How To Build Trust in the Workplace: 11 Tips for Teams and Organizations
According to data from Achievers, only one out of five HR and engagement professionals feel that the members of their team deeply trust company leaders.
The same survey revealed that only 50% of employees feel that their HR is trustworthy.
Building trust in the workplace and fostering a workplace culture that puts people first is critical for changing these statistics, which is the first step toward empowering employees to be more motivated and productive in the workplace.
In this post we’ll look at how to build trust in the workplace by explaining the importance of building trust and fostering mutual respect in your organization. We’ll also provide actionable steps you can take today to improve your workplace culture.
Table of Contents
Why is building trust important?
Building trust isn’t just about making your employees feel good at work.
Research published in the academic journal Knowledge Solutions shows that employees who trust the leadership at their organization have more positive attitudes, better teamwork, improved communication, and greater citizenship behavior.
In addition, employees who establish trust in their leaders may enjoy greater job satisfaction, put more effort into their work, and have stronger workplace relationships.
All these characteristics result in a better quality of performance and improve employee engagement, which means your organization is getting the most from its investment in its workforce.
These positive feelings and trust in the workplace can also reduce turnover rates, saving your company money by decreasing how often you need to hire and onboard new employees.
When you take the time to build trust-based relationships and create emotional trust with the members of your team, everyone benefits.
Organizations should foster mutual respect
Let’s define what actually drives feelings of trust. Often, trust in the workplace comes from feelings of mutual understanding.
When leaders work to foster a culture of mutual respect, they can drive trust in their organization because their team members know that leaders fully respect their work, ideas, perspectives, and individuality.
Employee motivation specialist Susanne Jacobs has developed a model to identify the eight intrinsic drivers of trust.
The Jacobs model purports that when these intrinsic drivers are combined with a sense of well-being and the right environmental factors, they will result in employee engagement, energy, improved body language, a boosted sense of well-being, and sustainable high performance.
Leaders can use these drivers to understand what factors contribute to mutual trust and respect at work. These drivers are:
- Belong and Connect: These factors focus on the relationships between members of your organization. Having a strong sense of belonging and connection within the organization can promote trust in the workplace.
- Voice and Recognition: Employees who feel like their voices, ideas, and perspectives are heard and valued may have a greater sense of trust in their workplace. An effective leader who can recognize the value of their employees’ individual perspectives demonstrate respect, which employees can mutually reciprocate.
- Significance and Position: Feelings of significance and integration within the organization can help employees feel supported. Leaders should show respect for the integral significance of their employees’ positions within the company to foster a sense of importance that makes employees feel valued like their work matters.
- Fairness: Fairness means providing equal treatment for all employees across the entire organization. Employees may trust their leaders more when they feel like they receive fair treatment within the organization.
- Learn and Challenge: Providing employees with opportunities to learn and grow can improve employee engagement and demonstrate your investment in your employees. Challenging your employees to grow with their team can result in a sense of belonging and help build meaningful bonds.
- Choice and Autonomy: Allowing employees greater autonomy in how they go about their work shows your trust. Team members feel empowered when they have the flexibility to make choices that have a real impact on their work, leading to a more productive workplace.
- Security and Certainty: Employee trust in leadership is more likely to occur when leaders make them feel secure in their roles. This security typically comes from consistent communication, direct feedback, and additional support during times of change within the organization.
- Purpose: Not only do employees need to know that their work matters to their organization, but that it also serves a higher purpose. When your team members understand how their work aligns with big-picture values, they may feel a greater sense of empowerment and engagement.
Focusing on these key areas allows you to install strategies in your organization that build trust and foster mutual respect.
By understanding these drivers, you can evaluate what factors matter the most to your team and find opportunities to leverage them.
You can also use these drivers to rebuild lost trust within your work team. If trust decreases or you’ve lost the trust of members of your team, reflect on these key drivers to identify why.
Once you’ve identified what drivers are holding your team back, you can implement more specific strategies to address those areas of need.
How to build trust in the workplace
Now that we’ve covered the factors that drive trust in an organization, let’s look at how to apply them with eight actionable steps you can take to build trust in your workplace.
1. Develop a Feedback-Based Culture
Good communication is pivotal when developing a trust-based culture in your workplace, and it goes both ways.
Not only is it important to establish a feedback system that allows leaders to communicate with employees, but there also needs to be a well-established process for employees to give feedback to leaders.
Implementing a defined system means setting clear expectations for when and how communication occurs regarding performance feedback.
This means employees won’t feel blindsided by receiving unexpected or unsolicited feedback from leaders, and vice versa.
Further, when systems exist for employees to offer feedback to management, it can make them feel empowered and like their voice matters within the organization.
