TRUST IN THE FUTURE WORKPLACE

“Leadership is an Achievement of Trust” . . . . .  Peter Drucker

The first article in our series on trust addressed why trust in the workplace is so important to create loyal, high-performing teams, which leads to better business for everyone. Next, we talked about ways managers and business leaders can create a culture of trust in their workplaces, through action plans, top-down accountability and open communications.

This time, we’ll examine the role trust will play in the changing 2022 business landscape and what you as leaders can do to stay ahead of the curve. We already know that employees who trust their employers feel more committed, more supported by their bosses, and believe company leadership fairly allocates resources, treats others well, and follows procedures transparently.  

Post-COVID Workplaces

Undeniably the biggest change that will shape the future workforce has been, and continues to be, the COVID pandemic. Notably, it has changed what employees expect from their employers, allowed them to be more selective with the work they do, and created a wide trend of employees changing course, reskilling or upskilling to attain a new career.

A SHRM report examined what the post-pandemic workplace of 2025 might look like, predicting that most employees will work from home, technology’s rapid transformation will continue, and that workers will demand better treatment for themselves and their communities, among other findings. They want employers that offer flexibility, invest in them, and stay true to brand values—all of which are rooted in trust.

Research consistently shows employers are experiencing higher than normal turnover during COVID, especially those who have not made accommodations in the workplace to respond to changing worker demands. Workplaces that fail adapt to these changes and do not trust employees to have greater flexibility and accommodations may find themselves with higher turnover and a shrinking candidate pool.

 In person or remote?

Working from home, or a hybrid work model, began as a necessity during the pandemic and has become the “new normal” for business. A July 2021 Deloitte report found that most employers have accepted that some mix of in-person and remote work is likely permanent, and that ”39% of U.S. adults would consider leaving their jobs if remote work were no longer an option, a share that rises to 49% among millennial and Gen Z employees.” 

It’s a paradigm with pluses and minuses on both sides. While employees tend to enjoy the flexibility of remote work, they can feel disconnected from colleagues and out of the loop. Employers can realize infrastructure cost savings and greater employee satisfaction, but they also worry about productivity and management.

 Changing how we measure work

Employers need their employees to their keep productivity high when working from home, and in the old business model this meant putting in physical hours at a desk. In today’s landscape, that’s not always practical or possible. Employers can use digital monitoring software (an easy way to tell employees you don’t trust them). Or, they can trusting employees to complete their tasks without physical supervision, reevaluate how they measure and monitor employee performance, or redefining what set of hours constitutes a working day.

It’s easy to think of these steps as risky, but businesses are seeing benefits from the remote work. For one, it’s often less expensive to run a business when employees are not in a physical office space (think less money spent on leasing space, using technology, transit reimbursement, etc.). Employers who have transitioned to a full digital workplace also get the benefit of a wider potential employee pool, since remote employees do not have to live close to the business.

An Evolving Digital Work Scape

A recent e-Plus and Cisco Workforce Trend Report showed that 75% of companies are accelerating the pace of digital transformation in response to the COVID pandemic. Its major findings? “Business resiliency initiatives are now priorities, cyberattacks targeting remote workers have increased exponentially, and flexibility is here to stay, benefiting both organizations and workers.

Employers can begin to reshape their work environments – both physical and digital – by investing in new technology and skills and establish new working norms. Research shows that more businesses are investing in artificial intelligence and other solutions since the pandemic began. Rethink how technology works in your office space and how the same investment can create or enhance connection-building digital solutions.

Keeping employees engaged

In short, it’s worth the work to invest in trust as the workforce changes in 2022 and beyond. Gallup research showed that 96% of engaged employees trust their managers, compared with just 46% of disengaged employees. 

Employees realized in the pandemic that they were resilient to change as they pivoted from in-person to remote work. They learned how to upskill and make career changes that brought more satisfaction into work – and they’re not going to go back now they’re in demand. Employers who invest in building a culture of trust will likely see greater retention and less employee attrition moving forward as employees have greater freedom to find career pathways that lead toward greater satisfaction.

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