Creating a culture of trust

Dr. Gonzalo Shoobridge

Trust is the defining principle of great workplaces and is created through management's credibility, the respect with which employees feel they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly.

By developing respect, trust and engagement in the workplace, we can change the quality of work life for all employees. The key to creating a great workplace is not a prescriptive set of employee benefits, programmes and practices, but the building of high-quality relationships in the workplace — relationships characterised by pride, purpose at work/sense of mission, honest communications, camaraderie and fair treatment.

Creating a 'Culture of Trust' between business leaders, managers and employees (and also providers and customers) is not only the right thing to do but also an organisation's strongest competitive advantage. Based on the growing body of research-based evidence, we know that organisations that build trust and engagement create workplace cultures that deliver sustainable and outstanding business performance. Business leaders need to concentrate on long term value and not short-term numbers/quick profits.

The most successful workplace cultures are built on trust which is a key driver of employee engagement. Measuring the pulse of your workforce on these matters is crucial. Organisations need to regularly assess their workplace culture by measuring the levels of both employee trust and employee engagement in the organisation so as to take timely corrective actions. Due to financial pressures and cost cutting, many business leaders and managers unwittingly damage the relationship they have with employees which can often be the cause of peoples' stress, overwork and ill health.

There are well-defined ways in which leaders and managers can create an environment characterised by a culture of respect and trust by:

  • Showing honesty and integrity in carrying out its business vision and all business dealings, not only with employees, but also with clients and providers, in a consistent way.
  • Encouraging open and transparent two-way communications which are accessible to all members of the organisation at all times
  • Demonstrating care and competence in co-ordinating human resources and allocating material possessions fairly.
  • Guaranteeing balanced treatment, inclusion and equal opportunities for all employees, in all aspects of their work life, and not only in terms of pay and benefits. Organisations need to ensure justice in this respect by providing robust internal processes for appeals
  • Supporting professional and personal development for all employees by offering relevant training and ensuring lack of discrimination and absence of favouritism in all hiring and promotion processes.
  • Recognising individual contributions and showing appreciation for the work being offered to the organisation. Ensure managers do not treat employee contributions as a simple business transactions. Encourage the practice of generosity in all interactions with employees; there needs to be a genuine sense of respect and caring for employees.
  • Respecting each employee's ability to be themselves and caring for them as individuals with personal lives outside work
  • Allowing employees to collaborate and participate in relevant decisions that affect their work and wellbeing
  • Promoting a socially friendly and welcoming work atmosphere with a clear sense of community, team and family feel

Providing purposeful and fulfilling personal jobs that directly align to the wider mission and strategy of the organisation and which have a positive impact on society and the environment.

I strongly believe that by following these directives and thus cultivating a 'Culture of Respect and Trust' every organisation can become a great workplace and, by doing so, improve the quality of life of all employees and society at large. Promoting a culture of respect and trust in the workplace is like signing a human contract with the wider world and generations to come.

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