The past year has challenged the global workforce in many ways. Without in-person interactions to foster personal and professional relationships among coworkers, many organizations that were unaccustomed to remote work had to adapt their workforce culture to build trust. A recent Edelman study showed that only 48% of staff under the manager level trust their organization, and those employees are more likely to trust their peers rather than the CEO and other upper-level executives. I think about these types of statistics as I think about how I can be a better leader and create a positive and productive environment for the talent on my team.
As many organizations prepare to embrace a hybrid remote model once the pandemic subsides, leaders need to find a way to regain trust. At Fuze, for several years, we have embraced a “work from everywhere” policy to empower employees to work from wherever they feel the most productive. Therefore, the shift to full-time remote work last year wasn’t as drastic a shift for our business. However, our leadership team did find creative ways to connect employees, build personal relationships, and foster trust.
As teams remain remote or shift to a hybrid model in the coming months, here are three concrete ways I think leaders can build trust across their workforce.
1. Support your employees’ long and short-term goals.
Supporting the personal growth of your employees is a critical way to ensure the longevity of your team and foster trust. I’ve always believed in the importance of being an empathetic leader, both personally and professionally. As a leader, be sure to facilitate career development discussions with your employees on a regular basis. To me it is important to understand an employee’s professional goals, help them identify gaps in experience or capabilities, and then give them opportunities to fill those gaps with experience on specific projects or training. Each individual on my team has a quarterly goal associated with this type of individual growth. This approach helps employees develop a clear path for learning and growth, ensuring that your employees are progressing toward their short and long-term goals. More likely than not, an empathetic and understanding approach to leadership will help prevent turnover and your employees will believe you have their best interest in mind.
It’s also important to have an "open door" policy. I’ve always embraced this philosophy to signal to my teammates that I’m committed to their careers and wellbeing. While working remotely, leaders can continue this “open door” policy by making themselves available for quick virtual catch-ups or by setting a time each week where employees can reach out to chat informally.
2. Boost morale by uplifting your employees.
Especially during these challenging times, it’s important to find moments to uplift and encourage your employees. For the past 20 years, I have managed teams remotely, and have focused on being a catalyst for change by finding ways to lift people up. Sometimes that means giving coworkers an extra boost of confidence or simply letting them know that their work is appreciated and noticed. Other times it means being a good listener to understand their challenges, especially with all the changes, disruptions to work, and personal lives that can be a distraction. Finding the balance of managing the business, listening and making some accommodations to find a path to productivity will likely give them the boost they need. I think this should be a common practice that all leaders embrace. Showing gratitude, showing support, and empowering your team through positivity will help create a more trusting and engaging work culture.
3. Remain transparent.
Whether it’s the reopening of the economy or the exact timeline of the pandemic, there remain many unknowns that are top of mind for employees. Many business leaders are now faced with the decision to keep teams remote or transition back to the office in a hybrid model. To maintain trust, it’s imperative to be transparent with your team throughout the decision-making process.
When leaders are honest, vulnerable, and admit their mistakes, teammates better understand each other, creating stronger connections and building a stronger sense of trust across the team. It might be easier said than done, but maintaining transparency and building trust is what keeps your team motivated and moving forward.
As the global economy reopens and business leaders consider what the next phase of workforce collaboration will look like, successful leaders must continue to have empathy, build trust and find creative ways to replicate workplace proximity when proximity isn't there.