With more people quitting their jobs, tech companies laying off their workers, and the shift to hybrid and remote work environments, trust between employers and employees are put to the test. Are employees working or playing hooky? Does the company have my best interest in mind or just the bottom line?
Building trust within the work culture is more important–and more challenging!--than ever. So we sat down with ‘people enthusiast’ Gabby Hoyos of Notion, with a background in organizational psychology, to dig into the issue of trust-building.
“What I think this exposes is the way we communicate. It’s not that we don’t trust each other; we just don’t know how to communicate trust. And communication is a big part of it” - Gabby Hoyos, Recruiting Operations at Notion
In People We Trust
Gabby believes a shift needs to be made in order to build trust through communication. She says,“Now we are understanding that in order to find and keep amazing talent, we have to be people first, not just product savvy.”
How do we do that?
Reassure employees that their work is valued.
Reassure employees that their work is valued and that their roles have a purpose within the company. Acknowledge the reasons why they were chosen over other candidates. And this shouldn’t be confined to the interview process! You can praise an employee for a job well done at any time, by recognizing their achievements and congratulating them on specific projects completed.
Create internal career opportunities.
Some companies don’t have the size to build out career development, but one thing Gabby suggests for these companies is to promote internal mobility, no matter the stage. She mentions her own experience in a previous company, where a Customer Success Representative became a manager within a year.
“They showed interest, they showed consistent effort, which provided the company with proof that this person could be trusted.”
Delegating is key to building trust.
The hardest part? Be thoughtful about it. Gabby speaks about a meaningful experience: one of her managers trusted her to manage a project even if she didn't necessarily have all the skills or experience yet. They took a risk and trusted that she could deliver based on her previous performance.
Delegating with intention, and trusting your employees enough to give them opportunities even though they are not fully prepared, will make them stay.
“It starts with the relationship you have with leaders. They are not mind-readers, you have to put yourself in a position to be delegated, and this is where the thoughtfulness comes in.”
Signs of a strong work culture of trust
So what does trust look like in the workplace? Gabby breaks down the four core principles of a work culture of trust.
“People are doing really important work every day, and if we don’t get in the rhythm of honoring that, acknowledging that, we are only going to focus on the issues”.
1. Constant, consistent, and kind feedback.
People need to know how they are doing, and the purpose of what they are doing. It also has to be constant and it is the way for employees to know how to navigate toward improvement, which will lead to growth.
2. Transparency from leadership.
“The biggest part about transparency is that it really starts from leadership to the individual contributor.”
It does not necessarily mean sharing everything. It means answering questions from employees and having real conversations. It is about being honest, establishing checking points, and updating employees. It is all about proactive communication.
3. Proactive communication as the standard.
Tied to transparency, but not just applied to leaders. Trust is bidirectional (Even multidirectional!), so every individual contributor needs to communicate anything that can make an impact on another team, or just to remark on the excellence of something well done.
4. Innovation among all teams.
There are many ways to leave room for innovation, it does not always have to be something really big. Sometimes, trust just looks like reviewing your team processes and workflows with them, asking for their input, and trying something different with them.
Proactive Communication is Essential to Build Trust
“People will do their most meaningful work only if they can trust that an organization will see value in it.”
Organisations must seize every chance to build trust because it’s the heart of any relationship, even work relationships. Employees that cannot trust their leadership will lose respect for the organization and end up quitting. On the other hand, if a company communicates consistently and trusts their employees with the truth, they can gain trust and respect even from those that don’t agree with every decision.
Trust needs to be worked on over time and consistently in spaces and policies that promote open and proactive communication. This can start at the very beginning: onboarding. Gabby mentions that onboarding is like a first date, it’s the first opportunity the employee and employer get to practice trust.
How? By making sure that that new hire has everything they need, by introducing them to people from different departments so they feel like part of a community. An employee that feels welcomed and acknowledged is less guarded and more open to trusting others.
“This builds partnership, and partnership is the foundation of trust”.
Companies, then, must encourage the flow of communication so that employees feel they can share their achievements, as well as their fears and concerns. “People will do their most meaningful work only if they can trust that an organization will see value in it”, emphasizes Gabby.
Like trust, communication requires two parties. Employees should be empowered to communicate their needs and concerns. Leaders should listen and respond appropriately, whether that’s giving feedback or making the changes needed to better support their team. The response should be thoughtful and collaborative. It should never be: this is how it is, deal with it. Employers and employees that trust each other and communicate will find solutions and grow together.
How can we take trust in the workplace to the next level?
Gabby gives us four tips to start building trust within your organization:
1. Listen to your teams.
Listen to the people you work with. Build interest, and show that you care about what your team does.
2. Be thoughtful of how you hire and promote.
Don’t hire just to close a role, do it because you think this is the best person and best time for this opportunity for both parties. This will make sure that person won’t leave in six months!
3. Be inclusive & champion your people.
Give opportunities to your employees, and ask them to participate in different projects. If an employee shows interest in a task or area, let them shadow the person doing it, show them you care about them, and let them learn
4. As you grow, create room for others to grow.
Even if there are no openings for an employee to be promoted, find room for them to grow by breaking down your business needs in relation to your people’s needs.
The first step toward building a culture of trust is to establish safe spaces for communication. Leaders and their teams must maintain a constant flow of conversation. Remind everyone of the importance of active listening and being open and available for coworkers, especially managers. When you are considerate, show that you care, and appreciate the job they're doing (and communicate it!) the result is a culture of trust that breeds strong, productive teams.