Top Tips for Building Employee Trust

BY Kathy Crosett
Featured image for “Top Tips for Building Employee Trust”

Like most business leaders, you probably spend a lot of time emphasizing trust. You need customer trust, so they’ll keep doing business with you. There’s another aspect of trust that can make a big difference for your bottom line. It starts much closer to home – with your employees.

Paul J. Zak, a professor at Claremont Graduate University and the founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies has long studied the connection between employee trust and organizational performance. It’s one thing to say your employees trust you and each other. It’s another to measure the physical manifestations of trust, which is what Zak did. High levels of oxytocin, a brain chemical, are associated with low stress and increased trust.

Zak also researched the organizational factors that increase employee trust. Information sharing ranks at the top of the list. Nobody enjoys operating in an information vacuum. If your team members don’t understand why they’re building widgets or how those widgets contribute to the bottom line, they won’t feel invested in the future. Did you know that only 40% of employees overall think they know what their company’s goals are? If you only share information with a select few employees, imagine how everyone else feels. Now imagine how engaged they feel. Resolve to keep your employees informed about the company’s overall mission and reinforce the ways they can contribute.

Along with having information, your employees want to control their destinies. On a daily basis, employees who are happy and trust their leaders also have the freedom to establish their work patterns and processes. Once they understand the big picture, your team members can decide for themselves how to accomplish their goals. They don’t need you hovering over them, but you should check in regularly to see how they are progressing.

Zak also suggests ways for companies to engage all employees in trust-​building exercises. At one company he studied, all employees vote every year to pick the top employee. During a formal ceremony, co-​workers recognize, publicly, the employee’s contribution. The employee receives personalized perks as well. This practice gives everyone a say in what constitutes excellence. If you’ve been handing out little rewards to people you think have been instrumental in your organization, it might be time for a change. If you want to build trust, make the process more democratic.

Employees who are 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, 40% less burnout.” There’s another big reason to improve the trust ratio at your organization. Zak’s research indicates that high-​trust companies can afford to pay employees 17% more than their counterparts. Maybe that’s because a high-​trust environment motivates employees to be more productive and innovative.