5 ways to foster a safe and trusted culture

At EffectUX we have been helping our clients reimagine and pivot not just their customer experience, but also their employee experience. With everything that is happening, it’s a great time to really address what needs to be done to elevate the experience your employees have and your culture.

Trust has always played a critical role in creating positive, productive, and creative cultures. And now, with the added stress employees are experiencing in the current circumstance, as well as the uncertainty of the future and preparedness for what work may look like in the months to come, it is even more important than ever.

Imagine if you do not trust your partner or a loved one, or you sense that they are being untruthful. Think about how that makes you feel, the behaviors it may lead to, and the negative impact it has on your performance and emotions. As an employee, we invest our time and energy into the company that we work for, so the relationship between employee and company is also one that needs to be supportive and healthy. It too needs to be built upon trust, honesty, and mutual respect.

To build and grow this bond takes purposeful thought and action. Here are some things you can do to foster an environment of trust, now, and always.

1: Being open and transparent.

When employees are left wondering about what may be happening or could happen, they become distracted with worry and rumors. Often, these stir up negative feelings, higher levels of stress, and undue concern, especially in times of transition or organizational change. While leaders sometimes cannot divulge information due to business risk, security, or legal reasons, approaching communications with a desire to share as much as possible is a good start to transparent communications. This includes following up and being clear about decisions that have been made, why an action has not been taken, as well as the reasons behind decisions that are made. By doing this, employees feel better informed and undue worries are limited.

2: Role modeling values.

I’ve said it many times before…it is critical that leaders lead by example. That they do not just talk about the cultural values of the company, or being open, but demonstrate it through their actions and behaviors. When employees hear a leader say one thing and then act a different way, it leads to a feeling of misalignment, which fosters mistrust. By role modeling the values through behaviors, employees will trust that leadership are living the values and are likely to emulate it. When we are faced with tough choices and challenging times, returning to our values can help us make the best decisions and behave in a positive and productive way.

3: Being consistent.

Leaders have to be trusted to be able to handle the many challenges of running a business, growing a business, and leading a business to success — especially now. To do this, leaders must work on their mental strength and emotional fitness, which enables them to be resilient and navigate the various emotions and mental states they will face with a calm and consistent response. Demonstrating an acceptance of emotions, resilience and growth, enables employees to trust that they have a solid and stable person steering the ship, even through the choppiest of waters.

4: Taking accountability.

Leaders need to hold themselves, and others, accountable. If employees see leaders living by one rule for themselves and their “buddies” and another for everyone else, it leads to mistrust, and often, toxic cultures. When things go wrong, being able to address the situation, apologize authentically, share what will be done and the lessons moving forward, supports higher levels of trust.

5: Being receptive to feedback and, simply, being human.

By showing more vulnerable sides or letting employees get to know their leaders more personably makes them more human. After all, we rarely trust people that we do not know or feel connected to. Leaders can often feel that they have to be a certain way or show the more authoritative side of themselves all the time. Sometimes, just being authentically themselves as a person is the most inspiring thing for employees. Soliciting feedback, and demonstrating a willingness and desire to improve personally, can create a strong bond of trust between employees and leadership. By being receptive to employees’ perspectives, even when they are different to the leaders own, brings about a level of trust and comfort from which ideas can flow more freely, leading to higher levels of engagement and creativity. Especially now, when everyone is handling uncertain and stressful times, being a little human can make someone feel that little more comforted.

Now, more than ever, focus on making sure your employees feel as safe as they can. Future success will belong to those that are spending time now developing their employees and leaders to be prepared for what is to come. Make sure you are including the behaviors and mindsets needed to foster an environment of trust. Even in tough times, layoffs, or large organizational changes, the way you respond and communicate with empathy and transparency will have a large impact on the individuals affected. And, what you choose to do now, will have a lasting impact.