Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

3 ways to build trust with employees and increase engagement

employee trustIn just about every line of work, there are HR leaders who make it a top priority to maximize employee retention and productivity. In fact, this is often seen as the secret to running a successful business. If you have people who are engaged with their jobs and willing to stick around and work hard, that’s more than half the battle.

Unfortunately, there’s one common problem that gets in the way – trust. The easiest way to torpedo a productive workforce is to allow the level of trust between employees and their managers to erode. People only want to work hard if they have supervisors they believe in. Otherwise, they become disengaged and ineffectual.

According to Forbes, it’s imperative that corporate leadership find ways to restore the trust between workers and their managers. Christine Comaford, a business strategist and executive coach, told the news source that this is certainly doable – it’s a matter of human psychology. We simply need to understand what triggers are activated by effective management.

“The brain’s pain network gets activated when we feel physical pain (lack of safety), social exclusion (no belonging), bereavement (loss), betrayal (unfair treatment) and negative social comparison (no mattering),” Comaford explained. “Our reward network is activated when we feel things like physical pleasure (safety), cooperating (belonging), having a good reputation (mattering), being treated fairly (trust) and giving to charity (safety plus = abundance).”

So, in management, what can we do to play into that reward network, making people feel safe and belonging? The following are three strategies for building trust and increasing employee engagement as a result:

Valuing and acting upon feedback
Gathering feedback is an important part of the managerial process. When bosses ask employees for their input, it lets them know they’re valued and their opinions matter.

But it’s not enough just to ask people to speak up! You have to actually act upon what they have to say, too. Asking for people’s feedback, then writing it down and stuffing your notes in a drawer is almost worse than never asking at all.

Aligning vision and values
How many times have you walked into an office and seen a “mission statement” on the wall, only to lament that it’s old and ignored and gathering dust?

The best places of business are those that actually have a mission, and it aligns with the mindset of the workforce. What is it that employees want? What motivates them? Do they care about the quality of their product, or the efficiency of their work, or their image in the world at large? The values of the business should match those of the staff.

Delegating work effectively
Delegating is a part of every manager’s job. When you’ve got a long list of tasks to do, you can’t just handle them all yourself – you need to dole them out to other staff members.

Effective delegation should have two major effects. First, by having others do important work rather than yourself, it demonstrates trust. And second, if you know your employees well, you can play to their strengths by giving them assignments that are perfect for their skills. This should increase engagement.

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