It’s a scorching sunny summer afternoon. The heat is killing you and all you can think of is a cool breeze sweeping along your skin. You find yourself longing for cooler temperatures and wondering when winter is coming! Suddenly you realise how much you miss winter, only that it is now gone. This is just a simple example, which highlights the idea that sometimes we only miss a commodity once this is absent. The same can be said about trust within organisations. Warren Buffet wrote:
Trust is like the air we breathe – when it’s present, nobody really notices; when it’s absent, everybody notices.
It has long been known that developing trustful relationships is extremely beneficial for the company. The organisation is made up of different people, who need to build relationships with different employees, managers and customers in order for the organisation to be successful. At the foundation of every relationship is trust. It is something which we expect but can no longer take for granted. Trust can be regarded as a driver in terms of taking personal and commercial relationships to a positive conclusion. If we have trust we know for certain that if we take a particular action with an individual, positive results will flow from that relationship. But how do we build a culture of trust? What are the advantages of building trustful relationships?
The current organisational climate increases our need for trust. Hierarchies within an organisation are increasingly being flattened out, more people are working within dispersed groups and within different departments in multinational companies. Trust can, therefore, act as a shield against the impact of competition, globalisation, restructuring and boundary-less organisations, all of which have led to a new era of faster, looser and more rapidly changing connections. The ultimate goal an organisation should aim for is to build a culture of trust; trust among all members within the company, trust of the employees towards the organisation itself, and trust between employees and the clients or customers.
So what are the benefits of trust within an organisation?
Trust promotes voluntary cooperation and extra-role behaviours. The “old-fashioned” managerial “command and control” approaches are increasingly becoming less effective within the current organisational climate. Work has become more centred around knowledge workers and is performed within interdependent teams. Managers are no longer able to control everything, and they are becoming increasingly dependent on willing engaged employees who are committed to their work. Therefore, cooperation and trust are even more important in such an environment.
Other benefits include:
- Increased productivity
- Organisational commitment and intention to stay
- Organisational citizenship behaviour
- Job satisfaction
- Team commitment
- Greater acceptance of decisions taken by other employees which would reduce the time to make and discuss key issues
- Mutual learning between different stakeholders
- Improved morale amongst employees and staff
How do we build a culture of trust?
Trust is very much dependent on past experiences which will impact our perception of the probability that future interactions will have the same outcome. If the people concerned live up to prior expectations, trust is increased and consequently cooperation, engagement and performance will also escalate.
Most importantly trust is achieved through actions rather than words. In order to build a culture of trust each one of us has to commit to change our behaviour. Trust is built from the inside out. We have to take into consideration the shifts we observe in our staff and consumers. Different generations are entering the workforce who have different values and attitudes. Cultures have to change to accommodate the customers and the staff of the future, rather than the past.
These are some of the steps that need to be taken to develop a high trust culture:
- Develop a strong focus and strategy that you actually live by.
- Establish integrity as a primary organisational goal. Integrity is something which has to be worked upon and is essential to develop a positive reputational image. Integrity in employees should be evaluated from the very start. Warren Buffet writes: “We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb”. Integrity is most often overlooked, and this could become very costly for the organisation.
- Empathise and truly listen to what the people are telling you.
- Stick to your promises.
- Critically evaluate your strengths and limitations which will help towards finding new ways to work together and trust each other.
- Be open and transparent even in difficult situations. Always provide feedback.
- Demonstrate the behaviours that you want others to adopt and apply. Be a Role Model.
- Always respect one another and provide a safe environment where all people are empowered and respected.
Cultures of trust, therefore, live by the company values, prioritize the employee and the customer, give ongoing feedback and lead with a strategy in mind. A culture of trust can become a crucial resource which provides a competitive advantage allowing one organisation to outperform its competitors. Cultures of trust are the ultimate goal organisations should aim for.