Employee Trust: Boost It Through Employee Surveys

Philip Cleave
July 28, 2023
Staff involved in a teambuilding trust exercise

For any organization that is trying to succeed, gaining the trust of its employees and ensuring everyone is pulling in the same direction is one of the most important factors in determining how successful they’re likely to be.

Yet, with studies suggesting that only 25% of the UK workforce fully trusts their leadership, this can be a tougher challenge than many company leaders and HR teams may realize.

Trust is essential for in-house teams and even more so for those working remotely, as mistrust can harm the motivation and productivity of many workers. And when you consider that the workforce of the future is only likely to become more geographically fragmented, finding a way to build more trust is really important.

By contrast, staff that work for high-trust companies report 74 percent less stress, demonstrate 50 percent higher productivity and experience 40 percent less burnout.

Why does workplace trust matter?

When there's trust in your workplace, your employees enjoy a culture of honesty, psychological safety and mutual respect. This makes them more likely to feel proud of where they work and more willing to go above and beyond for your organization.

Other reasons for developing greater trust in your workplace include:

Improved staff retention

When workplace trust is high, staff tend to feel more secure in their jobs. As a result, turnover decreases and staff retention rates improve, as fewer employees are likely to jump ship.

Increased engagement

When staff fully trust their employer, they’re less likely to feel anxious and stressed. Their engagement levels are also likely to increase, helping them to produce higher quality work.

More productivity

As staff feel more energized and motivated, thanks to a culture of honesty, safety and mutual respect, you’re more likely to see an increase in their productive output too.

A more diverse and inclusive culture

Prioritizing workplace trust also helps you to build a more diverse and inclusive culture where staff feel a greater sense of belonging and connection to their teams. Such a positive culture is not only beneficial to staff retention but attracting fresh talent too.

While it can be all too easy to push projects like improving employee trust towards the bottom of an ever growing to do’s list, these many benefits show why it must be placed much higher in order of importance. By contrast, if you ignore making any improvements in this area, you’ll risk experiencing a decline in staff satisfaction and productivity.

How to build greater workplace trust

Having read about the many benefits of nurturing greater employee trust, we’re sure you’re keen to know how to foster greater trust in your own workplace.

Here’s some strategies to help you with that:

Listen more than you speak

Staff are unique individuals with their own viewpoints and ideas. So, when they’re ready to offer suggestions, give them the chance to do so and genuinely listen to them, as this provides the foundation for positive workplace relationships built on mutual understanding and trust.

If you’re not a great listener, active listening training can help. This involves making a deliberate effort to ask your employees questions and encourage them to elaborate, so you can truly understand what they’re trying to communicate.

There are countless opportunities to improve your listening every day. For instance, set aside some time in meetings for employees to discuss their work experience and how they’re feeling. Remember you should be ready to listen to both positive and negative feedback, and be open to comment whether you agree with it or not.

Request and act on feedback

It’s impossible for leadership and HR teams to be everywhere they need to be in order to pick up all their employees’ valuable feedback. Yet staff want a voice in their organization, and it will be hard for them to trust you if you’re unwilling to do what it takes to capture their feedback and take prompt action on it.

In fact, many employees are dissatisfied with the level of opportunities to feedback to their organization, with up to 65% wanting more chances to offer feedback.

Consequently, establishing feedback channels through the use of employee surveys can be a very effective way to achieve this. The employee pulse survey, which is a short, quick survey, specifically designed to be issued on a more regular basis, is a good example, offering plenty of opportunities for staff to feedback about how they’re feeling or need extra support with.

Besides more obvious channels like email, consider more open always on channels to incorporate pulse surveys, like a workplace chatbot or a feedback group on a business messaging app like Microsoft Teams. That way you can be more proactive in your availability and response.

Having collected feedback from your surveys and employee check-ins, you can analyze the results to help identify hotspots that indicate where your teams are strong and any areas for improvement where they need more support. You can then act quickly to strengthen weak areas before they turn into really serious problems. Be sure to communicate the results to your teams promptly and work with them to determine what actions you need to take to improve their workplace experience.

Building a collaborative plan of action demonstrates transparency and helps employees feel valued. And if you can follow through on your action plan in a timely manner, so staff can see the tangible effects of their feedback, their trust in the organization should grow.

Show regular appreciation

While your staff receive a salary in return for their work, this isn’t enough to demonstrate how much you value and trust them.

Therefore, it’s vital to provide them with more frequent recognition, whether that’s through offering verbal praise, sending them thank you messages or offering them more tangible rewards like staff awards and bonuses.

More frequent appreciation helps build a sense of togetherness and helps employees feel more emotionally secure. So, when you regularly recognize your team, they’ll be more likely to trust you. For instance, nearly 90% of staff who receive thanks or recognition from their boss report feeling high levels of trust in that individual, compared to just 48% who don’t.

It’s also worth considering that public recognition can be even more impactful than privately recognizing an individual. Consider highlighting your employees’ accomplishments during team meetings, or maybe in a hall of fame, or via a company-wide newsfeed.

Empower your teams by trusting them first

Consider taking the first step to show your staff how much you trust them, and they’ll be more likely to trust you back.

So how can you achieve this?

You could empower them by giving them greater autonomy and encouraging them with a professional development plan.

Consider granting them extra responsibilities or inviting them to sit in on meetings that they wouldn’t normally attend. For instance, you might want to let a more junior sales representative sit in on a strategy meeting, so they can provide their on-the-ground insights to help guide your sales and marketing plans moving forward. Not only will they remember the trust you showed in them, but you’ll also likely benefit from their unique perspective too.

