With job openings at an all-time high and skilled graduates in great demand, now is an opportune time for job seekers, whether experienced professionals or new to the workplace. However, this "candidate's market" also serves as an important reminder for companies across industries: It's time to renew the focus on your people -- to not only help attract the most talented individuals to your organization, but to retain your high-performing employees, as well.
One of the most important factors in this focus is building trust. Trust is essential for both companies and their people. Employees want to know they can trust their employer, with everything from on-time pay to long-term employment (for Gen Z, having job security is more important than finding a job they're passionate about, according to a recent study). At the same time, more and more employers are realizing a little trust can go a long way. Some forward-thinking companies have even "walked the talk" to show they trust employees, by offering such benefits as unlimited PTO and the flexibility to work from home.
But, it's not just about timely paychecks and extraordinary benefits.
Why trust really matters
Trust is vital to an organization's overall success. When employees know they're trusted, they're more likely to reach their greatest potential. They take more strategic risks and are more innovative, because they're not afraid to fail. When an employee feels trusted, they're willing to pitch a concept different from the way it's always been. If it doesn't work the first, second or even fifth time, that's okay, because they know their colleagues, managers and leadership will support them.
Trust empowers employees to strive for more, and teams to truly thrive. A workplace with trust breeds innovation and unlocks a new level of creativity, benefiting not only your people and your company, but also your customers. Trusted employees are more confident, more likely to go the extra mile for others and more willing do whatever it takes to care for customers and provide personalized service.
It's a true win for everyone.
With this insight into the "whys" of trust, the natural follow-up question becomes "how?" While there's no one-size-fits-all strategy for building workforce trust, there are concrete steps company leaders can take to create a culture that fosters employees' confidence in their workplace, and in their leaders.
Rethink culture: Make trust a part of your values.
When most people think about company culture, they probably envision the daily perks -- free food, video games, onsite massages and more. But, companies of all sizes are quickly realizing great workplace culture spans far beyond these startup staples. At the end of the day, it's company values that can have the greatest long-term impact on people. Trust, inclusivity and respect affect all employees, as those values ultimately help create and (more importantly) protect a positive and productive culture.
Having a culture of trust starts with making it part of your company mission.
And having patience. Much like trust between two people, trust between an organization and its employees is earned over time, not overnight. It's something you have to focus on and work toward earning, and then continue nurturing so you can sustain it. Moreover, don't just tell employees you trust them -- prove it. Include interns on actual, real-world projects; let more junior team members run with a big idea, even if there's a chance they'll fail; and allow for more flexible timeframes, so employees don't sacrifice ingenuity to meet strict deadlines (after all, innovation can happen at any time).
Truly listen to your employees.
Listening is equally crucial for building trust. Employees need to feel they can bring bold ideas to the table at any time.At Ultimate Software, we host several events throughout our company -- such as our two-day developing event, "48 Hours" -- where employees have the opportunity to take time away from their current projects; pitch ideas to leadership on ways to make our products, services and employee programs even better; and develop their own passion projects. Over the years, several of these concepts have come to fruition in the form of solution enhancements for customers and programs to simplify processes for employees (among my personal favorites of the latter is a simple, three-click giving webpage for making charitable contributions via convenient payroll deduction).
Effective listening also means routinely gathering employee feedback. A companywide engagement survey is a great way to check the pulse of your culture, and new technology is making it even easier for organizations to measure employee sentiment and levels of trust, in real time. Remember not just to listen, but to take trust even farther by acting on those results.
Get ahead of trust breakdowns.
There's no single reason employee-employer trust breaks down, but it's important to step back and take a look at potential concerns within your company. Take transparency, for example. Do employees routinely hear from company leadership, or even their managers on a weekly basis? Are they made aware of the company's short- and long-term goals and business objectives, new products and services, and new internal programs?
To establish true trust, it's critical that employees remain informed about their company, and see how their daily contributions fit into the big picture. Rather than a once-annual performance review, have ongoing check-ins and conversations among managers and their direct reports. This connection is especially important for remote workers, who are working just as hard and are just as vital to the organization as office-based employees. Just because you don't see them daily, doesn't mean they aren't there. Remember to include virtual employees in team meetings, companywide activities, and key decisions.
Trust provides the foundation for every lasting relationship, especially in the professional world. When employees know their company has their back, they'll be more engaged, more productive and all-around happier people. They'll also return the favor and go extraordinary lengths for their colleagues and their company.
Now is the opportune time to rethink your retention strategy -- and the most essential component for long-term success is trust.