The Importance of Building Trust Within a Company

The strongest structures rest on solid foundations made of stone, concrete, and rebar. Similarly, the strongest organizations, too, rise from solid foundations—but theirs are made of services, products, and company culture. Different companies have different needs, but one thing that the most successful organizations have in common is a foundation that includes plenty of trust.

As companies struggle to source—and keep—top talent in an increasingly tight job market, they would be wise to pay attention to the strong correlation between trust and retention. In one recent study, 53 percent of the respondents said that

trust was “a major factor in whether they stayed or left a company.” That same study also found that lack of trust was the reason why 24 percent of employees in the United Kingdom leave their jobs.

When employees are confident that they have management’s trust, usually those employees will not only meet expectations but actually exceed them. In an environment of trust—where they are both trusted and trustworthy—employees are more engaged and more productive. Stephen Covey describes how trust has a positive ripple effect throughout an organization:

When trust is high the dividend you receive is like a force multiplier, elevating and improving every dimension of your organization and life. High trust is like the leaven in bread, which lifts everything around it. In a company, high trust materially improves communication, collaboration, execution, innovation, strategy, engagement, partnering and relationships with all stakeholders.[1]

Susan Heathfield echoes this sentiment:

Trust forms the foundation for effective communication, employee retention, and employee motivation and contribution of discretionary energy, the extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work. When trust exists in an organization or in a relationship, almost everything else is easier and more comfortable to achieve.

Happy and engaged employees are the ones most likely to put in the “extra effort” that leads to stronger and more financially stable organizations. One study found that when companies rate highly as “employee friendly,” they realize better returns on assets and equity than those that are less successful at currying favor with their employees.[2]

From a management perspective, high levels of trust within an organization offer one especially valuable benefit: under those circumstances, management can devote less time and resources to worrying about their employees. Managers don’t have to wonder about day-to-day–level concerns, such as what workers are doing at any given moment, what they wear to the workplace or to client meetings, when they arrive and depart, how long their breaks are,  or whether they are truly ill when they take “sick days.”

The need to micromanage isn’t the only concern that fades in a high-trust environment. The positive effects of trust extend beyond the cubicle walls. For example, in a high-trust environment, managers don’t have to be concerned about what their employees are saying about the organization not only when they’re in the office but when they’re outside the workplace, too. And those managers can also rest assured that their employees aren’t likely to be interviewing with competitors—a consideration that carries heightened significance as companies compete for talent.

So how does a company build a culture of trust? Achieving this goal takes time as well as concerted efforts on several fronts. For example, transparency can help bolster employee confidence in the organization. Encouraging cooperation and communication among team members can improve their trust in each other. Similarly, promoting employees’ development can demonstrate confidence in their abilities and trust that they can fulfill their responsibilities well.

But for any of these strategies to be effective, they need to be used with a population that’s receptive to them—that is, with employees who will be good partners in a trust-based relationship. Identifying such employees is a task that starts with the hiring process, and Insight Worldwide’s integrity testing is one critical tool that recruiters and hiring managers can deploy in their search for trustworthy employees who have the strong moral character and high levels of integrity that an organization needs to accomplish its goals.

[1] Stephen M. R. Covey with Rebecca R. Merrill, 2006. “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything.” Free Press: New York.

[2] Larry Fauver, Michael B. McDonald, and Alvaro G. Taboada. 2018. “Does It Pay to Treat Employees Well? International Evidence on the Value of Employee-Friendly Culture.” Journal of Corporate Finance, February.

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