March 9, 2018

Why trust matters more than ever

Just 13% of employees feel engaged in their job, according to a recent survey. And it seems the only thing that can win them back is trust. Find out how you can create an energised and productive workforce by building trust into your organisation.

The latest Gallup survey found that just 13% of employees around the globe are really engaged in their job. In other words, 87% of employees are just plodding through their workday, or more likely, not engaged at all.

And the reason they’re not engaged? Well, it’s a matter of trust – according to the results of the recent Great Place to Work Survey.

Why we get it wrong

The Great Place to Work survey bills itself as the global authority on high performing workplaces. The survey outlines 60 best places to work in Asia, identifying trust as the main missing element in modern workplaces.

“[W]hen organisations think about optimising efficiency, they tend to look at assets and resources; specifically, machinery, output, suppliers, the supply chain, infrastructure, and logistics; frequently not focusing on that most important asset, human capital,” it reports.

“There is a need to shift attention to optimizing the human capital, and putting employees at the centre of operational efficiency optimisation,” it concludes.

In other words, many companies are optimizing their supply chain and infrastructure as much as possible. The next step is to look at their own people, getting employees to “do more with less”, and go the extra mile. The survey looked at what workplace features and management behaviours were clearly linked with high employee motivation. They discovered that they were all associated with fairness – for example, “Management’s actions match its words”, and “Management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas”.

The survey also found that employees working in the top 60 best places  in Asia prioritised trust. It is the most important reason they enjoyed their jobs. When an employee had a high level of trust in their company, they felt energised and connected to their company’s purpose.

So how can your organisation build trust?

Trust, of course, is a human thing. You need to have people at the helm of your organisation who can inspire their junior people through words and actions. You also need line managers who can earn the trust of their staff and can communicate openly and effectively.

But, according to Peter Mills of the Leadership Framework, before you can even start looking at whether your individual leaders are trusted by their staff – or how transparently your people are communicating – you first need a solid foundation to build on.

That includes clear and transparent policies and procedures that are consistently applied. It means having structural clarity so that everybody knows what they’re accountable for and how what they do contributes to the company’s goals. It also means taking a holistic approach to people management: one that “integrates the roles, accountabilities, and authorities of managers at all levels with those of team members and specialists”.

And, according to Mills, it also means considering the whole working environment, from implementing a strategy to assigning a task, from organisational design to role design, from creating systems of work to continuous improvement, and from workforce capability to individual capability.

The factors that undermine trust

At the same time, there are factors that can instantly undo your hard work and undermine your attempts to build trust. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Robert M Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau argue that there are four main ones.

  • Inconsistency: for instance, playing favourites or failing to align your words and your actions.
  • Avoiding difficult conversations or feedback: such as giving everyone a ‘competent’ rating on performance reviews, or failing to give feedback to a team member whose performance is affecting other team members.
  • Failing to trust others: for instance, having a workplace computer policy that blocks social media websites; or micromanages a competent staff member.
  • Information vacuums: where a void in communication – especially in a time of change – allows gossip and innuendo to thrive.

And finally…

Building trust in your organisation can take serious time and effort. However, it’s vital to developing an engaged and productive team. Especially if you want to achieve sustainable growth in your organisation.

A good place to start is Stephen M R Covey’s The Speed of Trust. It’s a prescriptive guide that reminds us of the value and the complexity of trust in our relationships.

Contact us if you’d like to find out how we can help you build trust into your business.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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