How to Cultivate Trust in the Workplace

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Trust in the workplace is important. In the book "Work Rules! Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead," Google's former SVP of People, Laszlo Bock, explores how the organization developed a high level of freedom and what strategies HR leaders can implement in their own firms. As part of a series on must-read book for HR professionals, we're taking a deeper dive into Bock's core takeaways on trust and freedom in the workplace. If you're among the many HR leaders wrestling with questions of freedom and flexibility for top talent management, here's a closer look at three key strategies you should consider when developing a talent plan for your organization.

Freedom and Trust in the Workplace Is Critical to Attracting Top Talent

Bock writes that command-oriented and low-freedom management is common because it's easier and profitable. Ensuring employees understand why they're doing something is much more challenging. Yet, he concludes, "The most talented people on the planet are increasingly physically mobile, increasingly connected through technology, and—importantly—increasingly discoverable by employers."

He goes on to say, "This global cadre want to be in high-freedom companies, and talent will flow to those companies. And leaders who build the right kind of environments will be magnets for the most talented people on the planet." As a result, HR leaders need to be aware that their ability to deliver freedom in a sustainable way is critical for attracting and retaining top talent.

Implement a Strategy to Build Freedom and Trust in the Workplace

1. Increase transparency from the top

Bock suggests finding ways to increase the transparency of your top leadership. For example, could the organization's C-suite team hold meetings or invite junior staff to occasionally attend closed-door discussions? Closing the gap between your most senior and junior staff — so that everyone's on the same page — begins with transparency. As transparency becomes the norm, employees begin to trust managers in a whole new way.

2. Create feedback mechanisms

The more voice you give your employees during your day-to-day operations, the more likely they are to innovate. Creating feedback mechanisms opens the door to these meaningful interactions. For example, could your CEO host a forum and seed that forum with provocative questions? Or run a regular survey to solicit feedback?

3. Empower your team

Take responsibilities away from managers where possible and put decisions into the hands of your team. The more empowered workers are, the more likely they are to surprise you with the quality of their ownership and excellence.

Additional Considerations

For HR leaders, it's important to strike a balance between considering how to build a culture of trust and freedom and actually executing these ideas. It's always helpful to consider:

  • Where can you safely consider experimenting? For example, organizations are increasingly implementing benefits such as unlimited vacation.
  • Document your policies and communicate clearly with employees. For example, flexible work policies work best when there's a balance between freedom and accountability.
  • Engage with your workers to find out what elements of trust, transparency and freedom they want the most and how you're already performing. Often, small tweaks can move your culture forward while still being an achievable goal for a growing organization.

Cultivating trust in the workplace helps empower your team. Focus on transparency, communication and building relationships to foster deeper levels of loyalty and take your performance to the next level. If you're wondering how far to go, Bock suggests, "Give people slightly more trust, freedom and authority than you are comfortable giving them. If you're not nervous, you haven't given them enough."

Want more? Lazlo Bock spoke at ADP's 2017 Rethink Conference in Barcelona. See the video highlights here.

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