By Matthew Dussome, National Client Relationship Coordinator, Wellness Works Canada
Organizational culture has become a prominent focus for many researchers, industry experts, and human resource managers, regardless of their geography or industry. It is consistently cited within many academic studies and reports as a central determinant of a company’s overall health and performance, including employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. As employees are the driving forces behind their companies, it is vital to understand how to ensure they remain healthy, motivated, and content. Among the presiding academic literature, a commonality that many successful organizations with thriving employee cultures share is having a strong core foundation of trust.
In this context, trust can be defined as having the belief that another individual or source is reliable and worthy of confidence. It is important to note that for authentic trust to exist, vulnerability also has to be present. It can be risky to rely on others and to share thoughts and feelings openly with them. What makes high-trust working environments so effective and (often) lucrative is their emphasis on creating a physically and psychologically safe atmosphere for their employees.
As fear of judgement and the lack of security can be major hindrances for employee well-being and performance, organizations with high-trust cultures understand that these concerns must be addressed to set their employees up for success. By prioritizing trust and safety, this can encourage employees to feel more confident in their abilities and experience less anxiety. This may help employees to sharpen their focus on their work, which could lead them to be more productive, creative, and engaged. Similarly, when trust is at the foundation of interpersonal working relationships, this can foster effective communication, fruitful collaboration, and innovative ideas. During periods of transition and change, the presence of trust is critical for finding direction and easing concerns amidst uncertainty. The impact of a high-trust culture extends beyond the staff of an organization, by positively influencing customer and client relationships and the supporting the organization’s reputation.
Best Practices for Building Trust in the Workplace:
Managers and leaders: you set the tone of your organization. Visibly demonstrate your organization’s values in the way you act, speak, and conduct business. Seek out additional education and training to continuously improve your trust-building competencies.
Be honest with yourself and others, even if you make a mistake.
Practice integrity by fulfilling your promises and obligations. Ensure that what you say and what you do align.
Listen intently to others and respond appropriately.
Have open discussions for all employees to participate in and share their perspectives. Value what they share and take their thoughts and suggestions into consideration.
Respect and validate differing opinions.
Make the physical working environment safe and comfortable for employees to use (e.g. providing functional working materials, quickly addressing broken equipment/infrastructure, etc.)
Give others the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes to gain trust, you must first give trust.
By prioritizing trust and building it into your relationships, this will enhance the health and performance capabilities of your workforce and provide a foundation for growth. A high-trust workplace culture can change an organization, inside and out.
Webinar Recording: Why Trust Matters & How to Measure it in Your Organization with Graham Lowe and Merv Gilbert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjbO8Tc5Q5o
Book: The Fearless Organization (in partnership with Professor Amy C. Edmondson of Harvard Business School): https://fearlessorganization.com
The Trust Building Survey (Graham Lowe and Merv Gilbert): https://psychhealthandsafety.org/trustbuildingsurvey/