If you want to build trust with your employees--and profits for your business--you need to make trustworthiness a priority in your company. When people trust each other, they feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns, focusing on common goals and working as a team. And studies show that businesses with high trust levels are significantly more creative, productive and profitable than those in which the trust level is low. One study even found that the three-year total return to shareholders was almost three times higher at companies with high trust levels.
Recent surveys also show that most employees believe trust in the workplace has gone down over the years. In one survey, more than 50 percent of those polled said they considered hypocrisy the biggest problem in corporate America today and that the upper levels of management are to blame.
Researchers tell us that rebuilding trust once it's been hurt or lost is five times more difficult than establishing trust initially. To establish and protect such confidence, you must regularly practice building trust with your employees. There are three ways you can do this:
1. Do what you say you'll do. Doing what you say you're going to do is the one action that contributes most to building trust, so don't make statements or commitments you can't or won't keep. For example, don't say you have an open door policy and then direct your assistant to keep people from reaching you.
Treat every employee--from the most junior new hire on up--with respect and consideration. Listen to their thoughts and feelings even when you don't agree with them. Communicate openly and honestly without judging others. Make yourself vulnerable by letting employees know you need their help because you don't have all the answers.
To those of us who grew up with authoritarian leaders who feared losing face, this last point may seem like a stretch. But the fact is, we gain more respect and trust from others by acknowledging our weaknesses than by brazenly trumpeting our strengths.
2. Always support your troops. When employees know they can depend on management's integrity, their trust can become boundless. An excellent example of this occurs when a business owner stands behind his or her employees when they're honest about a controversial matter. And chances are, even if the business is placed in jeopardy, you'll win the undying loyalty and trust of everyone who works for you--and build a good business in the process.
3. Most change requires trust. Change of any kind is somewhat unsettling, and organizational changes can cause employees to feel downright frightened. Moving from old management styles can mean creating new and different types of working relationships, even when there are no personnel changes.
So make sure employees are properly briefed before any changes take place, and monitor how the changes affect relationships in the workplace.
During periods of change, you can increase your employees' trust levels by taking the following actions:
- Understand the cultural and operational differences between various departments.
- Have at least one person in each department give you honest feedback on how changes are affecting work and relationships.
- Use language everyone understands when speaking with members of different departments at the same time.
- Know and explain to the various departments how each department adds value to the others and to the company.
- Actively help employees work effectively with other departments.
Finally, before you or your managers undertake any significant changes, ask yourself how doing what you want to do will affect trust levels within your business. It can take a lot of time and effort to establish trust--but only a moment to destroy it.
Paul Sarvadi is the "Human Resources" coach at Entrepreneur.comand is chairman of the board, CEO and co-founder of Administaff,one of the nation's leading Professional Employer Organizations (PEO), which serves as an outsourced full-service human resources department for small and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States.