Trust is often cited by relationship experts as the key to a long-lasting and successful union. But trust is also an essential ingredient in your workplace relationships, impacting employee satisfaction, retention, and even productivity.
In a 2016 global CEO survey, 55% of CEOs said a lack of trust poses a threat to the ability of their organization to grow. And, a recent study published in Harvard Business Review shows they are right.According to the study, people working in high-trust companies reported 74% less stress than those working in low-trust companies. They also report 106% more energy at work, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and 40% less burnout. All of these factors fuel stronger performance. Trust, it seems, is at the core of a strong company culture.
Jeff Yurcisin, president of Zulily, agrees. He argues trust is critical to Zulily’s success. As a fast-paced company, Zulily encourages employees to feel empowered to take ownership of their work. However, Yurcisin says this empowerment doesn’t happen if trust does not exist among colleagues and between employees and their managers.
So, how can you build a culture of trust in your workplace?
Foster Open Communication
“The best thing any leader can do to earn trust is facilitate transparency,” says Yurcisin. In addition to all managers having an open-door policy to encourage communication within their teams, Zulily also hosts bi-weekly company-wide meetings, allowing for open communication among the entire staff of 3,500 people in real time.
During these meetings, Zulily shares news with all employees, addresses concerns, and ensures everyone is aligned to the company’s goals and mission. “While we also rely on emails, newsletters and a company intranet, we believe in the interpersonal communication channels,” says Yurcisin. This transparency helps to build a culture of trust among employees and the leadership team.
Show a Clear Path
According to the Harvard Business Review, only 40% of employees report being well informed about their company’s goals. Uncertainty about the direction the company is taking or inconsistency in messages leads to chronic stress among employees and erodes feelings of trust between employees and the management team.
Ensuring employees are clear about the company’s goals including where the company is going and how they will get there leads to a more engaged workforce that is unified around a shared purpose and helps to build trust within the company.
This doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers. “When it comes to instilling trust between managers and employees, what’s most important is first establishing a shared mission. A clear goal,” says Yuricisn. Leaders may not have all the answers, and that’s okay. Being honest about the things you don’t know can actually help to establish your credibility.
Recognize Your Talent
According to the Harvard Business Review, recognition has a large impact on trustworthiness.
Yurcisin says Zulily attempts to ensure that every employee in each department is celebrated, both at an individual level within their departments, and through all-company communications. This recognition helps to ensure that employees don’t just feel like another number.
“Though it’s tempting in today’s data-driven culture to reduce people to mere data, what engages people is human connection, and that’s done by sharing each other’s stories,” says Yurcisin. By telling these success stories and highlighting the work that’s being done across the company–from the accounts payable team to the logistics team–you can earn trust and align staff to the broader mission of the company by demonstrating these important contributions to the company’s shared goals.
Allow for Failure
Imagine working in an environment where you are too afraid to try something new because failing may mean you’ll be issued a pink slip.
Yurcisin says Zulily has adopted a policy of embracing failure, even adding some humor to mistakes. He speaks of the website’s tech team, who have a small pig figurine that gets passed around to engineers who crash the site. “It’s our way of celebrating failure,” says Yurcisin. “That mistake is a way for our team to learn what works and what doesn’t,” he says. Allowing your team to learn through failure instills trust that enables that creativity and ingenuity to happen.
Keep Your Word
Trust is not built overnight, or in a single meeting, but is something that is established over time through every interaction an employee has with another team member. Encourage everyone in the company to stay true to their word. If you schedule a meeting with someone, make sure you show up. If you say you’ll get something done, do it. Building a culture of trust begins with these small acts.
Leaders can foster a culture of trust by encouraging employees to be open and honest about their professional goals. Encouraging an open and candid conversation about employees’ career paths and opportunities, listening to each team member, and understanding them on a human level is critical to building trust.