Cultivating Employee Trust

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Cultivating Employee Trust in the 2020 Workplace

Trust plays a role not just in employee recruitment and retention, but in everything from the benefits employers offer to their cultural norms. As leaders welcome Gen Z  into the workplace, they’re learning that this generation insists on transparency and trust in a way that prior ones simply did not.

Frankly, today’s employees have high expectations. Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer found that 73% expect to have the opportunity to help shape the future of society. The same percentage say they expect to be included in company planning. 

Evident among younger employees, in particular, are four trust-related trends:

1. Flexible work is becoming a table-stakes benefit. 

The giant leap that technology has made over the last decade means most employees are now able to work from home. Many now see that as a right rather than a privilege earned with trust.

According to FlexJobs, which leases coworking space to companies, 80% of the 7,300 surveyed workers said they’d be more loyal to their employer if it gave them flexible work options. More than half (52%) have attempted to negotiate such arrangements themselves.

It’s understandable that many employers are hesitant to give workers total freedom to work when and where they want. But technology — the very thing that has made this trend possible in the first place — can also be used to create accountability. Communication platforms like Slack show when workers are online, and time-tracking tools can ensure they spend their time in ways that are actually valuable to the company. 

2. Employers and employees are monitoring each other’s online activity.

It’s been true for some time that employees and employers research the other online before a hire is made. But now, they’re scouting each other’s social media accounts on a near-daily basis.

The question in many HR circles is no longer whether to hire someone because of past social media posts, but whether new ones might be worth firing someone over. And it’s no longer just illegal activity that raises eyebrows: Employees and employers are on the lookout for bigotry, culturally insensitive comments, and even relationships with questionable individuals. 

Make clear to employees that your company is watching, but do so in a positive, uplifting way. From brand accounts, interact with employees’ social profiles. Go ahead and share that post from a worker who just ran a 5K. If they ask for contractor recommendations for an upcoming roof repair, why not comment with a referral to someone who re-shingled the office?

3. Diversity is gaining attention as a professional-development advantage.

The broader the range of backgrounds a company has, the more its members can learn from one another. As people learn from each other, they build trust — gaining insights into their work and seeing the world from another’s perspective can strengthen ties. Tracey Grace, CEO of IBEX IT Business Experts, credits the company’s diverse workforce with “keeping the company fresh and me growing.”

SurveyMonkey data suggests that Gen Z employees understand this as well. Almost three times as many members of diverse companies told the pollster they plan to stay with their current employer for five years or more.

Reiterate that mentorship programs are open to everyone, and try to pair diverse mentors and mentees. Encourage women and members of racial minorities, in particular, to pursue growth in technical fields, where they’re often underrepresented. 

4. Workers aren’t waiting around for things to get better.

Employment tenures have been trending downward for years. Just 10% of Baby Boomers have left a job for mental health reasons. But according to a survey of 1,500 young people from Mind Share Partners, three-quarters of Gen Zers asked have done so.

Every role at every company will experience stress at some point. But while older generations could be trusted to tough it out at least for a few months, many younger workers react by immediately sharpening their resume.

Make company challenges an open conversation. Encourage workers to speak up if they are struggling. Be generous with support, whether through a part-time helper or additional development opportunities, when asked for it. 

Everywhere you look, distrust has redefined the ways employees and employers interact with one another. But many of the changes it’s produced are clearly not: Flexible work environments encourage people to work when and where they feel most comfortable. Growth opportunities can and should be given to everyone so they can both earn trust with others and extend trust in return. If distrust is what it takes to get to happier workplaces, then so be it.