So You Want A Great Company Culture - Then Build Trust.
A feature in Harvard Business Review was recently brought to my attention. “What the Best Companies to Work For, Do Differently.” It’s a worthy read if you get a moment or two, but to sum it up for you, Harvard believe that to have a great company culture you have to;
- Put people first.
- Enable employees to be creative and pursue their passions.
- Allow people to be themselves.
- Help people own their work.
- Support people to connect on a personal level with each other.
I whole-heartedly agree with these statements, and many of the companies I work with do just those things. But there is one vital ingredient that is missing in this list; trust.
It takes trust for a leader to put people first.
It takes trust to help people pursue their passions and give them the space to be creative.
It takes trust from all parties to be yourself at work.
It takes trust from leaders to allow people to ‘own’ their work.
And, it takes trust to connect with others on a personal level.
Trust in life as in work is cited by many relationship experts, as a crucial part of a long-lasting and successful partnership. Which means in our company cultures we should be nurturing trust just as much as we do in our personal lives.
The shift for an employee-centric organisation has never been far greater. We are now in an era where people will happily pick and choose where they work, how they work, and who they work for.
To build a company culture that truly believes in its people, and the people believe in the purpose, must come from a place of trust.
Even the data by Harvard proves that people working in a high-trust organisation report 74% less stress than those working in a low-trust organisation.
In the same study, it’s also reported that those in high-trust company culture have less sick days, are more productive and more engaged than those working in a low-trust environment.
Trust fuels better performance.
Even without the solid scientific data, you can see the impact of trust everywhere. Sports teams perform better when there is a high-trust factor between the coach and the teammates. The best military departments are built on a foundation of trust, and our communities create happier lives for all when trust is present.
For some organisations the trouble is, we’ve harboured a sense of distrust from day one.
Too many company cultures are built on the assumptions that people are bad. That people are only there for the paycheque, are disloyal to the company and would not go the extra mile.
It’s a damn shame that companies like this will not see growth but stagnate.
These outdated mindsets are shifting. Just as our human-consciousness is waking up, so too is our organisational consciousness. We are becoming more deeply aware of the impact ourselves, and our work has on the world and those around us. So fear not, a shift is coming.
My Top Tips for Building a High Trust Culture
If you want to work on changing your company culture’s trust factor, there are some key areas you can start to look at and take action upon. What I would always say, is don’t expect instant results. Trust has to be earned and does not come easily. These things will take time, but the more you make them a habit and your go-to-attitude, the quicker you will see results, and the more these results will last.
Nurture Transparent Communication
Be clear and honest about everything that is happening in the organisation. Having a bad month or hit a quiet period in the business? – Don’t hide it, tell people, open up the conversation and allow people to voice their fears and concerns. Fear will eat a company alive if you let it fester. Plus let’s not forget that news travels fast when it’s meant to be ‘secret’ so despite you thinking that you’re saving people from the hurt, you’re actually creating it. As your mother always used to say – honesty is the best policy.
Take action on this;
- Have an open-door policy so that people can easily talk to you about projects.
- Start company-wide meetings, so everyone gets a chance to hear what’s going on.
Make Your Goals Known
Every person in the company should know what the core goals are. Whether that’s the wider mission, or broken down into each year or month. Each person, no matter their department should be able to tell you what the company goal is.
In too many organisations, inconsistent messages and uncertainty about the direction lead to stress and poor management teams. This leads employees to get quickly frustrated and erode trust.
Take action on this;
- Ensure all managers and teams are aware of the company’s current goal.
- Regularly update managers and teams about the status of the goal.
Get Personal About Recognition
Unfairness is a massive killer of trust, which means if your recognition programs aren’t up to scratch, they could be doing the opposite of making your team feel valued.
Rather than celebrate by team or from ‘data-led’ results, make recognition about seeing the person rather than that role.
Nothing says I see you than a personal recognition award that makes someone feel valued, and that their work has been worthwhile.
Take action on this;
- Introduce peer-to-peer recognition programs.
- Celebrate successes company-wide and let people know who is being recognised and why.
Let Failure Happen
Imagine being so afraid of failure or being dressed-down by your boss that you don’t try anything new or get creative?
Lack of trust will stifle any team’s ability to be innovative or problem-solve because they’re spending too much time worrying about the repercussions of their actions.
Turn a ‘fail’ into a lesson, and celebrate it rather than crush it.
To kick off this initiative though it has to start from the top. People will never feel they can openly admit to failure if their leaders aren’t doing the same.
Take action on this;
- Come up with a unique way to celebrate a ‘lesson’.
- Train managers to encourage ‘lessons’ rather than ‘discipline’ them.
Be Warned Trust is Easily Broken
As hard as it is to build, it only takes one word, or one action to bring the building blocks of trust crumbling down. To help you avoid the chaos here are a few things to avoid doing in your company culture that could strike trust down;
- Hiring poor managers. Hire slowly, carefully and ensure they understand the impact of their role.
- Treating people unfairly. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is the wrong attitude. From managers to the teams, there should be equality.
- Not keeping your word. Don’t say one thing, and then do another; even the smallest actions can have big consequences.