For example, require supervisors to have monthly one-on-one meetings with each of their team members. Schedule the time in advance and have both the supervisor and the employee write three action points for the meeting.
Using this strategy ensures that both employees and leaders gain feedback regularly, while also providing structured time for open communication.
This continual feedback loop is great for creating meaningful bonds and building the emotional trust.
2. Align Core Company Values With Employee Roles
Your organization probably has a defined brand that includes clear brand values. Make sure all members of your team understand how their role plays a part in fulfilling those values.
If you want to develop organization-wide trust, then look at how you can align the roles of individuals, teams, and departments with the central motivators of your organization.
Employees who internalize the values that your company represents are more likely to feel engaged, motivated, and satisfied in the workplace.
This translates into greater productivity, improved performance, and lower turnover rates.
To accomplish this, work with your team or have department leaders collaborate with their employees to write mission statements for their departments.
Have each team member participate in identifying the big-picture goals of their department and connect those goals with the company’s values and vision.
This kind of collaborative exercise empowers employees to identify the values that matter most to them in their roles.
You can implement this exercise as a yearly team-building event by having your team review the mission statement and update it annually.
3. Emphasize Goal-Setting and Growth
To build trust with your team, your employees need to know that you’re invested in their growth and success.
Fostering a true people-first culture in your workplace means understanding the individual goals of your team members and proactively helping them achieve those goals.
You chose your team because they are the best people for their jobs. Don’t stunt their potential by leaving them stagnant. Instead, show that you’re just as interested in helping them reach their goals as they are.
You can show investment in your team members by prioritizing goal-setting and providing learning opportunities. For example, have each member of your team name two to three goals during their yearly performance evaluation.
Encourage them to set at least one long-term goal, and make yourself available to discuss their goals with them, especially if they’re unsure about what goals to set.
Consider using the S.M.A.R.T. method to create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.
General goals can be hard to define and measure, but specific goals can make it easier for you to find resources that support the growth of your employee.
For example, an employee could set a goal to advance in your company by becoming a department manager within the next six months.
To support them in achieving this goal, you can provide resources like leadership training opportunities or time to meet with another manager at the company to ask questions about the role.
4. Give Back With Recognition and Rewards
We all like to be recognized for our strengths and the value we bring to our teams. Recognizing positive workplace behaviors rewards employees who go above and beyond, while encouraging others to follow their example.
Implementing a praise or rewards system in your organization can be a great way to give back to your employees. You might issue public praise for employees who exceed their goals and use a reward system to incentivize your team to achieve.
For example, you can create a praise board at your office to acknowledge employee successes publicly. A hand-written note with some words of recognition acknowledging their hard work can go a long way as well.
Invite all members of your team to contribute to the board, and consider giving quarterly rewards to employees who receive and give the most praise.
If your team works remotely, you can create a virtual praise board that serves the same purpose.
Depending on your company’s structure and budget, you might create a bonus system to incentivize and motivate your team.
Your bonus system could include anything from cash bonuses and extra time off to small prizes like snacks, home decor, and gift cards.
For example, you may offer a weekly financial bonus for team members who exceed their production quota by a specified margin.
Just make sure the criteria to qualify for these rewards are well-defined and all members of your team can benefit. Giving all employees in your organization equal opportunities to earn rewards for doing exceptional work is important for maintaining fairness.
5. Promote Diversity and Inclusion
An inclusive workplace culture values and celebrates the unique experiences, worldviews, identities, and expressions of all its employees.
When team members from diverse backgrounds all feel respected in their identities, it can help them trust the leaders in their organization.
In an organization that embraces diversity and inclusion, business leaders actively work to identify and remove barriers that prevent individuals from diverse backgrounds from joining the company or growing within it.
This means giving individuals equal opportunities when scouting, hiring, or promoting employees regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, or another identity category.
However, diversity and inclusion don’t stop with equity within your company. Promoting visibility for diverse members of your company can create a stronger sense of connection and belonging for employees of different backgrounds.
For example, having employee networks for people of diverse backgrounds can foster community.
Creating a women’s network or a group for LGBTQIA+ members and allies can improve the visibility of these members within your workforce and give them a dedicated space to share resources and social support.
You may also implement diversity training in your organization. Training helps to inform all members of your organization about topics related to inclusion and diversity.
Another option is to host guest speakers who represent diverse backgrounds to come to your organization to talk about their experiences.
Guest speakers can give insight based on their personal experiences in the workforce while promoting visibility for members of your organization who share their identity background.
6. Demonstrate Gratitude
A little gratitude can go a long way. Find ways to show appreciation for your team members regularly. Simple gestures like thanking your employees for the work they do can build a more positive work environment.
Appreciation can have widespread effects on team member attitudes, feelings of emotional security, and trust in their supervisors.
