There is something vaguely uncanny about the term human resources, a phrase which simultaneously acknowledges the importance of people power to a company’s success while implying they are also a mere commodity. The concept of HR management developed in the late 19th century as a means of emphasizing the value of employees—which means, of course, that the idea of employees having value was very much open to question! Today, most workers are well aware that their relationship with their bosses has a utilitarian foundation. Successful companies take up the challenge of building employee trust because they recognize that when staff feel secure and satisfied, they perform better—a concept, incidentally, that’s at the core of Aston’s online MBA program.
We’ve compiled a short list of reasons why trust is important in the workplace. These can be of assistance to HR managers looking to build cohesiveness in their teams.
1. When Employees Feel Safe, They Perform Better
Fear is a powerful motivator, but it seldom results in peak performance, especially in the long run. When an employee feels uncertain about their position in the company, it erodes their confidence and can eventually lead to hopelessness and lethargy. When they feel that they are in control of their own fate, it imbues their effort with meaning and they gain the confidence to work to the best of their abilities.
As a leader, you should strive to ensure that all of your employees clearly understand what is expected of them, and that they are consistently rewarded for doing good work. This can be achieved by:
- Establishing benchmarks for success
- Providing attention and constructive feedback
- Being consistent in your criticism and praise
When you take the time to constructively point out their mistakes and call attention to their successes, employees understand that their work is being noticed—and that, by extension, they are being noticed too.
2. Trust Goes Both Ways
It’s not only employees who benefit from trust. When you genuinely have confidence in your team, your work as a manager becomes dramatically easier. Give your best workers space to figure out solutions to problems on their own without micromanaging. If you’ve established a good relationship, they will have an instinct for when they need to bring a question to you and when they can handle it on their own.
When they do come to you with a problem, make the interaction a positive experience so that they feel comfortable doing so in future. If you don’t feel the need to weigh in on every minor decision, you’re free to focus on the bigger picture—and their successes become your successes.
3. When Employees Trust Their Peers, They Cooperate
A recent TD.org piece cites an example of a Fortune 500 company that found it took an average of 89 weeks to execute change, 39 of which were due to a lack of trust between the stakeholders charged with implementing said change. That means nearly a year was squandered by a failure to effectively cooperate!
A good human resources manager must recognize the unique interpersonal dynamics of their team: employees will have different approaches to communication and work that can cause friction. Two perfectly nice and dedicated workers who share a cubicle wall may have personality quirks that impede cooperation. Unaddressed grudges, however minor, can fester over time.
As a leader, you can do a lot to set the tone. Model the behaviour you expect of your team; attend meetings on time; don’t play favourites; look into complaints when you receive them, and work to resolve them in a transparent fashion. When they see that management and their peers are striving for the betterment of the collective, formerly recalcitrant employees will often pitch in and overall communication will improve.
4. First Impressions Matter
As the cliche goes, you never get a second chance at making a good first impression. A recent survey found that a positive onboarding experience reduces long-term turnover by 157%, and increases employee engagement by 54%.[ii] Refine your onboarding process to reflect the office environment you want to breed.
- Make sure new hires are welcomed warmly. Introduce them to the peers they’ll be working with most closely, and facilitate opportunities to create social as well as professional bonds.
- Don’t chastise them for asking questions. Rather, you should encourage them to be inquisitive; their fresh eyes can reveal opportunities and issues you may have missed. It will also mean they feel comfortable communicating with management in the future.
- Check in from time to time as they adjust to their new role. You don’t want to hover over their shoulder, but it’s important to establish that you are there to provide support and guidance whenever they need it. This can be as simple as taking them out for coffee once in a while!
5. Make a Concrete Investment in Your Employees
Stability can be a foundation for building something sustainable, or a root cause of stagnation. Push your employees to continuously work on their personal and professional development, and get behind those who show initiative. When you help workers climb the ladder by offering them the chance to attend conferences, study for new credentials and take on greater responsibility, you will be rewarded with a stronger loyalty to the company. Although it is increasingly rare for people to work for one company their entire lives, when it does happen in a very real way their employer has played a role in raising their family, putting their kids through school and saving for retirement.
In turn, you will be able to rely on them to leverage the knowledge and experience they’ve gained to create exponentially greater value to the company than you’ve invested in them. That’s the true value of trust.