Trust in the Modern Workplace – Part Two

Today’s post, the second in a two-part series, comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Earlier this week, I wrote about some new research we have conducted here at The Workforce Institute on the topic of Trust in the Modern Workplace. While trust is always a critical component of a healthy corporate culture, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken this criticality to new heights.

One of the issues we focused on in this survey was whether trust is something that needs to be earned or if trust should be given. The numbers from our survey are clear: 63% of employees and business leaders globally say trust must be earned.

But is that the right way to think about trust? I love the point of view UKG’s CEO Aron Ain takes on trust, described in his book Work Inspired:

“The best way to persuade people to trust you is not to lecture them about trust, but simply to trust them. That way, you establish an underlying expectation of trusting behavior, modeling what you wish to cultivate in your team, department, or entire organization.”

The idea here is that you hire a person – at least in part – because you trust them. So, when that person starts their job, you’ve got to demonstrate that trust right off the bat – not wait for them to somehow “earn it” over time. By trusting them, you make it possible for them to trust you and thus to perform at their highest level, contributing to the overall success of the organization.

I believe very much in this philosophy of giving trust right away and in my 20-plus years of leading groups and organizations, I’ve always tried to walk this talk with new hires.

When a new employee starts their position, as a part of the onboarding planning, I intentionally look for projects that demonstrate the trust I have in the new employee.

For example, I once had an employee who was hired to work on our HR team. Post-hire, the first thing I asked this person to do was to provide a full review of the hiring process she had just been through and include recommendations for improvement. Once the employee had completed a full review, I asked her to present her findings to myself and our recruitment and selection team. This process demonstrated trust on a few different levels: I was telling the employee that even though she had just started, her opinion mattered. I was putting faith in her knowledge and experience and showing that I felt we could learn from her right off the bat. Finally, by having her present her findings to our full team, I was letting her know that I felt she was ready – right away – to be a valued member of our team.

Afterwards, the trust just didn’t stop there. The new employee was able to work on a couple of projects with the recruitment and selection team that came from the opportunities she recommended. This showed the entire team that I trust those that we hire.

I wanted to check in with my fellow Workforce Institute board members to hear from them about experiences they have had in the workplace where trust was placed in them – and how these experiences impacted their perception of the issue:

Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc

At one point in my HR career, I was put in charge of uniforms. I didn’t ask for this job and actually thought it was some form of punishment because the uniform department was a mess. One day, I made a joke to my boss about it being a punishment. She said, “Please don’t think of this assignment as a negative. If anyone in the company can fix uniforms, it’s you.” I took that as a positive: the organization trusted my abilities to get this done.

John Frehse, Senior Managing Director, Ankura Consulting Group

I remember going to my boss for permission to meet with a client to help them through a very difficult business matter at no cost. When I asked if I could do it, he said, “I trust you. I hired you because I trust you to make decisions like this. If you want a sounding board, we can discuss it. However, the decision is yours.”

That was so disarming for me. It made me respect him even more. It also made me work as hard as I could to do the best work I could for the client and our firm.

David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research

I remember a senior consultant trusted me to lead a workshop when I was still very junior. Here’s the key: she co-presented the workshop with me so that she was in a position to step in if I got into trouble. There was trust with a built-in safety net. It wasn’t just a naive, cross-our-fingers and hope kind of trust. It was a well-designed risk.

Dave Almeda, Chief People Officer, UKG

We teach our people managers that they should let their direct reports skin their knees but not break their legs. Said another way, leaders should empower their people to do their jobs – especially when it involves risk and innovation – and be there as a guide to overcome obstacles and provide perspective. We then hardwire trust and other key leadership behaviors across the company by holding managers accountable. Employees review their manager’s effectiveness twice a year through an anonymous survey that helps ensure leaders are living our core values and building a culture of trust.

Have you had an experience at work where trust was put in you and it resulted in great things? Or how about when trust was not granted – did it hold you back? If so, tell us about it in the comments section!

CLICK HERE to read our full Trust in the Modern Workplace Report.

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