Trust has always been a positive force in the workplace, but today it’s a game changer. In a hybrid working model, trust plays a part in almost every decision managers and employees make. In fact, the Capgemini Research Institute’s recent report, The Future of Work, reveals a trusted work culture to be one of the four core building blocks for the new hybrid working paradigm. The power of trust is striking: according to research from the Harvard Business Review, people at high-trust companies report:
- 106% more energy at work
- 50% higher productivity
- 40% less burnout and
- 13% fewer sick days
Yet according to our Future of Work report, 38% of managers are skeptical of remote workers, and nearly half of all employees (48%) feel micromanaged. So how do leaders foster a culture of trust at work, and what strategies most effectively address the challenges of leading a hybrid workforce? Read on to learn the key elements of workplace trust, plus concrete steps for enhancing trust with your employees.
Forging the key elements of trust
To further explore the building blocks of a trust-based work culture, we analyzed close to 500,000 employee comments from across the group. Cross-referencing our results with external research, we came to the conclusion that trust-based relationships between managers and employees rest on three pillars:
Empowerment: giving employees the opportunity to step up and be responsible for their own tasks, to make their own decisions within a well-defined scope, and to decide flexibly and autonomously how and when they work, with the support of their management. As Anne Lebel, Chief Human Resources Officer at Capgemini states in Conversations for Tomorrow, “In a virtual environment, trust is developed by empowering team members to take ownership of their ideas and their work and enabling flexibility.”
Empathy: the ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes and understand how they feel, while recognizing that people interpret and handle situations differently. Key to empathy is listening and caring while intentionally building relationships that allow concerns and mistakes to be shared openly.
Authenticity: creating confidence with other people that they are interacting with the real you. This pillar also includes honesty and transparency, which means sharing important information, communicating clear expectations and goals, and providing honest, constructive feedback.
Trust is a two-way street. Leaders who learn how to effectively leverage empowerment, empathy and authenticity enjoy higher levels of trust from their employees and greater productivity. When managers learn how to instill employees with autonomy, the results are striking: employees feel better, work better, and feel the confidence to suggest creative and innovative solutions. There are many paths forward, but our analyses – looking at our own workplace and at working trends more broadly – reveal four key spheres of actions for managers to build high-trust cultures:
- Supporting & Caring
As flexible working blurs boundaries between professional and personal life, employees are more likely to view their managers as part of their support systems. To show support, first and foremost: take a step back and tap into the genuine feelings of care you have for your employees. Take time to listen and support them and be especially mindful about employees’ wellbeing. Encourage employees to take breaks from work to recharge – employees who take breaks every 90 minutes report a 30% higher level of focus at work. Pay close attention to signs of burnout (for example, irritability, sudden changes in behavior), which are harder to notice among remote workers.
- Relationship building
Without the spontaneous encounters of the physical workplace, many employees start to feel disconnected and isolated from the community, and thus feel less innate trust for each other. Trust is built by getting to know each other, through pleasant interactions and cooperation. For managers, that relationship building now requires additional mindfulness. Take time to interact socially with employees – discuss topics other than work – and ensure that employees take time to interact with each other. Team rituals are more important than ever, so schedule quick but regular group activities and find creative ways to celebrate successes and milestones as a team. Above all, make sure that routines are equally accessible to everyone, whether working at the office or from home.
- Fairness & Inclusion
When some employees spend more time in the office than others, that gives rise to possible unfairness, for example, due to proximity bias – a tendency to believe that the people we see working are working more, coupled with an instinctive preference towards those people. It is thus crucial for managers to ensure that all employees are presented with equal resources, attention and opportunities, whether they work at home or in the office, standard or irregular hours. Managers should also make efforts to regularly reflect on their own behavior to check for unconscious biases, and to connect with employees who they don’t see as frequently in person.
- Transparency & Communication
Since not all employees work at the same time or in the same place, it is important to ensure that everyone has equal access to all information – a task best achieved by communicating often and via various channels. Flexible working changes the way people collaborate, so expectations need to be clearly set and communicated. For employees to work autonomously they must understand the scope of their work, including which decisions they can make on their own, and which to confer with a manager. Finally, it is key to ensure employees’ understanding of the big picture to create a sense of individual and group purpose.
From theory to practice
At Capgemini, trust is not only a key enabler of success in the new working paradigm; it is one of our seven core values. We embed it in the learning journeys we propose for employees and managers. We are successfully implementing changes throughout our workforce, from enhanced learning paths to new leadership model, helping our employees stay connected and productive in a hybrid working model. To learn more about how Capgemini can help your employees thrive in a high-trust environment, you can contact the authors.
VP, Head of Workforce & Organization for France, Capgemini Invent
Managing Consultant, Workforce & Organization, Capgemini Invent
Consultant, Workforce & Organization, Capgemini Invent