Trust in leaders emerges as a pivotal workplace factor for 2020

Employees are seeking more than just a paycheck and benefits in the jobs they hold. Crucial are top executives’ integrity and candor, along with the organization’s mission and values. 

In recent years, new trends have begun to reshape why employees work and what they value. 

New research conducted by APCO Worldwide, which analyzed workplace trends among U.S. employees, found that trustworthy leadership is a priority for employees when considering a place to work, second only to fair compensation and above other notable attributes including job security, culture and career advancement opportunities.  

Despite being one of the most sought-after attributes by job seekers, companies are largely missing the mark. Only 32% of employees feel that their company has trustworthy leaders. This deficit can have significant implications for organizations, including decreased productivity, engagement and retention.

For instance, in a study of 1,202 U.S. working-age adults last fall, 23% of employees said they would offer more ideas and solutions if they felt their leaders could be trusted to support them. Outcomes in this type of environment can lead to enhanced workplace productivity and engagement. 

When leaders are perceived as separated and unsupportive, employees are less likely to take risks, innovate or thrive in their job beyond what minimum roles and responsibilities require. 

Other findings from the same study revealed that one in five employees would be willing to work longer hours if they could identify mid-level through C-suite leaders that they could trust. One in four stated they would extend their tenure if they trusted all levels of leadership to “maintain transparency,” and one in three indicated they would remain with the company longer if leaders “kept their promises.” 

So how do leaders build trust? Although it can vary by company and situation, the overarching theme is open, continuous and reciprocal communication. Some ways to start:

  1. Set clear expectations, and build in accountability. When employees know what is expected of them, and what they can expect from others, they are more likely to have confidence in the outcomes. Leaders should hold themselves and others accountable, admit mistakes, and share plans for change.
  2. Communicate early and often. Providing transparent and consistent communications can help alleviate rumors which can undermine trust between leaders and employees.
  3. Follow-through on commitments. Though it sounds simple, keeping promises and showing intermittent progress toward goals is one of the most important ways leaders can build trust.
  4. Establish and communicate core values—and stick to them. Knowing that leaders stand for something can help inspire trust and affinity among employees. 
  5. Give credit where credit is due. Receiving recognition for contributions and efforts can help employees feel that leaders “have their back” and are invested in them.

Trust is one of the most valuable resources in the workplace, but it takes time to earn and can be easy to lose. Leaders who want to earn the trust of those they lead must be willing to identify and understand the barriers to trust within their organization and take steps to ensure they are creating a future that benefits employees and the bottom line.

Kimberly Gardiner is director and head of APCO Worldwide’s talent and culture practice.

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    Ronald N. Levy says:

    How about your writing a corporate resume?

    The expert who has written the excellent piece above appears to be no less than the human resources chief of a top PR firm, one of the most powerful in Washington. Just as even such an eminent HR expert can be influenced by a resume, so can the public although it has plenty of other things to think about. A corporate resume could win your top management more public appreciation—and win you more appreciation from top management.

    In the same way that job applicants use a resume to show their value, your corporate resume can show your company’s experience and jobs history making clear:

    .1. How your company is a public asset now.

    .2. What your company is doing to benefit the public even more.

    .3. What Washington can do to help the public by helping to increase your corporate asset value.

    What a good resume communicates is not just what the sender has to offer but—much more interesting to the reader—what the reader has to gain. “Why should we care about you” the recipient of a resume has a right to think. This question could give you an opportunity to toot you horn so sweetly as to deserve a PR Grammy.

    A good place to start may be at the top with your ADDRESS. Not just the address of corporate headquarters but also your local addresses where you employ local people and help serve the local public’s needs. Also your location around he world because you get business there that creates jobs here.

    EDUCATION is important so list some of what you’ve learned over the years that benefits the public—plus how and from whom you learned it—and how what you’ve learned has made life better for the public.

    How about your EXPERIENCE which can be a big qualification for those who want their value recognized. What challenges did your company face and how did you make out in succeeding against challenges?

    HONORS AND AWARDS deserve a place on your resume, especially documents that show your growth.

    .A. Growth in service to the public as shown by your growth in sales.

    .B. Growth in service to employees as shown by your growth in employment numbers plus growth in cumulative pay and benefits.

    .C. Growth in your community value as shown by how much you’ve contributed in taxes plus hours of participation in the management of school boards and community-improvement organizations.

    .D. Growth in your contribution of hard cash—money the public urgently needs for health research at places like Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Lymphoma Research Foundation to help each of us live longer without pain and with more happiness.

    REFERENCES can be impressive so report what heads of great universities and other public-service organizations have said about your company in ceremonies and letters thanking you for your donations and ideas.

    Just as the best qualified job candidates tend to get hired, companies that most benefit the public tend to get public money and gratitude. The composer of a good corporate resume may tend get more money and gratitude from the composer’s management. Creating a great corporate resume may beget a great individual resume.

    ”What have you done for me lately” is a public question that may be unasked but worth answering. Your company’s resume, if you help create it, may enhance your own, so think about what you can point out about your corporate qualifications and value.

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