I was recently reviewing an employee handbook for a professional friend, and I noticed how the ‘employee-at-will’ clause seemed to pop up on almost every other page. Now, it’s not uncommon to see that clause in a handbook a couple times, but this really was corporate legal overkill. My initial reaction was that this is not a place employees are going to want to stay at. If the company keeps telling them they can fire them at any time for no reason then the employees are not going to feel very good about job security and ultimately will lose trust in the organization. This led me to start contemplating trust in the workplace.
Trust is built when managers trust their employees to do their jobs. Cultivating an environment of teamwork, honesty and fairness is the key.
What does this mean for HR professionals? Well, we need to do a few things in order to build this type of culture that fosters trust and respect. But most importantly we need to train out managers to communicate effectively. Good managers spend a great deal of time concentrating on good communication. Giving positive feedback, having regular performance reviews (more than once a year please!) and talking openly about day-to-day operations builds this foundation. This doesn’t mean, however, that we tell our employees only good things. We need to admit when we have problems and when we are wrong. Involving employees in problem solving will build respect. Secrecy breeds suspicion, transparency yields trust.
Trust forms the foundations for effective communication, employee retention and employee motivation. If we are able to build this type of culture within our organization we will reap the rewards. Employees who feel respected and trusted, and who are treated like adults will act like adults (see Tim Feriss’ artivle on ROWE part 1 and part 2). Employees will be more productive and enjoy coming to work, and be embassadors for you brand or organization.