Conversely, if you micromanage your team’s work, your staff are more likely to feel like you don’t trust them, which can potentially damage their motivation and self-esteem.

Most workers want to feel trusted enough to work with minimal supervision. And working under this arrangement is more likely to get the best out of your employees.

Encourage coaching

Leaders and managers have a critical role to play in building trust in the workplace.

In fact, research has demonstrated that authentic leadership can cultivate trust and improve employee engagement and performance.

Yet rather than acting like a traditional boss that typically disciplines an employee if they’ve done a poor job, a more coaching style of management can nurture greater trust on the side of your employee. They’ll be more likely to listen to your advice as well.

When you coach your employees, you tend to provide them with more training, support and encouragement, especially if they’re struggling.

While most employees belonging to the millennials generational age group look to their managers as their primary source for learning and development, only 46% believe they fulfill this role.

If you can act as a motivator that encourages and guides your employees to success, rather than just managing them, the improvement in relationships should pay real dividends for your business.

Practice consistency

If you only follow up on your words with occasional actions, that will not build trust. To do that you need to be consistent with your actions.

Practice what you preach on a daily basis, so your team knows what to expect and won’t have to second guess about what you’re going to deliver.

If you demand your team shows up on time, you need to do the same. If you expect them to know your clients inside and out, you need to as well.

If you’re to encourage and motivate your staff, they need to trust that you’ll keep your word, lead by example and do a great job.

Besides being consistent with your performance, you need to ensure consistency in your mood.  Do your best to stay calm, cool and collected, even in uncomfortable or challenging situations, as an inconsistent mood can instill anxiety and nervousness in staff that makes it difficult for them to trust you.

Address your nonverbal communication and soft skills

While it’s important to ensure that you’re communicating effectively, don't forget to address your nonverbal communication and soft skills too, including your personality traits, attitudes and behaviors.

If you can make eye contact with your employees and nod when they speak rather than look at your computer or phone, you’ll demonstrate your interest in what they have to say. Positive body language paired with skills such as patience, empathy and problem solving create a more welcoming atmosphere for staff and encourages them to approach you.

Most important of all is always to be genuine and authentic when communicating. If employees don’t think you’re speaking from the heart, their trust in you will quickly evaporate. The more comfortable your team feels around you, the more likely they’re to trust and work hard for you.

Develop a more inclusive culture

Your company culture refers to the collection of traits that define your organization.

While a great culture is likely to lead to a strong performance, a dysfunctional one can prevent you from meeting your organizational goals.

Even though every organization’s culture is unique, it should reflect qualities like appreciation, resilience and teamwork. So, developing a culture that helps nurture the very best of these qualities will have a key role to play in establishing trust in your organization.

According to Gartner, inclusive and diverse teams can generate performance gains of up to 30%. So, it’s important to build an inclusive culture, which accepts and values the strengths of all your employees.

To help nurture this, you must focus on initiatives including equal pay and benefits, workplace accessibility, and diversity education and training that help you to develop a culture that’s welcoming of everyone.

Employee networks are another effective way of fostering diversity in your workplace. These are groups of employees that voluntarily come together based on a common life experiences or identity. Also known as employee affinity groups or employee resource groups, they provide mutual support, help improve personal and professional development and bring employees together.

Before you start on your tactics, you might want to begin by asking your own employees about their views on diversity and inclusion in your workplace. More than anything else this can provide a really good starting point to identify how well you’re currently embracing such issues and pinpoint areas we you most need to improve.

To help get you started with this, you might like to take a look at our Diversity and Inclusion Survey Template.

Honesty and transparency

When a business is going through tough times, it’s sometimes difficult to be totally honest with your staff and easier to tell them what they want to hear instead. However, being honest with your employees while being sensitive to their feelings can encourage them to trust you.

Being dishonest with a member of your team, may lose you more than their trust and respect. This is because every relationship, whether professional or personal, is based on honesty. So, just one lie can ruin a relationship, even a long-term one — potentially irreparably.

Therefore, you need to be transparent when it comes to discussing any major changes or developments in your business that may affect your staff, so that they’re always in the picture. If not, your team won’t trust you if you surprise them by modifying a procedure without making it known or neglect to inform them in advance of any major workplace changes.

To help nurture honest communications with your employees, look to engage them. Make it clear that you care about their feelings and want to hear their input, as they won’t feel valued if you tell them something and close without giving them the opportunity to speak. After all, two-way communications make it clear you’re there to talk with them not at them.

HR professionals have the skills to communicate with staff directly and transparently, and their insight into an organization and its employees puts them in a unique position to shape the messages and model the behaviors that keep employees informed and engaged.

Consequently, HR should work to connect leadership with their employees, addressing the concerns of each in order to foster lasting relationships built on trust.

Supercharge your productivity

Having read about the importance of workplace trust and the many ways of building greater levels of employee trust, we hope you’re ready to start nurturing this with your own workforce.

However, no matter what activities and processes you put in place to achieve this, you need to keep things going, as consistency is the key when it comes to building trust. This is because if when you begin building levels of trust and then suddenly your activities grind to a halt, potential miscommunication and broken promises can arise. At that point you’ll risk losing the trust you built, which we will be very difficult to get back again. Yet, if you can get things right from the outset and you continue to do so, you’ll supercharge your productivity.

Maintain and increase your activities to build employee trust

Increasing staff trust in your organization depends on you regularly collecting their feedback and making the changes they want to see. Fortunately, with the right survey software you’ll have all the tools you need to keep your activities going and tweak them, as and when your need arises.

Find out more

Get started and create your first survey

If you would like more information then please get in touch.