The Power of Trust

Trust defined is the confidence and belief that is placed on something or someone (including yourself!) It is that feeling of “I got this” and “You got this”. It occurs when we take a step back for a moment and let the events unravel before our eyes without being in control of them. Trust can be a big leap and risky in some situations if there is a lot at stake, and that is why many employees are resistant to trust their organization. This is where HR comes into play.
It is crucial for an HR professional to foster and manage an environment of trust. Yes, trusting your coworkers to not steal your food in your common fridge is important; however, we’re talking bigger picture here. Work environments with a low level of trust are stressful, threatening, divisive, and unproductive. Environments with high levels of trust are supportive, motivating, and productive. Need we say more?
We know that trust is important and essential in any relationship, but how do we enhance this trusting relationship and how do we maintain it? See below for some answers.

Variable Problem Solution
Knowledge, Skills, Ability We are less likely to trust others if we perceive them to have low KSAs. HR professionals should ensure exceptional training for everyone. This increases their capability and competency in their work area.
Risk Tolerance We may contain a personality trait of being less comfortable with taking risks and are more cautious, therefore leading to lower levels of trust. HR should spend more time recognizing hard work, offering a safety net for risks taken, and increasing confidence with coaching.
Position of Authority We are more likely to trust someone who is higher up in the hierarchy. Restructure the organization so it is flatter (i.e., more people being managed by the same individual). This allows for the perception that your coworkers are more “equal” which to greater trust.
Threats We are less willing to trust others when the stakes are higher. Risk management is important to mitigate this problem – this is the process of identifying, assessing, and prioritizing risks to minimize and control them.
Differences in values, membership, and/or traits We are more likely to trust others who are like us. If your employees do not have anything in common, build that common ground. Get them involved in volunteering, clubs, sports, or events.
Corporate Culture Having a culture where distrust is encouraged can be intoxicating. Ensure to have your mission, vision, and values in favour of a trusting environment and reiterate this to all the employees. These values must be translated into behaviour. It is important to have executive and management support to align interests.
Unpredictability If one individual promises us something, but does not fulfill that promise, we are less likely trust the first individual in the future. HR needs to ensure individuals (as well as themselves) are not making empty promises. If there is a reason you cannot follow through, explain to them the honest reason.
Communication Poor/no communication creates tension and suspicion. HR should ensure clear, direct, and honest two-way communication. Feedback surveys should be sent out and taken seriously. Further, create more opportunity for communication (e.g., team lunches/events).

The ability to interact with others, get along with others, communicate effectively, empathize, and listen (not merely “hear”) are all important factors to building trust. Translate your corporate values into behaviour, ensure top management buy-in, involve employees, communicate mindfully, and measure for results. Although trust may be risky, it has been shown that our brains reward us for taking the risk to trust; however, this can be detrimental if this trust is broken.