Nowadays, with multiple crises going around the world, future economic conditions remain uncertain. As an entrepreneur, I've found that employee trust is a critical factor in maintaining workplace trust. I've managed multiple successful businesses with varying needs, but in all of them, employee trust is the fulcrum upon which success rests. Thus, strengthening employee trust has become an essential task for companies to maintain and improve workplace performance.
So, how is employee trust connected to workplace performance? Employee trust acts as a binding agent to keep your employees grounded to your company’s vision. This strong pull keeps employees motivated, thus boosting workplace performance. Employee trust also keeps the company organization stable.
But there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution in building and maintaining employee trust. Such is the case simply because employee trust and workplace performance are broad terms with smaller and more specific ideas. So before you take action, read on to understand the nuances of each concept.
Take it from a successful entrepreneur: trust plays a significant role in workplace dynamics and unity.
"Without trust organizations dissipate energy. If people can't trust and rely on colleagues to do what they say they will do, or the information they provide or the messages from leaders, they start second-guessing, decisions start being made on false assumptions, and morale drops."
Aside from powerful quotes and firsthand experience, the role of employee trust in workplace performance also appears in published studies. A recent study from the University of Sheffield found a positive correlation between employee trust and workplace performance. The study defined workplace performance as labor productivity, financial performance, and service/product quality.
Additionally, business experts have also found a trend among high-trust companies. Companies with excellent employee trust have shown better stock performance and more substantial revenues. A positive connection between high-trust companies and innovation has also been discovered.
To further analyze the role of employee trust in workplace performance, you must first understand what trust means. Trust is the assured reliance on someone's character, ability, strength, or truth. There are two ways to view employee trust: how employees view their employers and vice versa.
So, when employers trust their employees, it means they know each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Thus, they can assign projects knowing employees can finish each deliverable efficiently.
Trusting your employees means you trust their work enough to let them work on their own. This action reduces micromanagement and allows you to focus your energy and resources on more important matters.
Building trust also allows for good communication and transparency. If you trust your employees, you’ll be able to open up about changes or even problems your company may be facing. Thus, you’ll have better collaboration and more efficient brainstorming of ideas and solutions.
The bulk of employee trust lies in the employees trusting the employers. Employees have a significant collective input to your company goals. Without your employees, you wouldn't have products or services to sell. Therefore, it is essential to keep your employees invested in their work and the company.
You might have many employees who love to fulfill their specific company roles. But no matter how much employees love their jobs, they will have other personal reasons why they stick to your company. Employees are humans and will look at the benefits offered by the company. These are just some of the questions your employee may be asking themselves.
• Will this company help fulfill my retirement plans?
• Do my superiors listen to my pitches?
• Am I receiving proper healthcare with this job?
• Will I be able to pursue my career goals in this company?
These questions are connected to basic employee benefits. So, to gain employee trust, you must answer these personal questions with a yes.
Employees must trust their employers and company enough to know they are taken care of well. Once you earn your employees' trust, you can better motivate them to contribute to the company and improve workplace performance.
Your employees should also learn to trust the products and services of the company. As long as they believe in what they’re working for, they’ll continue to exert effort. If your employees lose interest in what your business is selling, their drive may decrease.
If employees can trust their employers to take care of them, then they will stay for long. Low employee trust then results in higher turnover rates, which results in higher HR costs and less skill retention.
You also have to add the current situation into your perspective. Employee trust has become especially important nowadays, with the COVID crisis and the work-from-home setup. Now, more than ever, employees are at risk of being laid off.
If your employees cannot trust you and your company, they may start looking for alternatives early. This loss of trust then results in a decline in their performance, which can, in turn, affect the entire workplace.
Another benefit of employee trust is good communication and transparency. If your employees believe they can trust you, they can open up more comfortably, voice their concerns about the workplace, pitch in ideas, or bring up problems they’re having in the workplace. As soon as you address their issues and recognize ideas, you’ll be able to improve workplace performance.
