees tend to micromanage, withhold information, and create unnecessary rules and policies causing even the best hires to lose their passion.

Show positivity by giving employees “challenging assignments with the clear and confident belief that your expectations will be met”.

‘Treat employees fairly, not equally’
Most traditional HR departments recommend treating employees equally to mitigate risk, said Bingham, but “this strips people of their individuality and unique abilities to contribute”.

“A better approach is to have adult discussions that seek to determine the cause of a problem and to expect employees to identify and act on their own solutions. This counseling-style approach is quicker, is more respectful, and provides significantly better results,” she said. 

Have zero tolerance for deceit
Take a cue from companies with high performing employees and create a zero tolerance policy within your organisation, she said.

Make it clear that any employee, regardless of rank, can lose their job if they’re found to be dishonest about their work, she added.

“As a leader, it’s your responsibility to use good judgment to take risks, to operate with principled motives, and to hold positive assumptions. And you get what you give,” she said.

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