Engagement and trust are key to a happy and productive workforce
Wirral transformational mind coach and therapist Alison Blackler of 2minds says employees in high-trust organisations are more productive, have more energy at work and collaborate better with their colleagues
How many times have we heard the company mantra ‘our people are our best asset’… and how many companies actually mean it?
At the heart of that concept are ‘engagement’ and ‘trust’ and how an organisation can empower and challenge its employees.
Research shows that high engagement—defined largely as having a strong connection with one’s work and colleagues, feeling like a real contributor, and enjoying ample chances to learn—consistently leads to positive outcomes for both individuals and organisations.
Those rewards include higher productivity, better-quality products, and increased profitability. So it’s clear that creating an employee-centric culture can be good for business. But how do you do that effectively?
Culture is typically designed in an ad hoc way around random perks like gourmet meals or ‘karaoke Fridays’, often in thrall to some psychological fad. And despite the evidence that you can’t buy higher job satisfaction, organisations still use golden handcuffs to retain good people.
While such efforts might boost workplace happiness in the short term, they fail to have any lasting effect on talent, retention or performance.
Building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference. Employees in high-trust organisations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.
They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.
Following years of research into the neuroscience, Paul J Jak came up with eight strategies to effectively create and manage a culture of trust. They are:
- Recognise excellence: The neuroscience shows that 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. Public recognition not only uses the power of the crowd to celebrate successes, but also inspires others to aim for excellence.
- Induce ‘challenge stress’: When a manager assigns a team a difficult but achievable job, the moderate stress of the task releases neurochemicals, including oxytocin and adrenocorticotropin, that intensify people’s focus and strengthen social connections. When team members need to work together to reach a goal, brain activity coordinates their behaviours efficiently. But this works only if challenges are attainable and have a concrete end point; vague or impossible goals cause people to give up before they even start.
- Give people discretion in how they do their work: Once employees have been trained, allow them, whenever possible, to manage people and execute projects in their own way. Being trusted to figure things out is a big motivator and autonomy promotes innovation.
- Enable job crafting: When companies trust employees to choose which projects they’ll work on, people focus their energies on what they care about most.
- Share information broadly: The importance of employees being well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics are key. Uncertainty about a company’s direction leads to chronic stress, which inhibits the release of oxytocin and undermines teamwork. Openness is the antidote.
- Intentionally build relationships: The brain network that oxytocin activates is evolutionarily old. This means that the trust and sociality that oxytocin enables are deeply embedded in our nature. Yet at work we often get the message that we should focus on completing tasks, not on making friends. The neuroscience is reported to show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.
- Facilitate whole-person growth: High-trust workplaces help people develop personally as well as professionally. If you’re not growing as a human being, your performance will suffer. High-trust companies adopt a growth mindset when developing talent. Some even find that when managers set clear goals, give employees the autonomy to reach them, and provide consistent feedback, the backward-looking annual performance review is no longer necessary.
- Show vulnerability: Leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things. This stimulates oxytocin production in others, increasing their trust and cooperation. Asking for help is a sign of a secure leader—one who engages everyone to reach goals.
The return on trust
When an organisation cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way.
It’s not about being easy on your employees or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults.
Two minds is on Facebook – and on Twitter… @AlisonBlackler