Lastly, when employees trust their employers, respect is maintained. When your employees believe you are competent enough to lead the ship, they will follow your plans and delegated tasks. Enforcing respect through employee trust also reduces workplace drama, which can be detrimental to overall performance.
Improving workplace performance depends mainly on your employees. Entrepreneur.com suggests five different ways to improve workplace performance. Additionally, Harvard Business Review focuses on three ideas—declaring intent, demonstrating respect, and delivering results—in enhancing performance. These two approaches may differ, but what they have in common is building and sustaining employee trust.
As mentioned earlier, workplace performance falls into three major categories: labor productivity, product/service quality, and financial performance.
You can measure workplace performance through productivity and, in turn, assess workplace productivity through efficiency. At the start of each project or year, you have to set goals or KPIs to have something tangible to keep you going. To avoid overwhelming your employees, you can break down these broad goals into smaller milestones spread across a realistic timeline. So, after every checkpoint in your timeline, you should evaluate what your employees have achieved.
But it is more than making lists of how much your employees have achieved for the week, month, or year. You also have to measure productivity in terms of what the top-priority tasks are. Completing many side tasks doesn't equate to success.
Apart from building employee trust, there are also other ways to improve workplace productivity. We have written a detailed article, “What Is Workplace Productivity?” which explains how to engage your employees for increased productivity.
Workplace performance is also affected by the quality of what you are selling to your consumers.
These concepts aren’t separate; employee trust and the quality of products and services are intertwined. Just as the famous Indian author and motivational speaker Shiv Khera has said, “Ninety percent of selling is conviction, and ten percent is persuasion.” Employees have to believe in what they’re selling to make a product or service marketable.
Once your employees learn to believe in your product, they will also become more inspired to create, improve, and market it.
Last but not least is financial performance. This aspect is the most tangible among the three workplace performance measures because you can derive it from numerical data. With excellent employee trust, you can deliver better products and services and thus increase revenue.
Aside from increasing sales, you can also increase your profits with employee trust. Employee trust translates to better communication and a more efficient working dynamic. As processes become more efficient, you will even notice a decrease in costs. Thus, you will spend less money correcting failed projects.
A high-trusting company also means lower turnover rates, and thus considerably fewer costs for recruitment efforts. You can also avoid hiring third parties for conflict resolution and other related purposes with better employee trust.
With the positive correlation between employee trust and workplace performance, you should look into building employee trust. But before you set rules, you have to understand: trust is more than just a two-way street.
“Trust works in all directions – up, down, sideways, diagonally. Randomly too. It also works at an individual and a group level, which we often confuse. Individually, we just use the common term. At a group level, it’s about safety. The vogue term in recent years has been ‘psychological safety’ – a space for safe conflict, where we can operate without fear of judgment. Yet even that is too narrow. Instead, what we might term ‘elemental safety’ covers the rational, emotional, and physical. We can freely operate in a team or group. Which means we can get things done, and we can ask others to get things done, and we can be asked too. Does it ensure we’ll do a great job and perform well? Not necessarily. Sports teams often manage without it, sometimes even encourage the opposite. But we’ll breathe easily, sleep soundly and believe in humanity. That has to be worth it.”
To build trust apparent in all directions, you have to make significant improvements to your workplace. Here are some of the steps you can take to develop and maintain employee trust.
You can build employee trust by only offering guaranteed benefits. Benefits include health compensations and hazard pay, corporate perks, and many more. Retreats and paid leaves are also some of the ways you can enhance the employee experience. This way, your employees will know you value them. You will also be able to address their personal motivations.
Benefits also include maintaining wellness and creating a positive workplace culture. We have written a detailed article, “How Do You Promote Wellness in the Workplace?” which explains how you can take care of your employees.
Making employee training accessible tells your employees how valuable they are. Aside from knowing their worth, employees will also learn how to contribute to better workplace performance.
Besides, employee training is also an avenue for personal and individual growth. Their growth will thus contribute to better workplace performance. And individual growth is also an indication of having good benefits for your employees. As mentioned earlier, good benefits also translate to better employee trust.
