Part III: Solutions for your biggest problem as a small business.

Just to recap:

In our first two articles we described some of the key workforce challenges you face as a small business owner and shared the following suggestions for you to consider:

  • Recognize that engagement is the extent to which employees commit both rationally and emotionally to something or someone in your organization, how hard they work and how long they stay as a result of that commitment.
  • The front-line leader is the one most capable of winning the hearts and minds of your employees, so make a commitment to see that they have the skills to make it happen.
  • Be a coach and give ongoing feedback with specific suggestions on how to do something better.
  • Clarify performance expectations and the standards by which your employees are evaluated.

Let’s Talk About Today’s Message—TRUST ME!

How many times and in how many different aspects of our life do we hear the words, “trust me.” At work, at home, in relationships, and on and on. More importantly, do we understand that if you say them, there will be consequences if you don’t deliver. Trust is the ingredient that allows people to have faith that what is being said or committed to can be relied upon.

Trust is lacking in the workplace.

Woman sitting at a conference table pointing to an item on an ipad for a coworker.

Let’s look at a few facts:

In her article A Global Survey on the Ambiguous State of Employee Trust published in the Harvard Business Review, Karyn Twaronite stated that a survey of approximately 9,800 full-time workers, ages 19 to 68, in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Japan, the UK, and the U.S. found that fewer than half of all surveyed professionals have a high amount of trust in their companies: Only 46% place “a great deal of trust” in their employers, and 15% report “very little” or “no trust at all.” (The rest, 39%, say they have “some trust,” which is not completely pessimistic but does want for enthusiasm.)

In the 2016 Global CEO Survey, PWC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth. But most have done little to increase trust, mainly because they aren’t sure where to start.

According to the Trust Edge Leadership Institute 2019 Trust Outlook, 83% of people say they would not follow a leader they do not trust.

According to the 2017 Society for Human Resources Management Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, employees indicated that trust with Senior management was high in importance but low in satisfaction.

Of course, there is a lot more research out there with similar findings, but these few statistics should drive home the point. When I am asked about how to improve employee engagement and what combination of total rewards or people systems are most effective, I point out that none of these will work if your employees don’t trust their leadership. It’s the foundation of your company house and if it is cracked it is weakened. “Companies with high trust levels outperform companies with lower trust levels by 186%!” (source: Watson Wyatt, Work USA).

So how do low trust levels impact the bottom line? Let’s take a look.

The Business Case—Building Trust in the Workplace

The real value of trust to the bottom line can be determined by comparing high-trusting relationships to low-trusting relationships. Stephen K. Hacker of Goal/QPC helps organizations build trust and uses the following table from his works The Trust Memory Jogger to illustrate that when trust is either absent or low the costs are measurable in time, money, and effort.

So, if you believe this is an issue for your company, how do you go about equipping your front-line leaders with the skills they need to build trusting relationships? Here are a few simple techniques that will help.

1. Start with Fundamental Beliefs

  • Believe in honesty & integrity and put the truth ahead of personal or organizational gains.
  • Contrary to the widely held belief, trust is not earned, it is given.
  • Trust doesn’t cause engagement, but it is a requirement for it.
  • There is a risk if you trust, but there is also a risk because if you don’t trust it fuels disengagement.
  • People work for people and they expect transparency, respect and ethical behavior.
  • If you can’t trust the people who work for you, why are they working for you?

2. “Walk the Talk” and Train Front-line Leaders

I’m going to share some personal trust building skills, but before I do, let’s start with what may be the most important skill of all, listening. How to hear what employees are saying is a key to developing trust and influencing engagement, but it requires commitment and practice.

Learn how to listen on a global level, often referred to as Level Three. Someone who believes you genuinely listened to them, begins to see you as trustworthy.

Best Practices for Listening:

•        Don’t interrupt.

•        Stay focused and take notes.

•        Don’t allow distractions from cell phones, computers or others.

•        Make proper eye contact and be mindful of other nonverbal clues such as the tone of your voice, folding your arms across your chest, and frequent glances away from the speaker. Any of these clues can cause the speaker to perceive you are not genuinely interested in listening to them.

•        Paraphrase what you heard.

3. Develop and Sustain Trusting Relationships

Now let’s look at some other skills that leaders can use to develop and sustain trusting relationships. The following table lists the skill, actionable behaviors for that skill, and some self-reflective exercises for each skill.

Wrapping it all Up

So, it takes a lot to win the hearts and minds of our teams, and we have now offered you three articles with tips backed by research that drive retention and performance improvement. Better retention and performance means less turnover and all of the costs associated with it.

By the way, don’t forget our six steps to success strategy as it provides you a simple yet comprehensive approach for you to follow. Once again, if it all feels a little overwhelming, that’s because it is. However, these things work, Trust me!If you need some extra guidance, I will go the extra mile for you.

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