6 Common Mistakes Leaders Make About Trust at Work

TED KITTERMAN

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Trust at work is crucial for business operations. So, why do so many organizations get it so wrong?

The concept of trust — particularly in the workplace — is deceptively simple.

What is trust at work? It’s a measure of relationships, how one group (employees) feels valued and understood by another (management). The presence of trust indicates a healthy workplace culture, as well as a host of benefits to the organization, from resilience and innovation to stock market success.

Yet, it’s something that even the most well-meaning leaders can get wrong.

Great Place To Work® has been measuring high-trust work culture for 30 years and has defined the elements of trust for employees (credibility, respect, and fairness). Data has shown how diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging must be embraced to build trust across an organization.

Over the years, our experts have learned a thing or two about the more misguided notions business leaders have about trust. Here are some of the most common mistakes.

1. Building trust is HR’s job.

Even the most hands-on leaders often fail to understand how central a role they play in building trust with employees. A CEO will make a speech about the importance of culture to the organization — and then pass the baton to the HR team.

Julian Lute, senior strategic advisor with Great Place To Work, explains that leaders often fail to ask questions about how they influence company culture:

How are we making decisions about the business?

How are we communicating our decisions?

How are we listening to feedback and incorporating it into future activities?

“It’s almost like culture lives on this island,” Lute says, when in fact culture has everything to do with the actions of leaders. “It’s really about how people experience their leadership.”

2. Trust can be built quickly.

After a company surveys employees, it often expects to put things right immediately. However, trust is something that can only be built over time, through a continual process of delivering on promises again and again.

Lute says leaders are often frustrated when results don’t change by the next fiscal quarter or before the next pulse survey. His more realistic timetable for seeing meaningful movement is 18 to 24 months.

But that doesn’t mean you should wait to start building trust.

“Your opportunity to build trust always starts now,” says Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place To Work. And while it is more difficult to build trust in a crisis, you always have the opportunity to start building for the future.

“The decisions people make today are critical to the workplace they will have in a few years,” she says.

3. Money can buy trust.

Many leaders mistakenly think they can buy trust with expensive perks and benefit programs.

Lewis-Kulin explains that employees often separate the parts of their work experience that feel transactional. If an employee is dissatisfied with their work culture, their colleagues, or their leadership team, a superb childcare benefit won’t tip the scales.

Employee programs and benefits are important, Lewis-Kulin says, but they won’t make up for a lack of trust. They’re tools that leaders can implement, but they must coincide with complementary company values.

“When you launch the new parental leave program, you must actually allow people to use it and still promote people when they decide to become parents,” Lewis-Kulin offers as an example. “It’s that kind of consistency that makes employees feel like they can genuinely trust leaders.”

4. Employee trust is the same as engagement or happiness.

When looking at data from the Best Places to Work For® lists that Great Place To Work produces each year, it’s tempting to interpret it simply as a measure of employee engagement, or even individual happiness. That’s a mistake.

Lewis-Kulin argues engagement or job satisfaction alone are poor indicators of the overall employee experience. They might be part of the picture, but all workers go through phases of engagement and disengagement, to say nothing of emotional peaks and valleys.

What Great Place To Work measures is trust — and it’s trust that has a transformational business impact on retention, recruitment, and stock prices.

5. Employees don’t have to trust you to get their job done.

Does it really matter how employees feel?

“People will say: ‘Do we pay them? Do they show up to work? Do they have a job?’ That’s the thing that should motivate employees to do what we need to do for our customers,” Lute says.

But employee trust shows up in their work. Employees who feel empowered by their organization are more likely to innovate and go above and beyond for their organization. Great Place To Work research found that the biggest difference between typical ASEAN workplaces and the Best Workplaces in the region is the willingness to give extra at work. At the 2023 Best Workplaces in Asia, 90% of employees say people give extra effort to and stay at their company—compared to just 58% at the typical workplace. What inspires them? Employees consistently report a higher level of care from management and from their co-workers.

Employees also notice when care and concern shown for customers is never extended to them. It’s not uncommon to hear employees say, “We will do anything for our customers — but when we as employees need any sort of support, it’s a fight,” Lute says.

The best companies know that employees deserve the same level of care and consideration. “It’s that same intimacy you would have with your customers,” Lute says.

6. It’s no big deal if some employee groups don’t trust you.

Without numbers, it’s easy to miss how some groups of employees feel left out at work. Frontline employees often have a worse experience than in-office workers and senior management — and the experience of culture can be deeply divided across an organization.

“If you’re out on the field, you don’t get to go to the birthday party,” says Lute. If your work culture only exists in office activities — workers who don’t participate find it harder to think of themselves as part of the whole.

That’s a problem because often frontline workers are also your brand ambassadors in the community. Employees performing services in the community are the most tangible expression of your brand for most customers.

“If that person’s late, if that person doesn’t finish the job, if that person is rude, if that person has lots of other stuff on their mind, blocks your driveway, hits your car — that person is your representative in that moment,” Lute says.

For companies that wonder how employee trust is affecting customers, Lute recommends going back into your customer experience data.

In his experience, where trust is lacking, so is the experience for customers.

Get more insights

Be part of a community that builds great workplaces. Join us for an afternoon of celebration, recognition, and inspiration at the 2023 Best Workplaces in Singapore Awards Ceremony. This year, our theme is “It’s a Matter of Trust”, reflecting the crucial role that trust plays in creating exceptional workplaces in the country.

TED KITTERMAN

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Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category