We face the fundamental challenge seen in a 2021 study from Buck Global showing that 58% of employees do not trust senior management to look out for their best interests and that 42% believe their leadership is out of touch with the reality workers have experienced during the pandemic. That should give us all pause. But we can pair this with positive findings of research conducted by Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, which showed employees in high-trust companies reported 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement, 40% less burnout and more than double the energy they bring to their jobs compared to workers in low-trust organizations. How well we emerge from these past years might come down to how we hold ourselves to a trust-building standard. These key areas need close attention:
Ask employees what pandemic workflow improvements should continue
Have your workers been able to weigh in on the benefits of virtual work that they now see as key to their ability to excel? You almost certainly have employees who flourished these past years, through great effort on their part that they’re proud of. Marking those times as an aberration can send a powerful negative message you didn’t intend.
Schedule time for one-on-ones with individual employees
How proactive are your efforts to touch base with each employee and address their problems and issues? Do manager schedules allow time to make that happen? Does your culture allow managers to show the kind of personal vulnerability to teams that is such a core component of building rapport?
Optimize for rapid trust when you share news and plans
Companies often announce enhancements and changes to help their workforce—and are surprised when those well-meaning efforts are met with skepticism, indifference or scorn. What went wrong? It may be the news was described, but not the intention behind it. Simply connecting those dots can make a huge difference.
Avoid announcements such as: “Great news; we’re now offering day care three days a week!” You’ll serve employees far better with an approach closer to “We’ve been looking for ways to help our working parents participate more easily in collaborations at the office; one suggestion we’ll be testing is providing daycare three days a week.” When employees understand from the start the underlying care and motive behind the action, you’ve instantly opened the conversation allowing honest dialogue and alignment to happen and trust to flow in both directions.
Detail your company’s mission and the strategy you’ll use to get there
How many convoluted mission statements have you rolled your eyes at over the years? No company can afford that lack of clarity anymore. To have your promises trusted, you must first make those promises clear, relevant and actionable.
It’s time we saw these new realities as an opportunity for every company to become its better self—trusted in the eyes of the world, their clients and, most importantly, the employees who are the true beating heart of every company and every brand.
Get your tickets for the 2022 Leading Women event, held in New York CIty on Aug. 9, at AdAge.com/LW2022