How does an organisation build a culture of trust?

“How does an organisation build a culture of trust?”

The answer has two strands to it.

Firstly, structurally the organisation should have the capacity to accommodate a culture of trust. And then, in the dynamic environment of everyday interactions, it should promote small but significant efforts that add to this culture.

Simple gestures

In human interactions, we notice trust is built by solicitous acts carried out on a sustained basis. It doesn’t have to be any different in the organisational context. Trust can get rock-solid during a crisis, if a sense of caring shines through the dark hour.

It takes just simple, meaningful and timely gestures to achieve this.

“In our intranet system, we have a small box that asks every employee — ‘How are you feeling today?’ There are three faces, green with the regular smiley; red with an inverted mouth-line, signifying a frown; and yellow with a mouth set in a flat line. When someone presses the red one, there is a trigger in my mailbox. It will also go to the people practice team. One of us will respond immediately to this person who doesn’t seem to be having a good day at work. If I don’t see any response going out from the people practice team, I will respond myself. It sends out a message to employees that as an organisation we are responding to any need they may have,” Sharon S. Rajkumar, general manager and happiness evangelist, Happiest Minds Technologies.

Timely help

Now, with COVID-19 raising concerns, there are some organisations that are proactive in ensuring their employees’ safety. These companies have already started encouraging their employees to work from home as a precautionary measure.

Cactus is now planning a drill to see if its workforce across the country can work from home. As a big scientific communication company, this may cause certain impediments to its regular course of functioning, but it seems prepared to make the effort necessary to ford any challenges that may arise.

“In marketing, for instance, 20% of our employees already work from home. In certain other functions, remote-working can affect operational efficiency and so our HR teams have asked all teams to gear up for a test run to see if all employees can shift to a remote-working arrangement if the situation warrants it. The idea is to check how ready each team is for such a working arrangement, and understand the pain points that may arise as a result of this change so that they can be addressed,” says Dina Mukherjee, director marketing, Cactus.

When it is pointed out to her that this measure may essentially be about maintaining operations even in the event of a huge outbreak, Dina says that Cactus’ remote-working systems have already been fine-tuned through an approach that embraces transparency and trust.

“I had worked with co-located teams before joining this organisation, where I now have 16 people reporting to me and this includes colleagues from global teams where the contact is over mail or Skype. It was a challenge. I speak once a week with each team member; and once a month, we meet as a team. I set out my expectations and then I had to trust them to meet those expectations. My team built that trust for me.”

A point of vulnerability

Building a culture of trust through caring may mean that organisations are willing to start from a point of vulnerability.

“In our organisation, we have something called the happiness framework, which consists of 7 Cs, and credibility is one of them. When there is no conflict between the ‘say’ and the ‘do’, there is credibility. Organisations have to constantly check if their ‘say-do’ ratio is right,” says Sharon.

Make it natural

Organisations have to build trust in a manner that does not make the exercise obvious. It should be as natural as breathing, and can’t be obtrusive.

“We have many informal ways to build trust, which is important; otherwise it will look like an organisational agenda,” says Ritu Agast, head of HR, Pearson.

According to Ritu, weaving trust into the fabric of an organisation would mean looking at mundane aspects that constitute its regular day.

“In our organisation, there is a conscious effort to encourage discussions in the open, so that all members of a team feel included and valued. The meeting rooms are mainly used only when a conversation has to be kept private; or when a team needs the quiet space to brainstorm for ideas,” says Ritu.

She adds that announcements involving larger organisational policy matters, should be delivered to small groups by vertical heads so that there is scope for answering the many questions they may have.

Document wisely

“Documenting a discussion can create distrust. Unless there are action points to be derived from a conversation, do not document it,” says Ritu.

An organisation is well on the way to building trust when it has a robust and dynamic feedback mechanism for its employees to suggest improvements to existing systems. Such features signify an openness on the part of the management.

Smita Saha, vice president – HR & Regional HR Lead, AstraZeneca says that ‘Pulse’, a bi-annual feedback process followed by the pharmaceutical company has given all employees a sense of participation in the development of the organisation.

“The feedback is followed by a focus-group discussion that seeks to identify and understand the issues and then take action to resolve them,” says Smita.

Sharon says there is a Trust Triad that builds trust among the various stakeholders within an organisation. She explains:

“It involves taking care of three Es — Experience: the employer being focussed on ensuring positive employee experience, and the employee doing the same for the employer; Empathy, on the part of both employer and employee; and Empowerment of the employee.”

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 1:29:51 AM |

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