By Nicole Bello, group VP, SMB and Channel, EMEA, UKG
Promoting an organisational culture of trust is key to creating a productive workplace. From encouraging collaboration between employees at every level, to fostering a creative workspace that considers integrity, reliability, and consistency as its main pillars – trust must be the foundation to support an organisation’s bottom line.
The positive impact of trust amongst the workforce has been pushed to the fore more than ever this past year. Leaders have come to the realisation that employees are at the heart of their business and that the relationship they have and culture they foster can be a competitive differentiator.
Here at UKG, we have put the power of trust to the test over the past year. On 20th February 2020, Kronos Incorporated and Ultimate Software announced a definitive merger agreement to form one of the world’s largest cloud companies, bringing together two award-winning, people-focused cultures. But with the COVID-19 pandemic causing widespread disruption, we knew this merger would be even more difficult.
This is where the power of bi-directional trust came into play, by bringing together two global companies caring for thousands of employees in a harmonious manner. Leaning on that trust and with greater emphasis on creating a collaborative culture to support the physical and emotional wellbeing of staff, we have been able to better manage the disruption the pandemic has brought.
The importance of trust at work is best exemplified by a recent global survey from The Workforce Institute at UKG, which found that 60% of employees say trust has a direct impact on their sense of belonging in the workplace. Alongside this, two thirds (67%) of U.K. employees and business leaders believe that trust should be earned, and only 57% feel that they are trusted to complete daily responsibilities.
With this in mind, let’s dive deeper into how bi-directional trust can be established and supported in the workplace environment.
The impact of workplace trust
Why is trust a foundational imperative in the modern workplace? The aforementioned stats answer this clearly, with trust having a significant impact on both the mindsets of individual employees and their overall productivity levels. Ultimately, when employees feel like trust is lacking from their workplace relationships—whether with coworkers, their manager, or in the processes that define their day-to-day tasks—it can have negative impacts on their output.
As an example, employees who do not feel trusted are less productive: 61% say that the perception of low trust hurts their daily effort. This is a huge impact, and especially when we consider the current economic outlook—as many businesses look to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic—it becomes even more important that organisations instill trust. Put simply, it’s good business sense to put people first, focusing on their individual needs. Taking this approach creates a more harmonious workplace culture, which positively impacts employees, and subsequently their levels of efficiency.
But productivity isn’t the only area trust impacts. Half of all employees surveyed (51%) feel a lack of trust impacts their mental health. We’ve sadly seen this exacerbated by the pandemic, with our research outlining that 57% think it is easier to trust colleagues in a physical workplace versus those working virtually. With this in mind, it’s crucial that leaders be intentional in their communication with employees – having a more personal touch in messages to show empathy during tough times, as well as discussing business issues and topics that provide better insight into the happenings at the organisation.
A positive take away from the pandemic is that over half (59%) say the period has positively reshaped perceptions about flexible and remote work arrangements. Considering this sentiment as organisations shift policies as we emerge from the pandemic will be an important factor for leaders to maintain that trust with employees.
Overcoming the one-size-fits-all approach to building trust
Building trust in the workplace can mean different things for different employees and organisations. It is therefore important to bear in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for establishing workplace trust. For employers looking to improve overall employee engagement strategies, they must therefore consider a multitude of principles when looking to build trust with their workforce.
Our research has determined the most important building blocks for building a successful manager-employee relationship. People managers state that employees can earn trust through producing quality work (46%), being dependable (39%), and by being good listeners (34%). On the flip side, employees state that their managers can earn their trust through being good listeners (57%), being dependable (46%), and being honest about projects or situations (36%).
There are clear alignments here in what both managers and employees need, but it’s interesting to see that managers trust employees based on the quality of their work first and foremost, and employees trust managers based on the softer, human skills. As a result, leaders must make time to get to know their employees on a personal level, as well as building a strong professional relationship. Conducting one-on-one meetings with the goal of listening to an employee about their workloads can help with this. Managers must also avoid micro-management and prioritise promoting a positive workplace culture.
The future of work requires trust
As we move towards the post-pandemic future, one thing that has become abundantly clear is that trust holds the key to success in the new future of work. With disruption seen at a local, industry and global level, embarking on a journey of trust can help to manage and control the impact placed on each and every employee.
As many employees are still working from home, managers may think it’s best to wait until teams are back in the office to begin this initiative. But I would caution this thinking as the future of work is likely to be hybrid – with remote working here to stay and a return to the office now in sight. Business leaders and managers must therefore act now to maintain employee engagement in the ever-evolving workplace environment.
Ultimately, trust is essential in creating a happy, healthy, and engaged workforce, meaning leaders should be proactive in establishing trust within their organisations. Those recognising the need for trust to be a foundational imperative will have a more engaged workforce as a result. After all, great businesses are powered by great people.