Another way to show and cultivate trust is through constructive criticism. When an employee commits a blunder, be sure to criticize them in private. Embarrassing an employee in front of colleagues is a huge mistake and will lower both morale and trust. Letting them know of their mistakes in private will make them feel mature and worthy enough for improvement.
Besides providing constructive criticism when needed, you also have to foster a workplace with compliments and positive feedback. Congratulate your employee after a good sales pitch or commend them for a project well-done. Just ensure you don’t shower your employees too much with compliments because it can lead to overconfidence and lack of sincerity.
However, offering too much of the good can also have adverse effects. You have to establish boundaries, rules, and policies for everyone to follow. Guidelines shouldn’t be too restricting, but you should enforce them strictly.
Strict compliance with rules also shows your employees how you are true to your words. By following rules, you are setting the standard of consistent leadership, building trust and respect among your employees. And with respect, you can improve control and maintain authority.
Another way to boost employee trust is by listening to your employees’ opinions. Show them you value their opinions by addressing their concerns. During meetings, make sure to hear their thoughts on products and services. If they come to you with concerns about the workplace environment, hear them out, and suggest solutions.
The most important thing for you to do is to follow through. Following through with your plans of action also enforces a strong brand of leadership. When your employees know you can do what is right, they will trust you better.
When you give your employees the freedom to do their work, they will feel more valuable. Knowing they are valued and respected enough, they will be able to trust you more. However, too much freedom can also be harmful, especially when it comes to crucial tasks. To reduce the risk of failure while also maintaining a trusting atmosphere, you should assign tasks accordingly.
You should thus determine your employee’s capabilities and learn of their strengths and weaknesses. This way, you can trust your employees to deliver quality work without much hands-on guidance.
You also have to consider how each employee is unique. We have written a detailed article, “How to Determine Employee Work Styles,” which explains how each employee works differently.
Last but not least, you have to create lasting relationships with your employees. The closer you are to your employees, the more they will trust you. Besides, developing a healthy work relationship also adds to their attachment to your company.
You can also build work relationships through transparent communication. Retreats and team building activities are good bonding experiences to make a strong connection within the team.
From the earlier list, you would know how there are many ways to develop employee trust. But the truth is, there are still other ways we may not have covered. After all, every company is unique and should thus be treated differently. You are free to explore different ways to build employee trust, but you should also avoid significant blunders.
1. Withhold crucial information. Withholding critical information includes telling half-truths or lies. When you keep out the essential details, it shows a lack of trust from employer to employee.
2. Delegate according to strength, not skill. It would be best if you delegated according to your employee's strengths and abilities, not merely on their ability to deliver. For example, when an employee performs well in sales, you shouldn't redelegate them to lead or join a publicity team.
3. Enact changes abruptly. Making organizational or product changes out of the blue is a product of impulsivity. If your employees are always surprised by your actions, they may question your decision-making skills. Thus, leading to a decline in employee trust.
4. Create double standards. Double standards are never acceptable because it shows how inconsistent your authority can be. Double standards also create an unbalanced treatment in the workplace and thus a loss of trust.
These blunders will result in an unhealthy workplace environment, which you can easily detect. Psychology Today has written five warning signs of a deteriorating workplace. These warning signs include employee neglect, lack of compensation, low economic environment, workplace drama, and detachment. Knowing these signs is helpful so you can change things up before employee trust is totally lost.
How do you detect a decline in employee trust? Change in workplace culture, high turnover rates, and poor communication is the most noticeable signs. Workplace gossip without voicing out issues is also an indication of low employee trust. Micromanaging and difficulty assigning tasks also means you don't trust your employees as much.
What are the other factors affecting workplace performance? Financial performance, productivity, and product quality dictate workplace performance. Culture and wellness affect productivity. Changes in the market affect financial performance. Lastly, production equipment and distribution methods affect the quality of products and services.
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