How To Build and Measure Trust in the Workplace

In his Let’s Connect Event with Livetiles, bestselling author Simon Sinek dared listeners to add another layer when tackling trust in the workplace.  “We tend to measure the things that are easy to measure: numbers, revenues, profits, just because it’s easy. But we can do better. We need to measure things like trust and culture and leadership,“ he said. 

This is a tall order, as according to the new Edelman Trust Barometer—a survey of 33,000 people in 28 countries—one in three people don’t trust their employer.

The pandemic has made trust-building more challenging. There are still a number of employees who find virtual calls and chat groups a hurdle, thus keeping organizations on their toes on how to best mimic the warmth and connection members feel in meeting rooms pre-pandemic. 

“It requires much more work to create those human connections virtually. The famous violinist, Isaac Stern, said ‘Music is what happens between the notes’. Well at work, trust is what’s built between the meetings,” according to Sinek. 

With in-person meetings happening few and far between, business leaders are faced with the unique challenge of building and nurturing trust in their digital workplaces. On top of this, measuring trust adds another layer of difficulty. 

Fortunately, a number of experts have shared some insights on how to tackle these two. After all, just as numbers are evaluated at work, it’s already been proven that what is measured can be managed. 

What Experts Say 

Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor at Claremont Graduate University, conducted experiments for a decade to track the brain activity of people while they are at work. In the process, he found that the moment a person trusts another, a person’s brain tends to have higher oxytocin levels, the hormone related to a person’s social skills. 

With this insight, Zak recommended organizations to start with the basics of good leadership in building trust in their workplace. In a Harvard Business Review article, Zak said recognizing hard work, especially in a public setting, not only inspires the receiver of praise, but also those surrounding him. It motivates the one being recognized to do better, and in turn, allows others to see what constitutes excellent work. 

Such practice is especially helpful during the pandemic. Even before, a “good job” remark from a superior had already done wonders in making someone’s day in the office. Imagine how it can boost someone’s day when they are working alone at home. Digital workplace solutions that allow these activities to happen give employees a boost in morale—making them feel that no matter where they may be, their hard work is seen. 

The rewards of nurturing such activity can be seen when employees start working together. In another Harvard Business Review article, academic Teresa Amabile revealed employees report to be “happier” when they work on a project. So when employees now start working with others who have done great work in the past, it allows them to build bridges and trust the strengths of another. Amabile also found that employees tend to report having a more fulfilling work day when accomplishing a purposeful goal. 

Complement that amiable work environment with good management skills, and an organization can now expect results to be delivered by the employees. Olivier Serrat, former head of knowledge management at the Asian Development Bank, said that accomplishments will be the best determinator of one’s credibility. 

Allowing employees to succeed in their goals by providing them easy access to the components that let them thrive—from trustworthy colleagues to helpful tools—gives them a chance to trust the organization too. Their accomplishments at work will now be one of the best gauges to measure if an organization has a high level of trust. 

This shows that empowering workers and treating them like capable employees allows them to grow in a high-trust organization. 



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