employees shake hands over a desk

Given all the top-priority goals that a business may have, how important is building trust between employer and employee?

The July 5th Harvard Business Review article “Want Your Employees to Trust You? Show You Trust Them” by Holly Henderson Brower, Scott Wayne Lester, and M. Audrey Korsgaard says:

Executives and managers invest a lot of effort and time building trust in their teams: both establishing trust in their employees and ensuring that their employees trust them in return. But many employees say they do not feel trusted by their managers. And when employees don’t feel trusted, workplace productivity and engagement often suffer. It’s up to managers to signal trust in their employees in consistent and thoughtful ways.

What are these ways?

Geoffrey James in the Inc.com article “9 Ways to Win Employee Trust” lists these important ways:

  1. Coach don’t command.
  2. Tell the truth.
  3. Follow through.
  4. Take blame but give credit.
  5. Don’t badmouth.
  6. Walk the talk.
  7. Listen more and talk less.
  8. Admit when you’re wrong.
  9. Make employee success your #1 job.

Of the nine points above, number 2 — “Tell the truth” — is probably the most important for building trust between employer and employee. While employees cannot expect to know everything that a top executive knows about what is in the works at the company, employees can expect that what they are told is the truth.

And if employees cannot yet be told specific information about the company, then for trust building it would be better to explain that nothing can yet be said about that topic.

For an engaging look at how one company worked on building trust between employer and employee,  watch this video of Andrew Bartley and Greg Nash of Platinum Leadership exploring the power and responsibility of employees serving as trust builders at Celplast Metallized Products.

The book “Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships” by Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmstead, and Martha Lawrence is mentioned in the above video. The book’s description on Amazon includes the following:

In today’s polarized society, building trust—and sustaining it—has never been more important or seemingly elusive. Trust Works! provides a common language and essential skills that can replace dissension with peace and cooperation and help us all work together productively and in harmony.

Learn how the apply the “ABCD trust” model to address the factors that lead to discord, including low morale, miscommunication, poor response to problems and issues, and dysfunctional leadership.

Trust between employer and employee can improve employee satisfaction

What does the term employee satisfaction even mean?

Susan M. Heathfield in The Balance article “Employee Satisfaction” says:

Employee satisfaction is the terminology used to describe whether employees are happy and contented and fulfilling their desires and needs at work. Many measures purport that employee satisfaction is a factor in employee motivation, employee goal achievement, and positive employee morale in the workplace.

Factors contributing to employee satisfaction include treating employees with respect, providing regular employee recognition, empowering employees, offering above industry-average benefits and compensation, providing employee perks and company activities, and positive management within a success framework of goals, measurements, and expectations.

Clearly trust feeds into many aspects of the above factors contributing to employee satisfaction. And here again telling the truth is important.

Pay satisfaction in a tight labor market

Nowadays employees have access to much more information on what the market rate may be for a specific job function. Telling an employee that the company is paying market rate when the company is paying below market rate is not a way to engender trust in employees.

Yet as companies increase their pay scales to match market rate, this action alone may not be enough to build trust between employer and employee.

With a tight labor market, as mentioned in the below quoted article, more than fair compensation may be needed to retain employees.

Ruth Simon reports in her July 20th Wall Street Journal article “Why Small Firms Are Giving Out 15% Pay Raises”:

Even with the latest increases, wage growth at small firms is only now approaching that of larger companies, which typically pay more than small firms. The increase is being fueled by heightened demand for employees and websites like PayScale and Glassdoor that make it easier for both workers and bosses to see what competitors pay.”

Wage growth for existing employees accelerated by 1.07% annually over the past three years at companies with fewer than 50 employees, according to an analysis of ADP data by Moody’s Analytics for The Wall Street Journal—well above the 0.69% average increase for firms of all sizes over the same period.

Small businesses are feeling the pressure, Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said,“They have to work harder to keep employees now that the labor market is tight.”

If companies have to work harder to keep employees, then trust may become an even more important factor in overall job satisfaction.

Employee trust narrow bridge

Many team-building games feature developing trust in colleagues.

Click here for some team-building game ideas from the Wrike.com blog.

Impactful internal communications can build employer and employee connections

Internal communications is a time-honored way of keeping employees in the loop. Monthly printed newsletters have now often been supplanted by online company newsletters, regular company email blasts, and intra-company chat systems.

Unfortunately, as employees are inundated with more and more online communications, reading company announcements may fall to the bottom of the “must read” list, perhaps never to surface.

Creative internal communications is one way to break through online clutter. Digital signage can be broadcast on large TV display screens in the company lobby, offices and break rooms. This provides numerous opportunities to showcase outstanding employees, introduce employees in far-flung locations, and show hashtagged social media updates from loyal fans of the company.

Click here to read post “Boost Employee Engagement With Break Room Digital Signage.”

For enterprise companies, enabling employees in far-flung locations to add their own local content to consistent digital signage messaging from corporate headquarters can be very beneficial. Employees far from corporate headquarters can be encouraged on their own to build trust between employer and employee.

Click here to read post “How Meltwater Uses Enplug for Enterprise Internal Communications.”

Obviously not one-size-fits-all advice will work for all companies looking for ways to build trust between employer and employee. Yet certain principles will hold true across company cultures — starting with a commitment to building that trust.

Enplug’s Colin Bovet quoted in Harvard Business Review

In Rebecca Knight’s March 24, 2016, article “How to Work for a Workaholic” Enplug’s Head of Marketing and Partnerships Colin Bovet says:

“Enplug has always had flexible hours as long as you get the job done, so when I was settled in after a few months, I felt comfortable working on my own schedule,” he explains. He also feels comfortable joking with peers when the pressure to be always on ramps up. “We joke about ‘Enplug Time Warp,’ when we lose track of what hour, day, or week it is.”

Workplace diversity Google
On a final note, part of building trust between employer and employee is creating a workplace environment that encourages diversity. Read our Enplug post “Workplace Diversity After the Google Memo — The Positive and the Negative.”

What are your effective ways for building trust between employer and employee? Leave your responses in the comments below.