Building Trust In The Workplace

October 21, 2021

Covid-19 has altered the work environment beyond recognition. Trust in the workplace has been hit pretty hard. 

The narrative has moved from reactive-based - ‘How do we help our people during Covid - to responsive-based - ‘How do ensure productivity, inclusion, cohesion with a workplace environment, management systems and styles that accommodate hybrid’. 

Some demographics will race back (hello Gen Zs!) and while others (some working parents maybe?) will wrestle you across the floor and down the stairs before agreeing to a 5-day office-based workplace book-ended by a couple of hours in cars, buses or trains (... planes even?)

The bottom line on building trust in the workplace

Culture is the set of behaviours and habits that happen at work, by people…

Teams that can’t effectively play together, won’t stay together. Teams that don’t stay together won’t perform for you. 

Productivity, attraction, retention and minimising attrition are dependent on your employer value proposition, which depends on the culture of your organisation.

This is why building trust at work is so important.

People are your most important asset… not processes, not technology. But it’s time to move beyond paying lip service to this.

In our experience, the summary of days in/out of the office will be 3/2, 4/1 etc… 

But what happens when it’s 3/2, 4/1 in or out across different people on your team?

The obvious challenge of Working From Home, Hybrid, Working From Anywhere is the issue of managing people from a distance. 

The natural impact is on sustaining trust and using power effectively to ensure productivity and output is of sufficiently high quality for results.

Barriers to building trust in the workplace

The natural problem solving and creativity that emerges from people working together and having a ‘watercooler moment’ is dampened by relationships that atrophy when work and business are the primary reason to talk or be on a video call. Zoom coffee has gone cold.

There is another, more subtle characteristic that could have a massive impact on how effective your hybrid workplace will be. 

Amy Edmonsdon has pioneered work that has brought this phrase into the business lexicon - ‘psychological safety’ — the belief that one can speak up without the risk of punishment or humiliation. 

Psychological safety is well established as 

  1. a driver of high-quality decision making, 
  2. healthy group dynamics 
  3. interpersonal relationships 
  4. greater innovation and creativity a
  5. and more effective execution in organisations.

How do you nurture it? 

How do your management role model it? 

What do they have to unlearn? 

What habits do they need to break and then make?

Bottom line… How do you build trust at work?

Building trust doesn't happen overnight

People do not want to work for organisations and for people who do not care about them. When the managers and leaders of today entered the workforce in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s the world and the workplace was a very different place. 

Millennials, Gen Z’s expect their workplace to serve their personal and professional development needs, provide them with the community and enable them to have an ‘experience’ at work where, what they do while behind a computer screen, speaking to clients or collaborating with colleagues in person, is in perfect harmony with their values, purpose and mission in life. 

Human-centric organisations have higher productivity and lower (human) turnover rates. Workplace culture and experience has never been more important as a driver of organisational capability and success.

What are the 5 elements of trust?

If you’re thinking ‘I don’t know how to create trust?’ that’s OK. It will happen over time and by degrees.

There are several different ways to build trust in the workplace, but we like to focus on this ultimate objective.

“Better people make better teams, and better teams make better companies.”

We believe that the feelings and emotions of your people as they interact with each other are key to developing trust and purpose, better conversations and quality of human connections combined with shared experiences and satisfaction with life.

If you can build trust at work you will enable teams to thrive wherever they are located.

PepTalk is a business enablement tool that drives organisational actions in pursuit of the following 5 most important factors to ensure building trust in the workplace, whether that’s onsite, remote or hybrid. They are as follows:

Purpose

Would you be excited if your boss started a meeting saying: “I want to remind you that you’re a cog in a machine whose primary purpose is to hit our financial targets”? 

What your team thinks, feels, and believes about your organisation, and their work, drives their behaviour - and their behaviour is what determines your success or failure. 

Therefore an organisation must consistently model and visibly live a clear transcendent purpose, ie to improve the lives of its customers and employees. You can't say you are the latter but act like the former.

Connection/Conversation

Humans have an innate need to belong - to one another, to our friends and families, and our culture and country. The same is true when we’re at work. 

When people feel like they belong at work, they are more productive, motivated, engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential, according to our research at the Center for Talent Innovation. 

Creating the opportunity for people to intentionally build relationships and bonds both within teams and across the organisation is essential for trust at work to exist. This enhances productivity through better teamwork and provides a means to build social capital that pays off in increased innovation, creativity and problem-solving.

