Trust Works Magic at the Workplace

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How does work culture affect trust? How is trust gained or lost? CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, Nicholas Goh takes a look and shares tips on building trust in workplaces.

A fever-stricken employee takes a day’s medical leave. The next day, the department is chided for taking too many days of medical leave a year, and using them to get out of work. Such incidents are common in many workplaces.

They demonstrate a lack of trust between employers and employees, and could affect trust between co-workers. How does work culture affect trust? How is trust gained or lost? CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, Nicholas Goh takes a look and shares tips on building trust in workplaces.

How a company treats employees can significantly help or harm overall trust levels in the company, says the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer. While this should not come as a surprise, when employees were asked about how well they were treated relative to expectations, a significant gap of 27% emerged, indicating that employee expectations were still not being met.

But what do all these mean to the company?

1. Picture This

James is an accountant working for a hardware store. One day, his elderly father has a fall and lands up in hospital for a week. Upon his discharge, James finds himself in need of an extended break from work to care for his father.

As the sole accountant on the store’s payroll, James knows that such an extended absence would have an impact on store operations. A chat with his boss leads to the arrangement where he would work on the company’s accounts at home, so that he could care for his father. The trust his boss shows allows James to work with a peace of mind.

2. Now Picture This

Conversely, work environments low on trust are breeding grounds for disengaged employees and dysfunctional behaviours. Such environments typically exhibit signs like rigid adherence to policies and procedures, a lack of cooperation within or between departments, poor employee morale, and high staff turnover.

Working at an international NGO in Hong Kong, Kate was frustrated with management. She had to run multiple projects on an insufficient budget because management believed that her team was not using resources effectively.

This was despite Kate’s several reports outlining project costs, detailing how each project could have been further improved with more funding. “Fundamentally, there was no trust between management and us, which led to frustration all around; and we lost many good people because of that,” Kate shared. Things finally came to a head; Kate decided enough was enough and tendered her resignation.

3. Influencing Employee Satisfaction

Research has shown that the best companies to work for have the highest levels of trust. The Great Place to Work Institute – a global human resources consulting, research and training firm that produces the annual “FORTUNE 100 best companies to work for” list – has identified that workplaces where employees feel trusted have higher levels of employee retention. These workplaces have higher levels of employee satisfaction, regardless of company benefits and programmes.

And management often has the biggest role in building an organisation that reinforces the right attitudes to create trust within workplaces. As the familiar adage goes, “People do not leave jobs; they leave their bosses.”

4. Driving Employee Productivity

For any company, managing trust levels is key to increasing productivity. When trust is abused, especially over a period of time, it can have a pronounced effect on employee productivity and morale. In extreme cases, workers may even go on strike. In February 2014, the Straits Times reported that 120 shipyard workers hired by Akash Engineering, a subcontractor of Keppel Shipyard, almost went on strike due to unpaid wages. Some had not been paid for up to 3½ months.

Where there is trust among co-workers and between employees and bosses, employees will enjoy, be engaged in and take pride in their work. Employees’ efficiency level will increase – naturally.

5. Adhering to Corporate Governance

Disputes over wages may be extreme examples of breaches of trust between employers and employees, but figures released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in Singapore reveal that there are many ways in which employers abuse trust in workplaces.

Five construction companies were charged by MOM with employment offences in June 2014, on a range of offences like exceeding lawful overtime hours, unauthorised deductions from salaries, late salary payments, and not giving paid holiday and annual leave. These offences were uncovered by MOM partly through feedback from workers and third parties. This highlights the importance of managing trust levels in workplaces – others outside the company, potentially the company’s most valued client, may be watching!

6. Winning Trust in the Workplace

Here are some ways in which companies can establish – or even re-establish – interpersonal confidence and relationships, for a conducive and effective work environment that delivers the company’s promise to its end-client.

a. Engage employees more

According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer study, one of the best ways for building trust within a business is to listen more to employees, especially on areas where employees’ voices would be highly credible – areas like workplace conditions and business practices.

By engaging employees on these topics, they will feel that management is aware of their concerns and actively seeking to improve the work environment for them. It shows that management cares about and appreciates them amid business key performance indicators.

Beyond work, interact and get to know employees as unique individuals.

b. Treat staff with respect

Trust is founded upon a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding. Hence, trust between employees and their bosses would not be possible without a healthy level of respect between both parties. If management is constantly looking to penalise employees for small faults, or blaming them when things go wrong, it gives employees the impression that they are not trusted. Despaired and disdained, these employees will respond with distrust in return.

See employees not as simply workers, opponents or, worse still, scapegoats. See them as team-mates!

c. Walk the talk

Often, employees quickly lose trust in their bosses when verbal communications are inconsistent with corporate actions. If a company communicates an intention to improve workplace culture, simply putting it into the company’s policies is much less effective than taking concrete actions to reinforce those ideals in daily work.

Employees are more likely to view an extended commitment to changing company culture as more authentic.

Reconcile words and beliefs; show sincerity and integrity through observable actions.

d. Work the Magic

Last we heard, the international NGO in Hong Kong was on the verge of losing Kate. Recognizing that it would be difficult to replace her, management finally decided to approve a new budget, and gave her a year to turn things around.

Kate stayed and, with the new budget, did so well that management was impressed. She had no difficulty getting her budget approved the following year.

Kate is happy and committed to her job. And the organisation is on track with its goals.

About VERZTEC

Verztec is a leading ISO 9001:2008 Global Content Consulting Company. Verztec assists companies around the world to design, develop, localize and publish their global communication messages in over 100 languages across various channels. For more information, please visit http://www.verztec.com.

VerztecLearning, the Learning Solutions division of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, is a leader in innovative blended learning and online courses for soft skills, leadership skills, IT skills, business skills and project management skills training.

For more information on VerztecLearning, please visit http://www.verzteclearning.com.

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Nicholas Goh
Verztec Consulting
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