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How HR Can Gain Workers' Trust

How HR Can Gain Workers' Trust
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Q: How can HR regain the trust of workers?
-- Steven Shorrock

A: An HR organization will be trusted only if it is valued by both the employees and management. An effective way to make this happen is by driving employee engagement, as it can improve retention rates while increasing profits.             

At Ceridian, we have seen our employee engagement scores increase substantially through a disciplined and transparent employee engagement process. 

The first step to establishing an employee engagement program (and regaining trust through it) is to have open and honest communication with the employee population. In a small company, this may consist of one-on-one conversations and group discussions. In a larger organization, however, the process needs to scale.

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For instance, every six months at Ceridian we perform a broad employee engagement survey of all employees. HR works with each department to and does several employee reach-outs to drive employee participation in the survey. After the survey results are tabulated, HR reviews the results with the senior executives to identify and develop programs for the areas that are the most important for the employees. The programs that we develop are specific (i.e. explicitly address items identified by the survey), actionable (vs. vague or general commitments) and measurable. It’s important that we be able to determine our progress as we work towards our engagement targets.

The results and employee initiatives are then shared with people managers and then again on an all-hand call with all employees. It is important that the survey results -- both the bad and the good -- are shared openly with all employees. Without this open communication, there is no basis for trust or credibility.

After the initiatives have been communicated, HR takes the lead on arranging collaboration, tracking progress and communicating results of each employee program. Every month, HR reports on progress to the executive team and every quarter the progress is also reported to all employees.

It’s important to note that employee engagement doesn’t have an end point: There are no “one and done” fixes or programs. Rather when a culture has a healthy level of engagement, employees expect their HR organizations to continuously identify new priorities and initiatives and trust them to follow through.

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Another crucial factor is the personal integrity of the leaders in the organization -- HR, the executive team and people managers. It is impossible to establish organizational trust and credibility when it’s not present at the individual level as well. When leaders act with integrity they not only set a positive example but also set a clear expectation for the same behavior from their teams.

When HR acts as the facilitator of employee engagement, they establish countless conversations with the employee population, each of which is an opportunity to gain employee trust. When employees trust and are open in their communication through the survey process, HR also gains the insight they require to delivery very high impact programs that generate significant bottom-line value to the organization.

Related: Avoid These 5 Small-Business HR Mistakes