Why building trust in the workplace should be an employer’s priority

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As attention increasingly turns to how Good Work and caring workplace cultures underpin wellbeing, Emma Price, Head of Customer Success of ActiveOps discusses why and how managers should focus on workforce trust.

With recent figures from the Office for National Statistics revealing that a record number of people are in full-time employment while unemployment is at its lowest since 1974, organisations find an increasing need to do more with what they have and simultaneously ensure employee retention is high. This means creating environments that support employees, generate trust, and facilitate a productive workplace if they are to survive. 

While we see a slow return to ‘normal,’ we say goodbye to the post-pandemic workplace. As a result, managers are seeking new ways of managing operations to maintain productivity levels, enhance growth and monitor employee retention and wellbeing.

Remote, hybrid, and flexible working has opened the door to a workforce seeking a better work-life balance. In 2021, Glassdoor.com named ‘hybrid’ as its word of the year, with UK users writing reviews mentioning the word 1,074% more times than in 2020.  

Large organisations are already implementing hybrid and flexible models to suit their workforce better. The Bank of England encourages staff to spend at least 40% of their time in the office with 60% at home. The pandemic encouraged employees to speak up about what they wanted from their roles, with trust and support from their managers being high on the list of priorities, and it is together, that they are reshaping the working world. 

Balancing business and employee need

Within the context of workforce intelligence and operations, the conversation around trust often focuses on an employer’s confidence in their employees. From timekeeping to using company equipment appropriately, many factors contribute to trust challenges. 

Data from Slack’s annual Future Forum report 2022 has indicated a “large and growing disconnect” between flexibility for non-executive and executive staff. Employees are twice as likely than senior employees to be present in the office full time. For organisations where senior leadership has set mandatory days in the office, this has meant a return to lengthy and costly commutes, a fragmented working week, and reduced work/life balance. 

To avoid these potential issues, workforces need to be encouraged by the visibility of their team leaders in the office to create a sense of unity and trust, creating an environment for better productivity which supports new ways of working. 

Where evolving technology can support senior leadership

Managers often have the most accountability to the largest proportion of the workforce. They are responsible for delivering against cost, quality, service and managing customer outcomes. 

Quick office check-ins with staff vanished overnight during the initial stages of the pandemic. Team leaders could no longer catch up with their workforce and measure the timely progression of productivity. 

Today, virtual catchups have replaced these conversations which are essential in boosting morale and maintaining good relations. This has led to the implementation of tools designed to support productivity and team balance. These tools gather and analyse data on employees’ activities which can be used to improve performance and support employee wellbeing. Using these insights, managers can see how their team is performing to measure engagement and reduce burnout; both essential for staff retention. 

Building trust with your team 

Taking time to catch up with employees to discuss life outside of work, praising and recognising hard work and offering positive communication will foster a trusting work environment. Regular conversations with staff create touchpoints throughout their week allowing both parties to connect on a deeper level.

Alongside the change in the employer/employee relationship shift, it is still vital for managers to understand how they can set targets effectively, assess progress and map their future courses of action.

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Using tools that take the guesswork out of running operations; managers can see who is working long hours without producing many outputs, which may indicate burnout and a need for more support and training, or those completing a lot of work quickly and deserve recognition and a new challenge. From this, action plans can be created and complemented by building meaningful workplace relationships with employees. 

The future of employer/employee confidence 

Today, the need to feel a sense of purpose in work and contribute to an organisation’s overall productivity has never been so critical. Trust in the workplace needs to be two-way; for this to thrive, there must be an environment that is fit for purpose with the right tech. Trust is crucial to ensuring that teams are happy, successful, and flourishing at work and can determine whether a business fails or succeeds during turbulent times.

Implementing flexible processes is the cornerstone to achieving operational harmony. For workplaces that are feeling a disconnect, workforce data can be an impactful way of determining employee performance and productivity to adjust the coaching and support a team member is given. 

Taking a ‘coach and mentor’ approach instead of a ‘command and control’ can make a difference in this new world of work. The focus should be on trusting and empowering employees to be productive while ensuring their wellbeing is in check. 

By showing teams that they trust them to decide where they work, whether at home or in the office, managers can create an environment of trust that flows to and from individuals. During volatile times, taking care of what is within your scope to protect and enhance is the best way to guarantee a bright future. 

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