Trust: Why Does It Matter?

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Stephen Covey, educator & author

Trust: Why Does It Matter?

In today’s dynamic economic world, trust among business leaders and employees is crucial for success—both for the company’s performance and employee satisfaction. Without trust in the workplace, employers risk rising attrition rates, low performing teams, and difficulty recruiting new customers and employees.

Research shows that employees who trust their leadership are less likely to quit, they tend to believe information from their leaders, and they seem to commit to company decisions more than if they don’t trust their leaders as much. As the “great resignation”  continues to pull workers away from unsatisfying jobs, employers are struggling to attract and retain the right candidates.

Complicating matters is the ever-present need to reskill and upskill the workforce. As employers struggle to help employees adapt their skills to changing technologies, or learn new skills that improve performance, there must be trust in the process—both that jobs will be available for newly skilled workers and that the company’s investment in employees will pay off.

It is vital that trust is prevalent throughout the corporate culture. Focusing on trust can require shifts in mindset, both among employees and leaders, and it takes a thoughtful, strategic approach to generate real trust in the workplace. Why invest the time and energy in improving trust when nothing feels truly broken?

Improves Employee Performance

Here’s why it matters. Employees who trust their leaders may feel more committed, more satisfied, and more likely to stay and grow with their current companies, research suggests.

A 2017 article in The Harvard Business Review, The Neuroscience of Trust”, people working at high-trust companies report “74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, [and] 40% less burnout.”

Trust matters at the corporate level, but it’s no less important between employees and their supervisors. Those who trust their immediate boss have higher job satisfaction, more commitment to the company, and feel they are treated more fairly in processes and decision making.

Strengthens Teams

Google’s study on what makes their teams successful found that the number one factor for team success is psychological safety—whether team members feel comfortable sharing new ideas. Team members must trust that their peers and managers will listen to their ideas in order to be vulnerable, suggest new pathways, and take risks.

It also cited dependability as a core need for team success—whether members can trust each other to get the job done and perform at high quality. When one member isn’t performing up to the same level, it erodes trust and threatens performance.

Encourages Innovation

Forbes reported that trust encourages employees to ask questions, creates goodwill, minimizes miscommunications, and encourages innovation, among other positive outcomes.

Trust in leadership helps organizational change because it can create a collaborative environment where people share their knowledge and bring bold new ideas to the table. Risky ideation requires trust—those colleagues will support them, and leaders will listen to them.

Defining Trust in the Pandemic

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ August 2021 Trust in Business survey of 500 business leaders and 1000 consumers found some good news: 80% of employees trust their company the same or more now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Employers and employees both rank four elements at the top of the list for creating a trusting work environment: data protection and cybersecurity, treating employees well, ethical business practices, and admitting mistakes. Past these four priories, divergences grow. Business leaders are more likely to rank elements that relate to broader social impact in their definition of trust, while employees value holding leadership accountable.

Creating Trust in the Workplace

All research suggests that employees’ trust in their employers is based on mutual care and concern. When trust is there, employees feel more committed to the company, believe the organization supports them more, and trust company leadership fairly allocate resources, treat others well, and follow procedures transparently.  

As we embark on a rapidly changing employer landscape in 2022, renewing the focus on creating & sustaining trust must be a priority to move forward. Wondering how? The next article in this series on trust will address how leaders can build trust among their employees and teams for everyone’s benefit.

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