shaking hand trust in the workplace

Trust in the Workplace: How to Build the Ideal Culture

Companies are struggling with employee retention, and a lack of employees can easily cause a business to fail. In June of 2021, the number of job openings skyrocketed to over 10 million. This was driven by a 2.7% increase in the number of employees who called it quits. Nearly 4 million people quit their jobs in a single month.

The high quit rate coincided with the post-pandemic “turnover tsunami” forecasted by HR professionals and researchers. The turnover tidal wave projection, based on a survey by Achievers Workforce Institute, was drastic: after the pandemic was over, about 50% of workers planned to find new jobs. Here are some reasons why workers want to quit:

  • 46% of respondents said they don’t feel connected to their employers;
  • 42% were dissatisfied with company culture;
  • Only 21% of respondents were engaged at work.

Pandemic or no pandemic, employers tend to struggle with culture, employee engagement, and establishing the human connection their employees crave.

Ultimately, your employees need to trust that your company has their best interests in mind. They need to trust that you care about them as human beings. In this article, you’ll learn how to create a culture of trust that lends itself to optimal employee engagement and retention.

Why Is Trust So Important in the Workplace?

Trust is vital in the workplace because it’s the glue that binds people together. Businesses are miniature representations of society. According to BioMedCentral, interpersonal trust “refers to the extent to which a person ascribes credibility to other people and expects positive outcomes in the context of social interactions.”

In an economic context, this expectation of positive outcomes leads to a better economic outlook. When it comes to the relationship between trust and gross domestic product (GDP), the data shows that countries with a higher percentage of people who trust each other have higher GDPs per capita. In other words, if you cultivate trust in the workplace, your employees are more likely to be engaged and productive. Let’s take a look at why this is the case.

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5 Ways Trust Can Benefit Your Business

Having a culture of trust in your business can be an invaluable way to benefit your employees, management and your bottom line all in one. Here are 5 ways trust can benefit your business:

1. Good For Business

When employees feel like they can trust their employer, they are more likely to go the extra mile in their work and be more productive overall. This is an obvious consequence of knowing your employer believes in your work.

Consider a situation where an employee has a problem with a work task. In a culture of trust, that employee feels comfortable enough to go to their supervisor and explain the situation. The supervisor then works with the employee to find a solution.

In contrast, in a business without trust, the same employee would likely keep the problem to themselves for fear of being reprimanded or fired. This can lead to errors, missed deadlines and lowered morale — all of which are bad for business.

2. Improved Communication

With a culture of trust, employees are more likely to openly communicate with their respective employers. This two-way communication is essential for a business to function properly.

Employees need to feel comfortable communicating their ideas, concerns and suggestions to management. In turn, management needs to be open to hearing these things and acting on them where appropriate.

If there is no trust, employees will either keep quiet or go elsewhere with their concerns (to the media, for example). Either way, this lack of communication is bad for business.

3. Happier Employees

Happier employees lead to a more positive work environment, which in turn leads to increased productivity and improved morale.

When trusted, employees are more likely to be satisfied with their job and less likely to look for other employment. It’s often the case that hiring can be an extremely expensive exercise — so this decrease in employee turnover can save the business a lot of money in the long run.

4. Enhanced Creativity

Trusted employees are more likely to feel empowered and therefore be more creative in their work.

This is because they know that their ideas will be listened to and, where appropriate, implemented. In turn, this enhanced creativity can lead to increased productivity and improved business results.

5. Greater Customer Satisfaction

A culture of trust can also lead to greater customer satisfaction since happy employees tend to provide better service. When customers feel like they can trust a business, they are more likely to use that business again in the future.

Building a culture of trust within your business can have numerous benefits. It’s good for the employees, good for management and good for the bottom line. What’s not to love?

happy employees trust in the workplace

When Is Trust Most Important?

There are many examples where trust has to be built up within a company.

Imagine a company has just been hit with a major data breach. The sensitive information of millions of customers has been exposed, and the company’s reputation is in shambles.

