Trust. It’s the most important asset any company can have.
According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, respondents from 28 countries said they trust corporations more than they trust government, media, and many global institutions. Sound crazy? Perhaps. But, in an era where people are more divided than ever, companies have the potential to stand in the breach, and build connection and purpose—through their external messaging, client relations, and the culture and team cohesion they provide their people.
As it turns out, people trust their own companies more than ever. Of the 64 percent of people Edelman surveyed said they trusted their own CEO, and 73 percent said they trusted their co-workers. Clearly, businesses owe a debt of trust to their employees, their customers, and the communities and stakeholders they serve.
So that begs the question: if trust is this important, how do I foster it with my organization? It’s a question we ask ourselves often at Integris, especially as we grow our organization through mergers and acquisitions. During all this rapid growth, trust has truly been the mortar that’s held our team together. We’ve learned a few lessons about how trust can help a company meet its goals, and I’d like to share them here.
Lesson #1: Be True to Your Word
This may seem incredibly basic, but doing what you say, and saying what you mean, can get you far in business. True trust in a business relationship is built on this foundation. That means attending to critical business etiquette, like showing up on time for meetings and meeting deadlines for deliverables like proposals. When things don’t go as planned or run over budget, as they sometimes do, it’s better to communicate, and make that known sooner rather than later.
This may seem like the sort of thing that’s obvious. However, it’s important that everyone in your organization is delivering on their promises. No excuses. Make it part of your training for new recruits and managers alike, so everyone knows you’re serious.
Lesson #2: Create “Soft” KPIs for your Organization
Everyone loves data, and key performance indicators (KPIs.) But did you know there’s more ways to measure the success of an organization than just dollars and cents? I generally recommend that every business create key performance indicators around their company culture, management effectiveness, and the soft skills of its people.
This will look different at every company. However, at Integris, we look at metrics like the testimonials we get on customer review sites like Clutch. I’m proud to say we’re named a top provider on this site for IT.
Several times through the year, we send employees surveys asking them to rate their fellow coworkers, and managers share each employee’s feedback with them in a constructive and nonjudgmental way.
We also use Bonusly as a platform that allows employees to reward each other with points each month for a job well done. Our people love this one, because they can turn those points in for a wide variety of gift cards or company merchandise.
For your organization, a key performance indicator might be the social impact you have with your charitable organizations. Numbers like the amount of dollars donated or the amount of employee time donated could be a real motivator and point of pride.
All these things I’ve mentioned are ways that you can measure, qualitatively and quantitatively, how well your culture is building trust and engagement in your organization. I encourage you to find the right KPIs for you.
Lesson #3: Hardwire Trust into Your Training
How do you take an abstract notion like trust, and bake that into a training PowerPoint? It’s simple, really. Trust is achieved in an organization where employees feel like they have psychological safety.
Here’s what I mean by that. Employees who trust their organization, trust that their managers won’t mistreat them. They believe they can bring up issues without blame, recrimination, or retaliation. They should be able to say when a job hasn’t gone like they’d hoped and be able to brainstorm ways with their managers to remove barriers and obstacles to excellence.
Similarly, employees need to provide the kind of service that clients trust. That means being open, responsive, and efficient—always.
If this is the sort of atmosphere you want in your corporation, this behavior must be modeled from everyone in your executive suite. Then, these values need to be taught, manager by manager, and made available in management training that’s available to anyone.
This is especially important for employees to understand as they are hired into the organization. We’ve created several videos at Integris talking about how to bring our corporate values to life, and they’re played for every recruit. That’s backed up by their managers, as well. When you have enough people walking this talk, trust will be the inevitable byproduct.
Lesson #4: Be Transparent, and Get Your Team Behind You
You can’t have trust in an organization without the free flow of information. This is critically important when it comes to your internal communications. The days of spouting off a company line and hiding “the real” numbers from employees are over. We’ve been given a whole host of tools which have made it easy for executives to communicate directly to their entire employee base quickly and cheaply. If you’re not taking advantage of them, you’re missing out.
At Integris, we’ve used Microsoft Teams to have monthly or quarterly all hands meetings, and this has gone a long way to developing trust on our organization. During these meetings we present the company’s current results, talk about where our challenges are, and let employees have an open chat to ask us questions and bring up issues.
In addition to this, we’ve recently started an “executive office hours” on Microsoft Teams every week, where we open the app to let employees ask us about what’s going on in the company. If an employee can’t make it, no problem. They’re recorded and available in an archive on our company SharePoint.
I encourage all companies to do this because it says two important things. First, it lets employees know that we trust them with all our strategic plans and confidential numbers. And second, it lets them know that their questions and ideas are important to us on a personal level. This is critically important, especially as a company grows.
Lesson #5: Build your Company Around the Skills of Your People
If you want to retain people over the long term, you earn their trust by putting them first. Does that sound a little lofty and impractical? I assure you, it’s not. Having engaged, enthusiastic people, and keeping them engaged over the long term is good for the bottom line.
Let me explain how that plays out. When you’re hiring, you’re investing in that employee and hoping they’ll become a long-term asset for your company. That means you care about them and want to give them every opportunity to move up in your organization.
You demonstrate that first, by providing a warm and supportive environment for them. Then, you offer them training and education opportunities whenever you can. Sometimes an employee will want to move up, but there won’t be a preset job description that they neatly fit into. In these instances, I’d encourage you to build your job descriptions around their strengths whenever you can. Your goal as a company should be to have a team that’s all playing to their strengths without having to struggle against their weaknesses. Create customized job paths for your employees, and you’ll build a road to trust.
Lesson #6: Build Trust through Community
This last lesson is a tricky one, especially in an era when so many of our employees are working remotely. But one of the fastest ways to promote trust among a team is to give them plenty of opportunities to be together.
For employees who work in the office regularly, you can build trust by creating group events that everyone will enjoy. Ask employees what they would like. Depending on your group, that could be nights out at company events, or client- employee mixer events, or free lunch on Fridays. Encourage your employees to attend community events like chamber meetings, or to participate in local charity walks and fundraisers.
If you have a department that works entirely remotely, having regular group meetings via Teams is as important way to get face time and encourage collaboration. If your budget allows, try to get those remote teams together in the same room at least once or twice a year. You’d be surprised the kind of fellowship that can develop.
Interacting face to face with your staff as an important way to build trust. Luckily, the flexibility we get from our new work arrangements can give us exciting new ways to make that happen.
Trust is Your New Corporate Currency
If reputation is your wealth, trust is the currency you use to build it. In today’s fractious world, it’s never been more important. What can you do to build trust in your organization? Ask your employees and customers. You just might be surprised at what you find.
For more information on how corporate values play out at our organization, check out our careers page.