When it Comes to an EX Your Employees Want, Trust Is Key

Last year, we completed a global culture survey that sought to discover what today’s workforce wants from their company – or what would send them running to a new one. We found that employees care a lot about working for a company and owner they can trust, even more than they are concerned with higher wages or better benefits.

So, what does it mean to be a trusted company? Trust must be something your employees feel exists in every part of the organization. For employees to be comfortable taking risks, working harder, and responding more quickly to customer needs, they need to know that the company and its managers do what they say they will do, and keep them informed about how the company is doing across various goals and metrics.  

When there is trust at all levels of the organization, the company is likely to move faster, be more responsive, and show higher levels of productivity. Research from “Great Place to Work,” the company that provides the data behind Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For indicates that companies that have trustworthy cultures often have greater financial success than those that do not. On the other hand, when there is a lack of trust, it is often because owners and managers are not willing to be transparent about how the company is doing, what is being worked on, and why any changes are being made.  

When it comes to trust from an employee’s perspective, there are two things that research has found have a significant impact on staff. “Great Place to Work” found that 82% of employees trust their managers when those managers deliver on their promises. 83% of employees indicated they trusted their manager when their actions met their words. Nothing breaks trust more quickly, though than when an owner or manager fails to do what they say they are going to do. 

Over-promising and under-delivering is one of the biggest mistakes an owner or manager can make with their team. If you, as a leader, find yourself unable to follow through on what you said you would do because you are too busy, you must change your approach to under-promising and over-delivering. Keeping your word is critical to having integrity, and as an owner or manager, if you do not prioritize integrity, you will not have a culture of trust or be seen as an excellent leader.  

Owners and managers whose actions are aligned earn the respect of their staff. Actions speak louder than words, and your business must have leaders who consistently do the right thing. If your staff does not feel that their supervisor or other managers lead by example, the integrity of you, your business, and your values are challenged. 

Another important way to build trust with all of your staff is to ensure that there is transparency around your organization’s goals, strategies, plans, and results. Goals indicate the desired results the company wishes to achieve. It is amusing when an owner, executive, or manager talks about being goal-oriented but has not shared those goals with their team. Simply put – a company will not achieve its goals until everyone understands what is expected of them.  

When an employee understands not only the goals, but how their role fits into those goals, they instantly become more engaged in the success of the business and trust their manager more for the knowledge that was shared with them. Consider the process in your organization for letting employees know your current goals and more specifically, how their work impacts those goals. 

In our experience, we recommend organizations create both strategies and action plans – strategies being the broad plans to achieve organizational goals, and action plans indicating specifically how managers and teams can contribute to the overall strategy. Employees need to know both the broad and specific plans being implemented to achieve the organization’s goals. This is critical to how an employee feels about their organization, because then when change happens, employees understand why, and the change immediately becomes less daunting. 

In addition to knowing the goals, you need to ensure your employees are updated with how the organization is performing against its goals. Results matter, and whether good or bad, every employee should feel connected to and invested in the company’s results as it pertains to their work. It also helps everyone to understand when a change of plan may be required, or why a celebration might be in order. By creating a culture where these results are sought out each month, everyone becomes interested and invested in making them better. 

One important note – while communicating these metrics is a big thing, organizations also need to ensure that employees actually understand what they mean. If employees do not know what any of the shared information means for them and their role, transparency and trust cannot be achieved. 

Finally, a trustworthy, transparent organization must also support processes that allow employees to share their own ideas, feedback, and insights. An employee should be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas in any of three ways: anonymously, as a part of a group or team, and individually with a manager. 

Employees anonymously providing feedback means they can share their thoughts honestly, safely, and equitably—so they feel they are on the same level as everyone else. Sometimes anonymity means that an employee is more likely to share concerns or negative aspects of their employee experience without fear of repercussions from management or the organization.  

While there are benefits, anonymous feedback cannot be the only way to provide feedback, as it can reinforce a climate of distrust, particularly with small organizations. Opportunities to speak within a group or team setting are also necessary. We recommend having monthly engagement meetings where everyone is kept up to date with essential information, results, and plans, and time is made available for feedback to be shared. Team members should be not just allowed but encouraged to contribute ideas on how any aspect of the organization during these meetings. These ideas can then be captured and considered more closely. Don’t forget to follow up on those employee ideas as well, even if they were not used – knowing that you took their idea anywhere further ensures that your employees trust you enough to share more ideas later. 

The final (and possibly most important) medium for feedback is the one-on-one conversation. Managers need to set up regular and consistent check-in or performance conversations with their team members. These one-on-one conversations allow the manager to engage with an employee and show they care what that employee thinks. Managers must be responsible for fostering relationships where all employees feel comfortable bringing things to their attention, as this will generate the highest feeling of trust and care at work.  

Developing a trusting environment is critical to your organization’s success. By understanding how to elevate feelings of trust, organizations, owners, and managers will elevate both the employee experience and the company’s performance by leaps and bounds. 

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