As the CEO, you are tasked with leading the organization through this crisis. You know that regaining trust will be essential to the company’s long-term success.

You also know that it will take more than a few well-crafted press releases to earn back the trust of your customers, employees, and partners.

You need to take concrete actions to show that the company is committed to protecting its stakeholders.

This is where a culture of trust comes in. By building a culture of trust  – where employees feel safe speaking up about concerns, customers feel confident that their information will be protected, and partners feel valued  – you can create an environment in which everyone feels like they are part of the solution.

When everyone is working together towards a common goal, that’s when real progress can be made.

This is just one example of where a culture of trust is most important in the workplace and has to be rebuilt.

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The Psychology of Trust

Researchers have discovered a psychological mechanism behind trust. A study in the science journal Nature showed that the neuropeptide oxytocin increases the amount of trust people have in each other. The researchers noted that “oxytocin specifically affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions.” They also noted that trust is essential to “economic exchange” and business partnerships.

Oxytocin is directly tied to stress. When people are stressed, they don’t produce oxytocin — and vice versa. This ties directly into the primary reason people cited for quitting their jobs after the pandemic. They were suffering from burnout, from stress overload. When employees feel burned out due to stress and other factors, their trust in their employer breaks down.

Since this is the case, it’s essential that you cultivate trust in the workplace. The livelihood of your business depends upon it.

relaxed employee trust in the workplace

Tips for Creating a Culture of Trust in Your Business

To improve trust in the workplace, start by analyzing the pillars of your organization. Every decision your business makes comes down to your values.

Create Core Values to Guide Your Decisions

Core values are the fundamental principles by which a company operates. Your core values should emphasize the ethical priorities of your business  – the social responsibility you intend to uphold. Employees need to know you care about people. They also need to know that ethical imperatives drive your corporate decisions.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is linked to competitive advantage, so it’s wise to consider using tenets of CSR to inform your core values.

Create a list of your core values. Share this list with your staff and when you’re onboarding new employees. Be honest about what you value. Then, show your employees you mean what you say. Use principles to steer your internal and external decisions. If necessary, update the list as your company continues evolving.

Maximize Transparency & Communication

Open communication and transparency are the hallmarks of a trusting relationship. Just as you’re leveling with employees about what your company values, communicate with them about processes and decisions. Solicit their feedback whenever possible. Measures their engagement through surveys and ask their opinion about important topics.

Facilitate open communication in your business by encouraging conversation. To do this, you’ll need to use a platform such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. If you have a remote workforce, use Zoom and Google Meet for video calls so everyone can see each other’s faces.

That said, don’t overwhelm your workers by making all meetings mandatory. The key to communication is to strike a balance. You don’t want to bombard your employees with info — nor do you want to leave them in the dark.

Minimize Stress by Managing Expectations

When employees know what to expect, they’re not stressed by uncertainty. Establishing clear expectations for your employees goes hand in hand with maintaining open communication.

One easy way to do this is to use project management software such as Asana or Employees can get a clear view of all the tasks at hand, deadlines, timelines, and to-dos. Another easy solution is to use scheduling software that lets them know exactly what their schedule looks like each week.

Make sure employees know they’re not expected to work more than a certain number of hours each week. Moreover, let them know you expect them to clock their brains out of work when they clock off.

To minimize stress on the job, consider building a backup plan if an employee won’t be able to meet a deadline. Let them know they can expect to get help when they need it. This will enable them to communicate problems they’re having and empower them to complete tasks as a team.

laughing employee trust in the workplace

Be Empathetic

When you feel empathy for your employees, you show them you care about them on a human level. This is about imagining what it would be like to do their job day in and day out. What would it feel like to be them? What are the emotional highs, lows, and in-betweens your employees experience in the course of their jobs?

The more time you spend cultivating compassion for your employees, the more respect you have for each individual. In turn, they learn to trust you. To increase your level of empathy, consider taking some extra time to do the same tasks your employees do.

Then, talk with them about the details, the ins-and-outs of what they do. Share your pain points and ask them to share theirs. Moreover, dedicate your efforts to making their jobs easier  – you’d appreciate it if someone were to do the same for you.

