This article will discuss the challenges faced by organizations around earning, developing, and retaining employee trust. Specifically, special emphasis on how and why companies must develop trust within their workforce. Next, I will discuss the implication that can and will be faced by organizations if they do not develop trust within their workforce. Additionally, I will offer suggestions for how to build trust in organizations.
Since managers are initiators of trust, the target audience of this paper will be management at all levels of a company. It is essential that management understand the value of trust and how to promote trust in their organizations. Competence, integrity and employee rapport are a few factors that determine organizational trust. However, the elusive nature of trust makes it one of the most difficult characteristics to maintain. Management needs employees to feel that they are valued, trusted, and have them believe that the company is acting with integrity in their best welfare. In a recent survey, conducted by Watson Wyatt, they surveyed 13,000 people in varied job levels and industries. The study revealed that fewer that two out of five employees today have trust or confidence in their senior leaders (Caudreon). These results show that there is room for improvement, in the development of trust within organizations.
Recent events in the business world have made it more difficult for companies to maintain trust. The Author Anderson accounting scandals, Tyco, World Com., and Enron are just a few of the recent scandals. Also the intractable conflict in the Middle East, September 11, and the abuse of children by Catholic priests have also contributed to the lack of peoples trust (Chen 1). This leaves a workforce with a very cynical view of management based on their observations that management has often laid ethics aside in order to benefit the bottom line. Even in companies that have a clean record, it is the small things that are chipping away at the trust, such as management saying one thing and doing another, forgetting promises, and generating confusion (Caudreon 2)
Economic factors, resulting in layoffs have caused loss of trust in many individuals. This in turn has been the cause of poor morale and reduced company loyalty. Downsizing has the same effect on employees especially if it is not handled properly or mis-communicated. The remaining employees are stuck wondering, “Am I next?” This has an even more devastating effect on the younger and newer employees who recently watched top-level management get terminated or laid off after they have been loyal and served the corporation for many years. This sends the message that loyalty does not exist in companies any more, and when the economy improves, these employees will likely seek employment where they feel more secure.
Other unseen costs of mistrust in the workplace include: no company loyalty, decreased commitment, and higher employee turnover. Distrustful employees are not as productive. Likewise, mistrusting management wastes time checking up on employees. Therefore, it is imperative companies work to build trust in their organizations.
How do you build trust? Trust is earned when everyone's interests are considered and respected. Communication is the key to do this. Following is a list of suggestions for building and maintaining trust.
Building Trust: o Ensure open communication.
- Tell the truth.
- Share good and bad information between all levels of the organization.
- Encourage creativity.
- Foster talent.
- Allow disagreement without negative repercussions.
- Maintain integrity.
- Make decisions that are fair and consistent.
- Maintaining trust:
- Reward value added activity.
- Managers should say what they will do, and do what they say they will do, in a nice manner, and be consistent.
- Reward pro trust behaviors.
- Punish breaches of trust.
- Be honest.
- Management embracing change.
- Lead by example.
- Management visible to all levels of the company.
- Improve training.
- Communication in as far advance as possible.
- Try Workforce Reduction alternatives; such as,
- voluntary severance,
- and early retirement.
In the end, organizations cannot earn, develop or retain employee trust; only people can. Trust is an interpersonal experience, while organizations can define polices and practices that promote trust; it is the behaviors of individuals, especially leaders that determines the level of trust in an organization. Being honest is the easiest way to prevent loss of trust. If you don't know the answer, say so. If you have a tough question, ask it. If you say you're going to do something, do it, or provide an update as to why the schedule has changed. It is the little things, which add up, that help earn and maintain trust within organizations.