8 Ways to Foster Trust & Keep Employees Longer

Fostering trust up and down an organization plays a vital role in keeping employees engaged for the long haul.

Danielle Riha
September 21, 2021

The key elements of employee engagement, according to Gallup, are clarity of expectations, opportunities for development, and opinions counting at work. In other words, an engaged employee is involved in, and enthusiastic about, their work and workplace.

Everyone has different ideas and opinions about the best way to keep employees engaged, but most would agree that fostering trust up and down the organization plays a vital role. But what actually creates trust and how can it be cultivated?

Researcher Paul J. Zak spent 10+ years answering those questions, and published a framework for organizational behaviors that he believes can steer a company toward a culture of high trust and engagement.

How to Manage for Trust

1. Recognize excellence.

According to Zak, recognition has the largest effect on trust “when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.” This means management should celebrate wins in a timely and visible manner, and there should be public mechanisms in place for employees to shout each other out for a job well done.

2. Induce “challenge stress.”

Holding employees accountable to difficult but achievable goals intensifies a team’s focus and strengthens their working relationship. A regular focus on shared goals and progress toward meeting those goals (e.g. a daily team check in) can thus improve trust in a team.

3. Give people discretion in how they do their work.

There are often many ways to achieve the same result, which is why employees should be given autonomy to figure out the best way to complete their projects instead of having it dictated to them. Freedom to experiment on the job leads to innovation and cost savings, but it also lets the employee know they are trusted to do their job well.

4. Enable job crafting.

Job crafting means allowing employees to decide which teams and projects they want to work on. The result is a better product, a sense of ownership in the work, and stronger relationships among coworkers.

5. Share information broadly.

Uncertainty about a company’s direction can lead to chronic stress for employees, which undermines teamwork and decreases their feelings of trust toward one another. Regular, ongoing communication from the top down is the solution. This can come in the form of daily or weekly check-ins, as well as more comprehensive monthly meetings—all with the goal of keeping employees informed on the company’s performance and vision.

6. Intentionally build relationships.

Neuroscience experiments by Zak’s lab show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves. Team building activities, company-sponsored lunches, and after-work parties are great, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Formalized mentorships, internal committees, and educational opportunities are also great ways to promote socialization at work.

7. Facilitate whole-person growth.

When an organization invests in its employees’ personal and professional growth, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Employees want to be seen, heard, and valued, so the chance to talk with managers about work/life balance, challenges they’re facing at home, and long-term career goals shows that the company is listening...and worthy of the employee's trust and candor.

8. Show vulnerability.

Asking for help (instead of merely dictating orders) stimulates oxytocin production in others, which increases their trust and cooperation. Being honest and transparent about what you don’t know has the same effect as asking for help, and ultimately builds credibility within the company’s leadership.

The Next Step: Get Better at Communicating with Employees

These eight principles for fostering trust in your employees are not one-time activities. They’re mantras for continuous improvement, not items to be checked off on a to-do list. They’ll take time and practice to fully implement, but it all starts with effective employee communication because you can't have trust without dialogue.

Text Messaging Company Announcements

Whether you’re recognizing accomplishments, sending out updates on team goals, or sharing company-wide news, timeliness is key. When you’re dealing with time-sensitive information, you can’t always count on employees (especially blue-collar and deskless workers) to check their email or notice a flyer in the breakroom. That’s why it’s crucial to use a text-based employee messaging platform to make sure everyone gets the information quickly via a medium they use regularly.

Text Messaging Surveys for Employee Feedback

Effective employee communication is a two-way street, which means you can’t just broadcast; you need to listen, too. While a text-based employee messaging platform will allow back-and-forth communication, sometimes that’s not enough to get the transformative feedback needed to truly foster a stronger relationship.

That’s where text message surveys can help by asking pointed questions like, “What else can we do to help you grow in your career?” and “What type of projects would you like to be working on?” These types of surveys can even be automated so that HR or managers don’t have to remember to ask. Beyond that, soliciting feedback for rewards, company outings, and committees to participate in also signals that the employee’s input is valued, which promotes trust, and thus engagement.

Team Engine’s employee messaging platform and text-based survey capabilities can help you reduce turnover and increase employee engagement by fostering trust through better communication. Keep reading for more retention insights on the Team Engine blog.

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