Shared Experience

Teams that play together stay together and perform together. Working in an organisation and within an environment where everyone can participate in a variety of initiatives and activities will help to cement good feelings, build ‘tribes’ and ensure friendships that endure. This pays off in terms of motivation and engagement. 

It turns out that a series of studies show the positive impact fun and laughter can have in the office. According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, lighter moments in work brings with it a host of business benefits.” 

Alison Beard in the HBR article, “Leading with Humor” describes how laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and wellbeing, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”

Satisfaction with life

People no longer can be expected to park their troubles at the front door before they clock in. 

Managers used to be selected and promoted largely based on their ability to ‘do the job’ - management was about evaluating and measuring the performance of employees who carry out a particular set of tasks. To be successful in this new environment, managers must lead with empathy. 

This will require organisations to develop their managers’ skills, awaken their mindsets to manage in new ways, and create the capacity across the organisation to enable this shift... Daily. 

Because the impact of a good manager relationship with their employees has a direct bearing on satisfaction with life. With a knock-on impact on productivity, retention and ‘readiness to work’

But how do you bring it all together, consistently, systematically and within the framework of a programme that not only gets around more people in your organisation but also measures impact, spots trends and gives the impetus to respond (not react)?

Trust

Trust is not just a by-product of other things you do, it's something that you need to work on as a stand alone item too.

The chances of increased attrition, lower productivity, and stalled innovation loom large when trust plummets.

Actions at all levels of management that engender trust include celebration and recognition of performance, effort and leadership. Additionally, openness about company direction and goals as well as consistent role modelling from leaders to show vulnerability and the human side of themselves. 

The economics of trust, extensively written about, describe how high trust organisations enjoy a higher speed of ‘getting things done’ as well as a lower cost associated with just that. 

Similarly, there is greater energy, joy and engagement amongst people when you have built trust in the workplace.

We help companies to succeed by building great teams. The more in sync your organisation is with the above and the more action you are taking to ensure they are embedded in the daily flow of work the faster the trust will build in your organisation. The trust is built the better and more effective your business will be to address the effects of the hybrid workplace.

Why is building trust in the workplace important

CRO / Sales Leader // Questions on my mind:

Having a team in which some employees are co-located in an office and others are doing their jobs remotely presents several challenges for managers.

  1. How do I ensure my new hires' ramp time to productivity is optimised in a hybrid setting?
  2. How do I maintain connectivity between managers, people and across teams that support the highest levels of performance effectiveness/enablement and learning?
  3. What ways can I provide for a fun/community vibe that builds team bonds and guards against burnout and attrition?

COO / Operations / Country Leader

  1. What can I do to help my people contribute more effectively in a hybrid workplace?
  2. To what extent are managers supported to enable high performance within and across teams?
  3. How can I maintain and progress the culture of the organisation so that sustained engagement of the people we have hired ensures their productivity (and protects against attrition for the talent that costs me a lot to attract and onboard in the first place?)

CPO / HR Leader

  1. Effectively provide wellbeing and engagement programmes to our employees for which we can measure impact and respond to trends before they become issues.
  2. How can I ensure I maintain/get better at attracting, retaining and developing top talent while also ensuring my managers can effectively do their jobs in the new workplace environment?
  3. What can I do to more effectively onboard and connect my new hires to the community and ensure a shared experience at work that brings the culture to life?

Tips for Building Trust in the Workplace

Hopefully, this has given you some ideas about building trust in the workplace.

These are some of the things I lean into as a sales leader.

  • Action and real-time data are more powerful than just insights and data. 

Be data-driven around your sales team’s energy, mindset and readiness to work. Use tools like the PepTalk management dashboard to know the health of your teams and know proactively which teams are thriving and spot those that are dipping and in danger of dis-engaging. 

  • Leverage the power of gamification 

This will drive actions, energy and fun in support of building social capital within and between your teams. It’s going to help your people feel that they are part of something bigger than just ‘delivering the number!’ … but that in doing so helps to drive retention but also motivation and discretionary effort (...Which ultimately helps deliver the number!)

  • Intentionally create the ‘watercooler’ space 

Because this is vital for relationships and real conversations between people to develop. The outcome from this is more cohesive connections, cross-team collaboration across your workforce which supports the ability for work to get done.

Thanks for reading.


Andrew Finnigan
Head of Growth. Enabling peak performance in teams and the sustainability of people at work.
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