How to Build Trust in Workplace & Have Open Conversations


Last Updated: August 30, 2022
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CEOs are often considered to be the faces of organisations. However, for the average employee, that role lies with the HR. It is you that employees come to when they face any challenges. 

In many organisations, HR representatives are only seen during the induction, at some mandatory group meeting, or on other once-in-a-blue-moon occasions. While all these are important functions, they do not help your employees see you as someone accessible and there to listen to them.

If you want your employees to see you as a trustworthy figure and someone they can talk about their challenges to, it is critical that you nurture and develop your relationship with the employees.

Importance of Trust

In the workplace, trust means that your employees operate in an environment that values honesty, psychological safety, and mutual respect. They are more eager to go above and above for your organisation because they are proud of where they work. Employees feel more comfortable in their positions when there is trust in the workplace, which minimises turnover.

We did a bit of asking around and here are four tried and tested ways HR representatives use to build a trusting relationship, resulting in open and honest conversations with their employees:

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1. Developing an Open Culture

Today’s new economy is based on trust. Business models such as Airbnb, Ola, and Flipkart, are all inherently based on trust. Rachel Botsman – a leading expert and author on trust in the modern world, in her TEDTalk, “The Currency of the New Economy Is Trust,” mentions how trust is intrinsic in today’s businesses and speaks of the lessons we can learn from it.

You must take the initiative in helping to build a culture that is open, trusting, and honest. An employee is more likely to provide honest feedback if you engage with them. Obviously, this cannot be a one-time activity, but is a process that takes time to build and even more time to maintain – as Sharlyn Lauby, an HR Consultant shares in her blog ‘Building Trust Is a Process, Not an Activity’.

An open culture will be evident in the way new policies are introduced and communicated to the employees, the level of involvement of all stakeholders in managing organisational change, the promptness and honesty with which employee concerns are addressed, and so on.

2. Having Face-to-Face Conversations

In most organisations, the HR meets with the new joinees during the induction process. As inductions are a formal process, this meeting alone is not sufficient to build trust. You must take this further through informal interactions and conversations. Conversing with employees at an informal level, without any predefined agenda, is helpful in many ways – not only can you know more about the employees, the employees can get to know you too!

Have conversations at the lunch table or bond with your employees while grabbing a cup of coffee at the breakroom. Most HRs only wait around for the appraisals to have conversations with employees, but you must realise that employees may be guarded around this time fearing consequences. If you want to know what challenges your employees face and if they have any bones to pick with the organisation, you will have to have frequent conversations with them so they are comfortable enough to talk about the challenges they face with you. 

“Talk to employees about the challenges they face, but also ask them about what they think can be done to overcome it. This lets the employee feel valued and brings in a sense of ownership and helps to further engage them,” says Megha Saluja, People Manager at Mentoria. “Also, another thing you learn from this method is if your employees are just problem-creators or problem-solvers as well.”

3. Conducting Surveys

Surveys can help you gauge employee sentiments and obtain feedback on various aspects of the organisation. It is important that such surveys are anonymous to ensure that employees can be honest.

Employee Engagement Survey is used to qualitatively and quantitatively assess the overall level of engagement of the employees. Through this survey, you get to know the general trend towards the work and the organisational policies and make amends – in the employees’ favour – wherever feasible. 

Many organisations have an HR business partner attached to a business unit, who works closely with the business head. The employee engagement score is used as an input to gauge the engagement levels of the staff within the unit, which can help the HR to take the necessary steps to improve the situation. 

360-Degree Feedback Survey is an assessment that collects responses from different perspectives including self, managers, peers, subordinates, and others. The survey provides a holistic assessment of an individual, and more importantly, provides an avenue for subordinates to comment about the working relationship with their managers.

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4. Bringing in External Consultants

Several organisations prefer to have external HR consultants come in for reviews with their employees. These external consultants ensure confidentiality and also provide the employees with an opportunity to speak freely while risking very little. 

Most employees tend to mince their words and take a more diplomatic approach when it comes to talking about their organisation with the HR. However, if these sessions are conducted with external people, the bias is avoided, thus, giving the employees a chance to give their feedback truthfully. 

This is a very common occurrence, especially, when there is going to be a major change in management or hierarchy.

5. Recognising them

Don’t wait for yearly anniversaries or milestones to show your appreciation for your employees’ efforts. Recognition programmes and awards are a terrific way to show your appreciation for your staff while also encouraging them to grow. Employee of the Month or ‘Brightest Idea of the Quarter’ are two programmes that might boost your team’s morale. You get the ability to express your heartfelt gratitude and admiration. For further support, include specific details about what the person did to win the honour. Employees are kept engaged through these programmes, which celebrate their accomplishments and create a pleasant and competitive work environment, building a sense of trust and comfort among them.

6. Focusing on their Wellbeing

Give your employees opportunities to keep fit and healthy. This is a surprisingly easy and cost-effective perk to offer. When you give your employees the opportunity to healthy, it shows that the organization values its employees and believes in their potential. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. You can also start by providing mental health awareness campaigns as well as counselling to individuals who are suffering. You can discuss offering mental health benefits to your employees with your firm’s healthcare provider or an insurance company. This will help employees to keep a track on their wellbeing by building a sense of trust in them towards the orgnisation and you.

7.Encouraging Employee Engagement

Workers who are emotionally invested in their work are said to be engaged. Building closer connections with coworkers is a simple technique to help people trust their workplace. Healthy personal relationships are a critical aspect in a job where teams are becoming increasingly important. And the types of events HR can sponsor are virtually endless, so keep an open mind. 

There are numerous free or low-cost options available, many of which entail asking employees to give their own time or expertise. Taking this strategy can help individuals feel valued and appreciated for what they provide to the organisation, as long as they are approached in the appropriate way, empowering them to trust you and the team members.

Implementing these steps in your organisation would be an effective way to have a workforce that is more open, honest and willing to engage with the organisation, thus mutually benefiting all stakeholders. HR has an important role to play in enabling such an environment. What methods do you use to ensure your employees are engaged and happy? We’d love to hear from you!

Give your employees the gift of guidance: partner with Mentoria for our career counselling workshops, which provide expert guidance to your employees and their families to guide them through their career decisions.

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