Starting with Trust

Today’s post comes to us from Julie Develin, a senior partner in the Human Capital Management Advisory group at UKG.

If you really stop to think about it, there are a lot of things in life that we trust without thinking twice.

Having dinner out at a restaurant? You’ve trusted that the plate you’re using has been washed between uses. You’ve also trusted that the silverware is clean and that the food you are eating is safe. Perhaps you’re driving in your car, and coming to a four-way stop intersection. You’re trusting that the other cars in your view will stop as well, and not speed through the stop sign, causing a crash. Heading to an amusement park to ride the rollercoasters? You’re putting trust in the machinery to operate and function safely. You’re putting blind trust in the ride operator to perform their job correctly and in line with regulations.

Starting a new job and going through the orientation and cultural assimilation experience? You’re expecting that leadership at the new company will trust you from day one.

Afterall, isn’t that why they hired you?

Well, not so fast. Unlike the many things in life that we trust without blinking an eye, that trusting sentiment seems to be lost when it comes to the workplace, and new workers entering it.

According to the Trust in the Modern Workplace report published by the Workforce Institute at UKG, only 25% of leaders say they trust employees on day one. Conversely, only 29% of employees say they feel trusted on day one. When taken separately, these numbers are very much in alignment—and that is not necessarily a good thing! Not only do leaders not trust employees from their first day on the job, employees report that they do not feel trusted. Surely this does not bode well for workplace cultures or employee experiences.

But why do the numbers reflect such blatant mistrust of new hires at work? This is not exactly the way that we want our new hires to feel on their first day at work, is it?

Work “works” best when employer and employee expectations are in alignment. Granted, the psychological contract in the employment relationship is always changing based on shifting needs of employees and employers. But when there is a lack of communication on what these needs and expectations are, the exchange relationship paradigm begins to break down. When there are perceived inequities, oftentimes one side feels slighted and cast aside. If employees do not feel trusted on day one and employers do not provide that trust, the employment relationship may be starting on a negative trajectory from the beginning, thus setting an ominous foundation for what is to come.

The foundation of the work relationship is critical to success. If trust is a pillar of the foundation of the employment relationship, then communication is a major building block. A productive workplace and a good employee experience depend on a trusting environment—one that cultivates confidence on both sides of the work association. Positive experiences have a direct effect on critical aspects of the success of a business, like reducing turnover, increasing performance metrics, and attracting and retaining top talent to an organization. Without the steadiness of trust within the exchange relationship between employer and employee, that relationship will likely fail.

Considering the Trust in the Modern Workplace survey results, it is a good time for organizations to take inventory of their trust indices. While there are many ways to go about doing this, here are a few best practices for consideration.

First, ensure that managers are trained on the importance of trust at work, and the impact that it has on their relationship with employees they oversee. What does trust mean to them as individuals, and as managers? Determining the answers to those questions may help them in their people management role. Of course, asking managers to trust employees from day one only works if managers themselves are trusted by leadership to do the right thing and are given the autonomy to lead their teams to success, and learn from their shortcomings. Educating people leaders on the psychological contract at work can help them understand why their subordinates may be acting or reacting a certain way and will better allow managers to solve problems using a process of elimination. While all workplaces and workplace cultures are unique, trust is a universal driver of mutual respect and productivity.

Next, use the building block of proper communication to your advantage. If trust is the foundation of the house on which working relationships are built, each brick placed on top must be stable and steady, and this starts with an intentional and effective communication plan. From day one, managers should get to know their employees and learn who they are as people; not just workers. Knowing the whole person may help managers learn how to lead subordinates towards success and growth, improving career trajectories and increasing retention. Setting clear expectations from day one is another way to ensure that expectations align.

Finally, define what trust means to your organization, and be sure to model whatever definition fits best. Don’t underestimate the importance of everyone being on the same page when it comes to what trust means for your organizational culture. Does trust in your company mean that employees will be available and working between certain hours each day? Does trust mean that major projects should be collaborations between teams? Does trust mean that employees can come to managers and leadership at any time without concern for their job, and with without fear of retaliation for speaking out?

How can we bridge the trust gap in the employment relationship when we cannot always see each other? What are some strategies you’ve used at your company to build a trusting environment virtually, or in person? Let us know what you think in the comments section!

Please share your comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.