The importance of building trust with employees

By Rob Nikkel
February 27, 2020
4 min read
Rob Nikkel on the importance of Building trust with employees

In business, we spend a lot of time and energy to gain the trust of our customers through awareness, discovery, relationship building, free trials, social proof, references, nurture assets, onboarding, ongoing success programs, and the list goes on and on. The weight of it all is simply overwhelming.   

Now, let’s turn the lens inward. Do you see the same attention paid to the employee journey? Why not? Is it because we feel revenue is a higher-order outcome than productivity? That’s where we are making a big mistake. 

If we don’t invest similar efforts to onboard, inform, educate, and care for employees, how can we expect to deliver, scale, or expand new revenues?   

Lacking effective internal communications makes the external job that much tougher. Building trust with employees can’t just be an afterthought. It is essential to a company’s success.  

Building trust takes time 

We all want our employees to develop a deep understanding of what the organization stands for — its values, cause, who the customer is and how the organization helps them. This isn’t going to happen overnight.  As leaders, we have to make space for the conversations to facilitate this learning path continually, and not just during an employee’s first few months at the company.   

Trust is fickle and comes from so many little, oftentimes trivial things. It’s about making eye contact when talking to an employee, saying hi and asking how they are and actually listening to their responses, delivering on a small task you said you’d do, answering difficult questions straight up as best you can and always listening first without interrupting. Like drops in a bucket, you need to keep filling it up each day before you feel the weight. 

On another level, we must also facilitate real human experiences for our people, by getting to know them in and out of work. What do they do for fun? What are their passions? What pressures are they experiencing? Who are their family, friends, and support structures?  

The more we show genuine interest, the more we can uncover key events, milestones and be part of celebrating with them or aiding them through difficult challenges. The deeper bonds we can form, the easier it will be to build meaningful relationships with our employees that can affect day-to-day business. 

Information satisfaction 

When it comes to who employees look to for information, they’re turning to business leaders in their workplace. In the age of fake news and socio-political turmoil, they’re looking closer to home, particularly colleagues, direct managers, and those they feel have a high level of believability. 

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that key societal institutions including business, government, NGOs and media, aren’t trusted. People fear a future ridden with recessions and political turmoil. Never has it been more important for a no BS kind of approach in handling information authentically and honestly.  

As a business, there’s also something said to put efforts to profile your leadership in unusual ways. Video interviews, podcasts, sharing colorful stories people can relate to are but a few examples. Having this base of knowledge and information-sharing both inside and out of a work context makes it that much easier to have your message heard, as staff will have heightened interest to hear what you have to say.  

Employee voice 

To make valuable employee connections, it requires ongoing dialogue. That means conversations that flow down, up, and sideways. For it to really work, the organization needs to actually want to hear what staff think and feel, by bringing a commitment to reflect and take action. 

I’ve heard many times, “yeah we did an employee survey a couple of years ago”. Great! What happened to that? Were the results shared? What about all the time in-between? I return to the bucket analogy. Not acting when employees raise their voices, can take away thousands of drops and hurt credibility. 

Your internal communications and associated employee experiences have the potential to be a catalyst for growth, especially when grounded in trust, effective information sharing, and feedback. We’re seeing the effect internal communication brings to innovation, accelerated change, and shaping work life. And it all begins by building trust.   

Start building trust with your team and create a thriving workplace environment. Here are 20 ways to foster resilience in the workplace to get you started. 

By Rob Nikkel

Rob Nikkel is the CEO and fearless leader of Intranet Connections. With 20+ years’ experience in software development, he specializes in developing holistic product strategies. A self-described culture leader, Rob is passionate about creating thriving working environments and shaping the company through engaging employee experiences.