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6 Ways to Build Workplace Trust

Is your workplace a great place to work?

Key points

  • Studies predict that one in every five workers will resign in the next twelve months.
  • Data suggests that leaders need to be concerned about their employees' fiscal, physical, and mental health.
  • Strategies to practically improve the workplace are prioritizing trust behaviors, seeking regular feedback, and helping employees transition.
 RichVintage/Istock
Source: RichVintage/Istock

With studies finding that one in every five workers is set to resign in the next twelve months, the great resignation looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. Given the energy, disruption, and cost that most resignations require of both the employee and employer, is there a better option when it comes to creating great jobs and great workplaces?

“When the pressure is the highest and financial returns are the most uncertain, that’s when an organization reveals its true purpose and commitment to its people,” explained Michael Bush, the CEO of Great Place to Work, when we interviewed him recently.

For example, during the fear and uncertainty of the global pandemic, companies who put people ahead of profit showed the highest trust, credibility, and leadership scores on surveys in the 33-year history of the Great Place to Work surveys. They also performed unexpectedly well financially.

After surveying over 10 million employees in more than 100 countries during 2020, the Great Place to Work team found that what set these workplaces apart was a work environment where people:

  • Are trusted and trust people around them.
  • Are respected by the person they work for.
  • Are treated fairly.
  • Feel emotionally, psychologically, and physically safe.
  • Care about their colleagues, and feel cared for by their colleagues.
  • Are proud of where they work.
  • Feel a part of, and connected to, something bigger than themselves.
  • Are purpose-driven.

“Trust comes from purpose-driven leaders who are focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging,” explained Michael. “Our data suggests that leaders need to be concerned about the fiscal, physical, and mental health of their employees and know the legacy and the impact they want to have. They cannot focus solely on profit.”

So, what can leaders try practically to improve trust in their workplace?

Michael suggested:

  • Prioritize trust behaviors:
    • Make people feel welcomed and considered, especially when they first join the organization.
    • Equally, recognize and thank people for the work they are doing.
    • Equally, reward people for the work they do.
    • Listen to employees with an open mind and make them feel safe and heard.
    • Show empathic concern and compassion.
    • Speak to employees in a way that links their work to the organization's purpose.
  • Seek regular feedback directly from employees through an anonymous employee experience survey every three months. Use this data to establish 2-3 focus points that need to be worked on to develop a culture of safety.
  • Help employees transition into new ways of working. Start by ensuring their physical safety and ensuring that the physical environment is Covid-safe. Then build psychological safety by having frequent, open conversations with employees – listening to their concerns, moving forward flexibly, addressing their concerns with empathy and compassion, and putting their well-being first.
  • Make people feel welcomed and considered, especially when they first join the organization.
  • Equally, recognize and thank people for the work they are doing.
  • Equally, reward people for the work they do.
  • Listen to employees with an open mind and make them feel safe and heard.
  • Show empathic concern and compassion.
  • Speak to employees in a way that links their work to the organization's purpose.

Follow through by setting an example – role model well-being behaviors that remind your employees to prioritize their well-being. For example, cultivate a daily meditation/mindfulness practice. Make sure you get exercise daily, even if it is just a walk with a colleague. Take days off for physical and mental rest and recovery when required and reassign work if needed to help others do the same. Eat healthily and stay hydrated.

How might you improve trust in your workplace to short circuit the great resignation?

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