What makes a company a great place to work? What causes an environment where applications flood in from the best of the best and talented, skilled people stick around to make the company better and stronger for the future? Naturally, great pay and benefits are high on the list, but really, anyone can open up a checkbook. What’s really at the core of a company that employees love? It’s trust.
Trust isn’t only about warm-and-fuzzy feelings—there are significant financial benefits, too. The Great Place to Work Institute® reports that “high-trust companies report approximately 50% of the voluntary turnover experienced by their industry peers, giving them a strong advantage over their competitors.” Low turnover rates mean better workplace morale, higher productivity, and ultimately, higher profits.
How can you build the trust factor in your own company? Research says that there are 6 proven ways to build trust: communication, support, respect, confidence, predictability, and fairness. How can these be incorporated into company culture?
#1 – Communication
The #1 factor in trust is communication. Great companies are great communicators. They loudly and often talk about their values, their mission, and their goals in ways that are clear and direct. There’s no question. And they don’t just talk—they listen. Employees are encouraged to share ideas and issues, and what they say is taken seriously by managers and executives.
Tell the truth without sugar-coating it to build trust.
How can managers and executives be good communicators? Keep employees informed as much as possible about future plans. Tell the truth without sugar-coating it. Admit when you made a mistake or when you were wrong.
#2 – Support
In any kind of relationship, whether it’s personal or professional, support is a key pillar of trust. Employees feel supported when the boss knows that an employee is a whole person. For example, many tech companies these days are incorporating wellness into their offices with fitness centers, ping-pong tables, and even go-carts. They may even serve healthy food at lunchtime, so employees don’t have to make a fast-food run or worry about packing lunches. These are popular ‘extras’ that make employees feel cared for.
When disaster strikes, a company’s culture of support is center stage. At one company, managers are expected to ask senior leadership to tap their resources to help out not just the employee, but also his or her family. At another company, managers actively help employees navigate the maze of health insurance policies. Other companies work together to raise funds for employees facing emergencies, accidents, or health crises.
Companies can also be supportive on a professional level by offering leadership classes, tuition assistance, or skill-building classes to help employees advance. Not only do these things build loyalty in employees; they make them better at their jobs and more valuable to the company.
#3 – Respect
Respect has a huge impact on employees’ perception of the company and job performance. One woman said, “It’s amazing that my manager’s manager wants to hear from me, asking ‘Does that make sense to you? What do you think?’ You hear that enough and you feel…welcome to participate. You don’t mind offering your opinion.” Without fresh ideas, growth is impossible. Take what your employees say seriously. You hired them for a reason.
Especially in this day and age, manners matter.
Insist that every single person in the company treat everyone else with professionalism—no yelling, name-calling, condescension, harassment, or berating allowed.
#4 – Confidence
When employees have little to no confidence in company leadership, that’s when rumors run rampant, fear takes over, and good workers start jumping ship. The best way to fight rumors is with truth. Be as transparent as you can by sharing as much as possible about the company’s heath and future. One successful executive’s best advice is simply, “treat [employees] like adults” and always tell them the truth.
Another powerful way to inspire confidence is to protect employee privacy—especially when discussing sensitive subjects or gathering information about what they really think of the company and its leadership. One executive reports that in her employee surveys, “we made sure we never looked at data below five people” in order to protect employee privacy and encourage accurate reporting without fear of reprisal. The data she collected from those surveys led them to extensive efforts to address employee pain points, and it made a game-changing positive difference at her company.
#5 – Predictability
Predictability doesn’t mean telegraphing every strategic business decision or never making changes. Instead, it simply means to be consistent and keep your promises as a company.
Consistency is key. One way to be consistent is to base your decisions on your values and mission as a company. Steven Covey said, “Your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else…” When all your decisions are made according to your mission and values, then you are consistent, predictable, and trustworthy.
#6 – Fairness
Nothing builds trust more than knowing you’re getting a fair shake—just like everyone else. At a fair company, individual differences are valued. Inclusion and diversity aren’t just politically correct terms; they’re actively incorporated into hiring practices, mentoring, opportunities, and advancement within the company.
Fairness applies to the work as well as the person. One tech company prioritizes giving credit for great ideas, even down to the lowest-level interns. Contributions are celebrated and therefore encouraged.
At some companies, there is no executive health care plan that’s better or different than the employee plan. Everyone’s health plan is the same. That sends a strong message that the lowest-level employee is just as valuable as the highest-level executive.
Trust comes from the top of every company. Executives and managers are responsible for creating a culture where employees can trust them and each other. A high-trust culture has been shown through decades of research to bring better employee engagement, boosted productivity, lower turnover, a stronger brand, and bigger profits. Build that company-growing trust through communicating clearly and often, supporting employees at work and in their personal lives, showing true respect for all, inspiring confidence, practicing steady predictability through adherence to values, and being committed to fairness. It’s worth the effort.