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2 May 2019

Making the Case for Trust in the Workplace

Written by: Lara Hadjetian, Head of Employee Experience at Edelman Middle East

Employee Experience

We all know how to earn someone else’s trust: you prove yourself as a reliable, honest, and loyal individual. But how do you earn the trust of thousands of employees? 

Connectivity has made this feat simultaneously easier and harder. Yes, it’s easier than ever to communicate and engage with all of your employees, but their expectations for these interactions is higher than ever before. Trust becomes the crucial factor, impacting employee experience and, ultimately, business success.

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust has changed profoundly in the past year. People have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers. To put this into perspective: 75 percent of people globally trust their employer to do what’s right significantly more than they trust NGOs (57 percent), businesses (56 percent) and the media (47 percent). In the UAE, the employer trust number goes up to an overwhelming 83 percent.

Cultivating trust at work isn’t something that can happen overnight. It requires a meaningful understanding of what trust means and a sincere commitment to implementing that trust throughout the entire organization.

Our data shows several traits are common among employee respondents.

  • Employees want to work for a company that offers leadership, stands up for them and shares their values.
  • Three in four expect a workplace that is inclusive, value-driven, and empowers its employees. One where management not only keeps them informed but includes them in the decision-making process.
  • Employees in the UAE (73 percent) and globally (67 percent) said that they expect their employer to have a positive societal impact. They want to know what they’re doing to make the world a better place and how their job directly contributes to that effort.

As you consider how to most effectively create an enduring and trusting environment, start with an objective assessment of where your organization stands.

Are your employees motivated by the belief in a shared purpose? Are they involved in achieving this? Are you articulating your values in tangible ways? What are you doing as a company to advocate for issues that matter to your employees?

To build trust outside of an organization, it has to start within. In working with our clients, we’ve found that the following approaches help pivot organizations towards more open and trusting cultures.

Embed trust in the way you do business

Trust is not accidental. It comes from setting a powerful example as a leader by acting with integrity. If employees know they can trust you at your word, you have a more resilient organization, grounded in high levels of confidence.

In other words, employers need to rise to the level of expectations by their employees. True leadership is carried out through authenticity and leading by example. Employees will follow suit.

But it’s not just how you run the organization that matters — it’s also why your employees show up to work. This kind of intentional reflection helps galvanize employees with purpose, where they derive meaning from their day-to-day roles.

Employees also want to see their employers take the lead on the societal issues challenging our world today like equal pay, diversity, inclusion and sustainability. Frankly, the expectation for ethical leadership has never been higher. But the rewards have also never been greater.

Foster transparency and open communication

Honesty and transparency are both powerful trust-building elements. Gone are the days of opaque corporate hierarchies with one-way, siloed information. Trust starts at the very top.

Our research reveals that 74 percent of respondents expect their ‘CEOs will embody the values and mission of the organization they lead’. One of the easiest ways to meet this expectation is to simply take the time to share timely information with employees. Prioritize informed conversations where employees feel heard and valued.

Empower and encourage your employees

Trust depends on empowerment — they go hand in hand to create a culture that engenders employee trust. It’s important to remember that employee voices are among those that are most credible, and they should be activated.

If you can give employees the tools to be autonomous, they’ll trust you. This, in turn, establishes a strong foundation of advocacy within your organization and will be easier to get buy-in from your employees on critical shifts.

In the experience economy, meeting employee expectations is rapidly becoming an imperative to securing trust. When employees feel like they’re a part of a company that has earned their trust — and one that also values their input — it’s an advantage that will deliver substantial results, both inside and outside of your organization.

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