Pamela Shockley-Zalabak just got through looking at the resulting of 3,500 studies over the course of 10 years to write Building the High Trust Organization: Strategies for Supporting Five Key Dimensions of Trust. Many of her findings reinforce ideas I have shared on this blog.
Organizations with high-trust profiles (i.e., integrity) are more profitable, more likely to achieve their goals, have lower litigation costs, lower employee turnover, better organizational satisfaction and are able to do flexible innovation. I would also surmise they deliver better products and services and have more satisfied customers.
Ms. Shockley-Zalabak attributes “trust” to being the glue that holds all of the elements of creativity and innovation together.
I have certainly seen this at firms where I have worked over the course of my career. Those with greater trust, transparency and camaraderie produced far better work than those that did not.
People are hesitant to share good ideas or mistakes, that everyone can learn from, with their organization if they don’t trust what’s going on. There is also far less loyalty, and more turnover, in these organizations.
The five key drivers of organizational trust are: 1) competence; 2) openness and honesty; 3) concern for employees; 4) reliability; and, 5) alignment of corporate and personal goals.
Competence: You must be able to trust the people with whom you are working, as well as management, to meet the challenges of the day and the future. Everyone on the team should be able to identify and deliver the products and services the customers want. Do team members have each others’ back? Is it even a team or just a highly siloed organization?
Openness and honesty: People must be able to share what they’re having concerns about without fear of reprisal, ostracism or job loss. Fear or inability to share what’s on your mind is the equivalent to hiding something under a rug. Eventually it will come out and bite you and your organization — at a particularly inappropriate time. I was recently at a company with meeting rules that included, “Talk about the elephant in the room” — good idea.
Concern for employees: How do you deal with people? How do you deal with mistakes? Is your door always open? Do you maintain confidences relevant to employees’ personal lives? Do you talk behind employees’ backs? Do you talk straight to someone when you have an issue about what they are or are not doing?
Reliability: How consistent are you? Do you walk the talk? Do you do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it? Do you communicate regularly and reliably?
Alignment: Many companies have mission, vision and values statements. Does everyone understand what they really mean or do different people, or different departments and department heads, interpret them differently. Are employees’ vision and values anywhere near alignment with those of the firm.
This is where I see a great deal of incongruity. Not only are companies unaware of the extent to which their mission, vision and values are understood across an organization, they’re even less aware of how much their employees understand these key foundational elements and how they translate from the c-level to the hourly worker.
The bottom line takes precedence over trust. Perhaps when we have more examples of high-trust organizations producing outstanding bottom-line results, we’ll have more high-trust organizations. Success breeds success — unless it breeds greed.
Do you work for a high-trust organization? What makes it so?