Trust: Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed
That is the official definition of trust. In the workplace, it is a way of thinking about managers and coworkers, and the way of thinking drives employee behaviors. The implication for employee, management and organizational success is that the level of trust employees have in their supervisors and managers influences everything from the organization's culture to the ability of managers to motivate and retain employees. In fact, the 2019 Trust Edge Leadership Institute found that 85 percent of people believe a high-trust work environment helps them perform at their best.
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Jumpstart the Trust Building Process
People who trust one another will act with integrity and transparency and have a sincere desire to deliver their highest performance according to their abilities. Building trust in work relationships is a give-and-take process involving dialogue, honest feedback, respect and consistent behaviors that fulfill commitments. For many managers, the process of building employee trust is challenging because it takes time to develop and is based on mutual expectations. The employee expects the manager to act with integrity, have a sincere desire to help staff members succeed and follow through with decisions and actions that promote manager-employee mutual trust and an organizational culture of trust.
Trust in hiring is key to developing a culture of trust, according to the Trust Edge Leadership Institute survey mentioned earlier. The employee's "values, background and personality will all affect their impact on the business culture," the researchers write (page 12). Pre-hire assessments jumpstart the trust-building process by delivering information the manager needs to assess personality and skills, to be transparent and to set reasonable performance expectations. Another way of saying this is that managers can leverage the information gleaned from assessments to drive their own behaviors such as being honest about employee strengths and weaknesses and performance expectations.
Make Trust a Core Value
Most people in business have heard someone say, "My boss never told me he expected me to do this kind of work" or "My supervisor wasn't completely honest with me about the skills required for this job, making it difficult to meet goals." Even major companies with sophisticated hiring and training policies and procedures find themselves dealing with groups of employees who claim management was not honest about things like work production goals, i.e. the number of customer calls each contact center employee is expected to accept daily or the number of orders an employee must process weekly.
These are not just management decision-making issues. They are trust issues, and when employees do not trust management's transparency and honesty, the organization's culture suffers. Just as importantly, trust between employees must exist. "I can't trust accounting to get the invoicing right," says an employee in customer service.
Trust should permeate everything in the business environment – customer and vendor interactions, employee performance and leadership behaviors.
It becomes a core value. The authors of "Are Businesses Worldwide Suffering from a Trust Crisis?" point out that trust can only thrive when employee interests and organizational interests are aligned, otherwise people act only for their self-interests which could be counter to business interests. When that happens, employees act in ways that harm the business, like a call center employee who never follows through on resolving a customer complaint because the time spent brings no particular reward. The authors go on to say that unethical behaviors of leaders, performance incentives that promote hyper-competitiveness and lack of transparent discussion of ethics all contribute to a lack of trust.
The annual Edelman Trust Barometer reported 74 percent of employees have expectations their employers will support personal empowerment. It is an element of building trust. Managers empower people by trusting them to carry out their job responsibilities and giving them the appropriate amount of autonomy. However, this level of trust only works when the core values of the employee and the organization are aligned.
Pre-hire Trust Building
Where do assessments fit into this picture? Pre-hire assessments and job simulations are important contributors to establishing trust because they give the hiring manager the information he or she needs to get the employee-employer relationship started off on the right foot should a job offer be made.
- Job simulations give an honest and realistic idea of what the job involves
- Job simulations inform the job candidate as to whether his or the job expectations were correct, so there is no misunderstanding
- Pre-hire assessments identify the first training and development needs by identifying the candidate's strengths and weaknesses
- Pre-hire assessments share consistent information about required skills
- Assessments and simulations establish a basis for early dialogue (conversations) between the employee and employer
- Assessments and simulations give managers a path to giving motivating praise when the employee shows initiative by leveraging strengths
- Assessments and simulations identify people who have collaborative skills and are more likely to work as effective team members
- Assessments can measure response consistency, i.e. multiple test items measure consistent answers to trust related questions
Hiring the people who are most likely to appreciate and cultivate trust in working relationships is a critical step in the trust building process. Often, discussions on trust focus on the existing workforce, but trust building actually begins during the recruitment, assessment and interviewing process. Assessment results form the foundation for honest conversation about job fit, expected job performance, manager expectations, training and development and workplace culture.
When the Forbes Coaches Council members were asked how managers can establish a trusting relationship with employees, one response was to ask the employee how they like to receive feedback and prefer to communicate. Pre-assessments can provide some basic information to trigger that conversation too during the interview.
Ultimately, managers must lead with integrity, whether discussing job expectations, corporate culture or communication styles or decisions. The first introduction a job candidate has with an organization is during the hiring process. Manage the process by always keeping it in alignment with corporate values at all times. A culture of trust is made one employee at a time.