Article - Trust...An Essential Piece of Buiding Engagement

by Dawn Cacciotti

Building trust throughout an organization is not easy.  It is even harder to gain it back once it is lost.  There is an essential question on every engagement survey asking team members to rate whether the organization promotes an atmosphere of trust.  It is the first question that I look at to see if there is positive growth year over year.  The results from the question on trust provide leadership with a true indication of employees' engagement level, and helps management  know if it's moving the culture in the right direction. 

Trust drives engagement.  It is the key starting point for any organization.  If a company wants to build the organizational culture, have a committed and energized staff, and ultimately advance business results, they need to ensure that there is a mindset of trust that permeates the entire organization.

Here are five actions that can help build trust throughout an organization:

1. Treat everyone as a leader. Engage your entire staff in achieving the organization's strategy.  It is essential that all team members know and understand the direction the organization is moving and the importance of their role in accomplishing that strategy.  All team members should have goals that contribute to achieving their department/unit goals. They also need to understand how their individual goals tie into the overall strategy of the organization.  While assisting leaders in the goal-setting process, I continually have team members tell me that they have no idea what the strategic goals are for their organization.  If team members are treated as leaders and important contributors to the overall success of the organization, they will rise to the occasion.

2.  Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Keep your teams up to date.  Promote consistent communication at all levels of the organization.  Agree on consistent messaging that is to be shared, and share it often.  When building an organization's culture and driving engagement; you can never communicate too much.  Allow team members to contribute in communication efforts.  Share great culture stories, share the incredible initiatives your teams are working on, and don’t be afraid to share when there have been mistakes or errors, and the lessons learned from them.  The lessons learned can often times be the most powerful culture setting stories and drivers of engagement for an organization. Keep lines of communication open and utilize all means of media to ensure that your messaging is getting through.

3.  Be seen. Talk to your people.  Be visible.  Learn what is important to your people at work and outside of it.  What drives them?  What motivates them?  Take time each morning or throughout the day to stop at their work area and engage in a conversation; not only will they appreciate it; you may learn something.

4.  Laugh with your team. Encourage humor and laughter in the workplace.  There is countless research on the benefits of laughter and having fun at work; ranging from increased brain power, reduction of stress, increases in creativity; improved productivity and my personal favorite - it is said to burn 3.5 calories every time you have a good laugh. What's not to like about that?

5.  Provide Feedback. Providing feedback is an essential piece to the follow-up of #1 -"Treat Everyone as a Leader".  Leaders need to know and should receive praise when they have exceeded expectations.  Every leader also needs to know when they haven't hit the mark – share what they need to improve on, how to improve, and let them know that you are there to support them.  Share positive accomplishments openly and when rewarding - since you followed Number 3 "Be Seen" - you know how best to reward your team members because you know what motivates them and what is important to them.   

There are obviously a number of tactics for building trust and no one-size fits all actions for each organization, but having a committed leadership team that is focused on building a mindset of trust in their organization puts them on the right path towards success.

Dawn Cacciotti is the founder of EngageHRnow™, speaker, human resources strategist, and contributing author of ‘Cultivating Culture’. EngageHRnow™ is a human resources consulting firm specializing in employee engagement, organizational culture, and human capital solutions for small to mid-size associations and for-profit business.