This is how you can promote trust in the workplace

A woman works from home on her computerIMAGO / Westend61

Trust is a fundamental pillar for human interaction. A current study shows, however, that there is unfortunately a lack of this in the workplace: Only 31 percent of managers in Germany trust their employees immediately after the induction phase; conversely, only 21 percent of employees in Germany feel this way. Companies can do this to create the basis for more trust.

Trust is good, control is better: a credo that determines everyday life in many companies. Instead of achieving a clearly communicated goal independently, some employees are confronted with umpteen questions and meticulous explanations for tasks that they have already mastered. The result is that employees do not ask for help when they really need it because they are afraid of negative feedback or even more control.

If they then try to find a solution themselves and simply continue despite their concerns, that can in turn backfire. Then many managers get annoyed about complex problems in projects that could have been solved quickly and very easily earlier if the employee had informed them immediately. But now the damage is done, the customer may be upset, and the work was in vain or requires a lot of effort to be corrected.

The cause of such a scenario: there is a lack of mutual trust. This is also confirmed by a study by the think tank The Workforce Institute of the HR technology group UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group). The current topic of home office also shows the role trust plays as a basis for work: One third of managers (34 percent) trust that employees are productive at home. At the same time, only 22 percent of employees feel they are trusted when working remotely.

These sobering figures regarding the trust between managers and their team members show that companies now need to rethink. Because: New, agile forms of work, including working from the home office, will remain. This requires a lot more trust than before.

In addition, due to the worsening shortage of skilled workers, companies have to think more than ever about a positive employee experience for their employees and managers. Approaches to this can be found on several levels – the HR offers, the corporate and communication culture as well as the technical means for working together and managing internal processes. It is worth taking appropriate measures. In the short term, because it lays the foundation for more trust between managers and their employees. And in the long term, because an optimized employee experience has a significant impact on a company’s competitiveness and future viability.

Induction plan, feedback and defined reporting

The basis for a trusting relationship can and must be laid at the very beginning when the employee joins the company. Managers and employees must be able to meet on an equal footing, and transparency must be guaranteed right from the start. Specifically, this could be implemented in a jointly coordinated induction plan that sets a clear framework for cooperation from the start, with fixed times for feedback and space for questions and assistance. In this way, the employee knows what to expect and what is expected of him and in what period of time. The manager can follow the progress of the induction process, assess it on the basis of predetermined criteria and know through discussions whether and where further help is needed.

Similar coordination at eye level is also useful after the familiarization period, for example when employees work from home. Here in particular, a lack of structures can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of trust. However, this can be counteracted with simple measures. Instead of repeatedly asking the employee about the status of the project, fixed reporting times, in which the employee provides insight into the current task situation, provide the manager with the necessary update. Supported by digital project management tools that provide insight into the project status, this creates a culture of trustworthy work design – without the employee having the feeling that someone is constantly looking over his shoulder. On the other hand, a fixed, regular consultation with the supervisor for non-urgent inquiries prevents the manager from being permanently torn from his work and thus increases efficiency in communication.

Error culture and transparent communication

Speaking of communication – that is a central pillar when it comes to trust. Communicating transparently what is expected of individual employees should therefore be a top priority for managers.

This includes, for example, that managers make it clear to employees what they understand by good work quality and which criteria they use for this. With 54 percent, performing high-quality work is one of the top 3 measures that managers named in the referenced study on how employees can gain their trust. So that it is clear to employees what is meant by “high quality”, superiors can, for example, define specific KPIs for projects and tasks.

The subject of transparent communication also includes dealing with questions and errors that an employee may make. If an employee answers because he has a problem that he cannot solve himself, an open ear on the part of the manager is advisable. Even if it is unclear whether the matter is urgent or not at this point in time, the manager should not respond with negative feedback. A negative reaction can nip growing trust in the bud. If the employee feels accepted in moments of doubt or a mistake and knows that he can look for a solution together with the supervisor – trust grows on both sides.

This is also proven by the study mentioned: If there are problems with which you need help from your supervisor, it is an advantage to get in touch early and be honest. For 42 percent of the executives surveyed in the study, this is actually a prerequisite for trust. The basis for this is a constructive error culture in the company. Inquiries and errors should not be punished, provided they do not appear again and again in the same form, but rather used as an opportunity for individual employees to improve and learn.

HR as an interface

Human Resources plays a key role in creating a culture of trust in the workplace. Be it as a mediator in conflicts that cannot be resolved directly between the parties, or as a contact person for concerns and questions from managers and employees when they need advice. In addition, offers for further training on the aspects of feedback culture, communication, time planning, etc. can help equip colleagues with skills that fundamentally contribute to creating trust.

In order for HR staff to have enough time to strategically deal with important issues such as work culture, they need to be freed from time-consuming manual tasks. This is where modern equipment in the HR department comes into play. Because if the HR managers are only busy processing repetitive forms or inquiries, there is not much time left for staff support. With the right technology, on the one hand, HR employees can be relieved, but the rest of the staff can also be equipped with the appropriate means for self-help. A knowledge database, for example, provides information on a wide variety of questions so that employees can find answers themselves in the first instance before going to their supervisor or the HR department. Modern survey tools with which executives can (anonymously) obtain feedback and valuable impulses make it possible for teams to improve technical or cooperative aspects. All of this helps build trust on both sides.

One thing is clear: companies must make trust a priority, because it is the breeding ground on which innovation and success grow. If the HR department is enabled by means of modern technology to focus again on the concerns of the employees instead of bureaucracy, this also promotes a trusting corporate culture. Ultimately, there are a few key points that lay the foundation for long-term corporate success: Collaboration on an equal footing, transparent communication and a positive employee experience.

Wieland Volkert is Country Manager Central Europe & Netherlands at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group, formerly PeopleDoc)


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