Eliminate Micromanaging

Micromanaging is the thorn in the side of trust. When leaders micromanage their employees, they demonstrate a lack of trust in those employees. This trickles down to employees, who aren’t likely to trust each others’ abilities when they see leaders micromanaging them.

Trust your employees can do their jobs and do them well. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have hired them.

Be Consistent & Follow Through on Your Promises

Consistency helps employees thrive. When you consistently focus on what your employees do well, you encourage them to do well. When you consistently follow your core values to the letter, you show your company is dependable.

Be on time with annual reviews every year. Always give raises and bonuses based on the expectations you’ve established. Set mandatory meeting times and don’t deviate from the schedule. Even your physical and emotional presentation to employees should also be consistent.

Most importantly, keep your promises. If you promised them a holiday party but it’s going to go over budget, consider reaching into your own pocket. Or, organize a fundraiser and get everyone involved. Do whatever it takes to show you’re dependable.

money trust in the workplace

Be Supportive

Supporting your employees creates a community of trust. They need benefits such as paid time off to help with their work-life balance and improve their financial position. If you give them benefits such as sick leave and health insurance, they know you support their wellbeing. Ultimately, this goes back to empathy.

During the pandemic, a lot of employees got burned out because they had to take care of their kids and work from home full time. Working families need support in the form of flexible schedules and accommodations for their situation. For example, if your employees are back in the office, provide a room where mothers can breastfeed their babies. If you have the facility for it, consider onsite childcare.

Be Flexible

Flexibility doesn’t just improve corporate agility  –  it shows your employees you trust them to excel. Flexibility means you’ll allow employees to work from home and it can even mean letting them create their own schedule within certain parameters.

Employees with flexible schedules can focus on quality work and task completion instead of counting the hours until the workday is over. However, there’s even more to it than that. Flexibility might be just the ticket for retaining employees, even when it looks like they’re headed out the door.

After the pandemic, employers were scrambling as many employees planned on quitting. According to Brian Kropp, chief of research in the Gartner HR practice, “One thing you can do right now to minimize the risk of turnover is to be very clear about flexibility. And if you’re not offering flexibility, you’ll have a turnover problem.”

To be upfront about flexibility with your employees, establish clear expectations. Once employees know you trust them to work from home and show up at the office when necessary, they’re more likely to stick around.

Create a Rewards System & Prioritize Employee Mobility

Following through with rewards, raises, and promotion opportunities are key to building trust in your workplace. Some call it gamification, but whatever you want to call it, employees need to know they will be rewarded when they do a good job.

It’s helpful to think of it like a video game. If you’re playing a game and you complete a checkpoint, but you’re not allowed to move on, would you keep playing the game? It’s safe to assume you’d quit. Likewise, employees are more prone to quitting when their hard work goes unrewarded.

Prioritize Employee Mental Health

Employee mental health is perhaps the most important factor in a workplace culture of trust. Ninety percent of employees say stress negatively impacts their mental health and 60% of them say they’re not getting the help they need. Give them the help they need, and they’ll be able to trust that you care for their wellbeing.

Work-related stress is inevitable  – but when workers have no way to relieve stress, and it keeps piling on, it becomes a problem. Dedicate your HR efforts to employee stress relief. Make sure their health insurance has options for telehealth counseling and in-person therapy. Provide an onsite gym if possible. Work regular breaks into employee schedules. Some businesses even have onsite counselors.

happy balloons trust in the workplace

5 Entertaining Ways To Build A Culture Of Trust

As discussed above, there are many ways to build a culture of trust. However some methods are more entertaining and effective than others! Here are five entertaining ways to build a culture of trust in your workplace:

1. Get Everyone On The Same Page With An All-hands Meeting

An all-hands meeting is a great way to get everyone on the same page and build a culture of trust. In an all-hands meeting, everyone in the organization comes together to discuss what’s going on.