For example, you can write individualized thank-you cards for members you supervise, distribute small rewards like snacks and gift cards, or simply send a brief message of appreciation to each member of your team.
The key is to be genuine and consistent. Don’t save your praise for special occasions. Make sure your team knows you recognize and value the work they do every day.
7. Empower Through Choices
To the extent possible, give your employees autonomy to make meaningful choices throughout the day. Micromanagement can make employees feel like you don’t trust them to make decisions on their own.
Over time, it can wear employees down, damage workplace relationships, and even promote a toxic work culture that ultimately hurts everyone. Remember, trust goes both ways. You need to give it to earn it.
When you trust your employees to make decisions for themselves, you show trust and empower them to take initiative.
Trusting the decision-making capabilities of your team encourages them to make independent decisions that represent the best interests of themselves and the company.
To encourage autonomy, establish clear boundaries and expectations for your team. Ensure that all team members understand their roles and responsibilities and have well-defined production goals.
Then, let them approach their work in their own way. Avoid hovering, but let your team members know that you’re available for support. This means letting them come to you if they encounter problems or questions during the day.
Not only does this demonstrate trust in your team, but it also frees you from needing to provide constant supervision. Further, when team members have flexibility in their days, they have room to innovate.
They may find creative solutions to problems, improve workflows, and develop new approaches to tasks that benefit the whole team.
8. Hire the Right Leaders
Building trust in the workplace starts at the top. Choose trustworthy leaders. Pick those who value trust just as much as you for management and leadership positions.
When onboarding new leaders, explain the role of trust in your organization and implement specific training opportunities to help them gain skills in building trust-based teams.
Ensure that all leaders within your organization understand your company’s priorities when it comes to trust and provide them with the tools they need to build trust-based relationships with their teams.
A manager’s guide for building trust between team members
It’s just as important to build trust between members of your team as it is to build trust between team members and leaders.
Here are three tips for building trust between employees in your workplace, whether they primarily work together or frequently work with cross-functional teams.
1. Provide Opportunities to Connect
It takes time to develop trust between team members. For this reason, leaders can encourage their employees to build relationships by providing time to connect.
Having time to get to know other people in the workplace is especially important for encouraging trust in cross-functional teams.
While members of the same department may interact with each other daily, it can be harder to find ways for members of multidisciplinary teams to meet and interact outside of their essential duties.
Incorporating team-building exercises and events into your organization allows people to come together.
Team-building activities can include icebreakers and games that let employees get to know each other while working together to solve puzzles and overcome challenges.
Not only are team-building activities fun way to break up a monotonous work week, but they’re a great opportunity for your team to build collaboration and problem-solving skills that they’ll apply to their roles.
Not all team-building activities translate well for remote teams, but there are plenty of icebreakers and events you can use to help remote workers build connections.
For example, have weekly team meetings where you shout out your team’s successes during the week.
Require all team members to have a quarterly 15-minute virtual meet-and-greet with someone at your organization they’ve never met before.
Host monthly activities like trivia or “lunch and learns” that give your team opportunities to connect.
2. Use Peer Mentorship and Coaching
Developing a peer mentorship program is a great way to help the members of your team build relationships, especially if you frequently have a mix of new and established professionals in your organization.
With this strategy, you assign an established member of the team to serve as a mentor for a new employee.
Mentors can act as friendly faces and accessible contact points to assist their mentees during the first few weeks of employment.
This can ease the new hire’s transition and start them off with a meaningful relationship with someone on the team.
3. Role Model and Reward Expected Behaviors
As a leader, what you do sets the tone for your entire team. To encourage trust between team members, lead by example.
Role model what it looks like to show trust and respect to the members of your team. When you show respect and trust for one member of your team, it can prompt others to do the same.
For example, acknowledge the members of your team that specialize in a topic when handling tasks related to those specialties.
Establish a positive tone by addressing your team members politely, professionally, and with gratitude.
Publicly acknowledging and rewarding your team members’ positive behaviors and successes is another way to encourage trust. This shows the other members that you value their efforts toward collaboration and relationship-building.
The more you call attention to the positive behaviors in your workplace, the more likely the members of your team will adopt those behaviors in their workplace relationships.
Trust is fundamental for building a positive workplace culture.
When your employees feel secure in their roles, understand your boundaries and expectations, and know how much you value them, you’re going to see greater engagement, more productivity, less turnover, and a healthier work environment in return.
High-performance organizations know that to get the most from their workers, they need to invest in real relationships with the people in their organization.
Lastly, do remember that trust is reciprocal. As Harold Macmillan once said “A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” The surest way to earn the trust of employees is to show them that you trust them in return.
If you want to start building trust in your workplace, use WorkHuman’s social recognition solutions to find support and resources today.
Company Culture, Employee Experience