This article first appeared in Forbes Technology Council.
Business leaders are so often hyper-focused on profit margins, sales targets, and budgets that one critical and essential type of currency is overlooked: trust.
A plethora of big brand scandals over the last few years have underscored why it is important to build trust for employees, customers, and shareholders — and why a loss of trust can be so damaging. Whether it is trust in safety, trust in privacy, trust in institutions, or even trust in what content to trust, these types of unfortunate incidents erode confidence and place enormous pressure on brands to weather the storm of bad publicity.
These scandals not only impacted consumer confidence, but they also damaged employee and company morale. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer report, employers are trusted over government organizations, the media, and NGOs to do what is right. In an area as complicated and multi-faceted as the technology industry, this is doubly important.
Building trust from the top to the bottom of an organization is one of the most important drivers of business value. What your employees experience and how they feel about your organization will reverberate to your customers and shareholders, creating either a virtuous or vicious cycle.
But how do you build employee trust — other than, of course, making sure they’re paid on time? Trust comes from a variety of different sources.
Do your employees trust the company mission?
Purpose-led organizations are increasingly winning the battle for talent, and it’s not just a generational shift. Sure, much has been discussed about the importance of value to millennial workers. But this is also true of Gen Xers, boomers, and even freelance workers. It is vital to stay laser-focused on your company’s mission and how the company culture will support and realize that mission.
Do your employees trust the company leadership?
Building a culture of trust is about as critical as any job your leadership has. American companies spend upwards of $14 billion annually on leadership development, but it isn’t necessarily working effectively to create a culture of trust. Vital to leadership is continuous and active listening. Open communication and dialogue lead to transparency. This also helps diagnose problems quickly and facilitates problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity. As technological and market disruptions force organizations to transform or pivot rapidly, you cannot afford to stop listening and ignore what your employees are experiencing daily. Additionally, you need to ensure that there are safe and trusted mechanisms where employees can raise their concerns without feeling like they’re going to suffer any blowback or consequences.
Do your employees trust that they belong in your organization?
Is your company actively committed to abolishing inequities in gender pay? Are issues like workplace toxicity rooted out and addressed? Is your company using contract workers to create a subculture, or are they a recognized, important, and trusted part of your organization? Are you committed to workforce diversity — and reaping the benefits of what multiple perspectives can do to help you understand different types of consumers? Are you nurturing the individual differences of your employees and making an effort not to suppress or spin shared information? Do they feel like they can bring their authentic selves to work?
Do you trust your employees?
People will trust you if you trust them. Trust is intuitive, and if it exists, it is genuine. If your employees feel like you trust them, and if they feel empowered and engaged, they’ll work harder and smarter, be more innovative and collaborative. Mutual trust breeds respect, which is a win-win for everyone involved.
Trust is a currency. Trust is at the core of how we relate to one another. In that respect, the workplace is no different than other communities that are important to us — social, familial, and educational. The brands that will attract the best talent, who then will provide the best services and products, will value trust as the core of their corporate culture. Trust within a company, especially a technology company, builds external credibility because one amplifies the other. Even further, employees are your brand’s most important ambassadors, and they are the ones who are serving your customers. So, start within, build trust with those who you choose to hire, and you will see results when it comes to the bottom line.