This is a chance for leaders to share their vision and for employees to ask questions and give feedback. This differs from a traditional meeting by being more open and transparent, which leads to much more dialogue and a more interesting conversation for everyone.

2. Encourage Socializing With Company-wide Events

Socializing is a great way to build trust because it allows employees to get to know each other on a personal level. When employees trust each other, they’re more likely to work together effectively.

Company-wide events are a great way to encourage socializing — they can be anything from happy hours to picnics to team-building exercises. This varies firm to firm but the key is to get everyone interacting with each other in a fun and relaxed setting.

3. Promote Transparency With An Open-door Policy

An open-door policy promotes transparency and builds trust because it allows employees to feel like they can approach their leaders with any questions or concerns.

This policy also shows that leaders are accessible and willing to listen to their employees. In order for an open-door policy to be effective, it’s key that leaders follow through on their promise to be accessible and listen to employee concerns.

4. Encourage Feedback With Regular Check-ins

Regular check-ins are another great way to encourage feedback and build trust. These can be informal conversations or more formal meetings, but the key is to make sure that employees feel like they can give honest feedback without fear of reprisal.

Feedback should be given openly and honestly (in a comfortable setting) in order to promote trust.

5. Model The Behavior You Want To See With Your Own Behavior

What better way to build a culture of trust than to model the behavior you want to see. This means being trustworthy yourself and setting the example for others.

Employees will be more likely to trust each other if they see that their leaders are trustworthy. So if you want to build a culture of trust, make sure you’re leading by example.

employee meeting to develop trust in the workplace

Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Trust?

The old saying goes that it is better to trust and be disappointed than to never trust at all. But is there such a thing as too much trust?

In the business world, where competition is fierce and the stakes are high, can companies afford to put their faith in employees, clients, and partners?

It turns out that they can  –  and should. A culture of trust leads to more engaged employees, more satisfied customers, and stronger relationships with partners. It’s also the foundation for high-performing teams and companies.

However, there can sometimes be a thing as too much trust. If you are too trusting of your employees they may start to take advantage of the situation.

For example, they may start to think that they can show up late for work or take longer lunches because you trust them to get their work done.

While it is important to trust your employees, you also need to set clear expectations and boundaries. Otherwise, your company may start to suffer.

Make sure to trust your employees, but don’t let it be to the point where they start to take advantage of your trust.

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Real-life Examples Of A Culture Of Trust

A culture of trust is built on mutual respect, communication, and a shared commitment to success. It takes time to develop trust within a team or workplace, but it is worth the effort. A culture of trust can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and engagement.

There are many ways to build a culture of trust in the workplace. Here are a few examples of how real life companies have built up a culture of trust:

1. Microsoft

At Microsoft, employees are encouraged to take risks and experiment. This culture of trust has led to some of the company’s most innovative products, like the Xbox.

2. Google

Google is well-known for its relaxed and open work environment. Employees are given a lot of freedom to pursue their own projects and ideas. This culture of trust has led to some of Google’s most successful products, like Gmail and Google Maps.

They have policies like “no dress code” and “bring your dog to work” which help create a relaxed and fun atmosphere, as well as creating an impression that their employers trust them to get the job done.

3. Zappos

The online retailer Zappos has built a culture of trust by investing in its employees. The company offers paid training and development programs, as well as regular performance reviews.

They also have an open-door policy, which means that any employee can approach their managers with ideas or concerns.

4. Southwest Airlines

The airline company Southwest Airlines has a culture of trust and teamwork which is embedded in their company philosophy. Employees are encouraged to work together to solve problems and meet customer needs as best as they possibly can.

Building a culture of trust in the workplace can have many positive benefits, like increased productivity, creativity, and engagement. It takes time and effort to develop trust within a team or workplace, but one thing’s for sure — it’s definitely worth the investment.

airplane security trust in the workplace

Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve understood why a culture of trust is so important in the workplace and delved deeper into some interesting case studies from the world’s most successful companies.

It seems like trust is more crucial than ever before, so make sure you follow the tips above and take action to build a culture of trust within your firm. It’s only going to lead to a bigger and brighter future for your business!