It is sometimes amazing how organisations seem to run like clockwork; how employees seem to go about in their daily routine knowing exactly what must be done without getting told. Such display of automation can sometimes become more apparent when organisations respond to crises. What prompts employees within an organisation to work well? Could it be salary? Benefits? Organisation culture? The simplest answer is; trust.
Trust drives the cooperation between departments. It is subtle yet powerful; it is what drives sales executives towards their targets knowing their employers will reward them, it drives production line to continue utilising raw materials knowing their purchasing managers will restock, it drives senior managers to delegate important tasks so that they can focus on more urgent matters. These, and so much more.
How to build trust?
As the old adage goes, “trust is earned, not given”, there are many ways trusts can be built in an organisation. Here are several practical ways:
1. Team-building activities
This is the most commonly used method to get employees together. Ensure that team building activities are focused on nurturing teamwork and creating bonds; trust is easily built when people know each other and witness how each other contribute towards the same goal. More importantly, ensure that team building activities are fun, just to ensure participation.
2. Cross departmental cooperation
Team-building activities are non-frequent events to bond employees of different departments. Once this is done, the effort should step into a higher gear; encourage cross departmental cooperation. Cooperation between departments may not be a norm in some organisations, and even if they are, interaction level may be minimal.
Get departments to talk to each other by trying to solve some of the organisation’s issues; how can finance accelerate the approval of purchases by the purchasing team, how can HR improve the efficiency of performance assessment, how can R&D target areas that require improvement in products.
For departments that are really far apart in terms of job functions, leaders should come up with innovative ways for them to increase their interaction, with good reasons, of course. Perhaps put an employee from a downstream operation into the upstream operation, or vice versa, just to enhance the level of understanding and empathy of what each other does.
3. Delegate important tasks
Trust-building has to start from small, earning it individually. There is no better way of saying “I trust you” by delegating an important task to junior managers or even employees with potential. Ensure that such tasks are important, allow the use of discretion of the employees involved, and better still, bestow the employees involved with some authority. Along the way, make sure those who do the delegation are there to provide coaching, so that the employees involved know they are part of the progression and not just operation.
4. Take one for the team
Trust-building is a two-way traffic. If by delegating important tasks means saying “I trust you”, then taking the heat away from the team is synonymous with “you can trust me”. Mistakes happen to even the best team member. Unless such mistakes are deliberate and malicious, leaders always have the option of owning up to the mistakes and take the fall. This helps in two ways; letting the team know that the leader has their backs, and to protect the team from being discredited, which could hamper their growth and confidence. This method must be used sparingly and with great discretion otherwise it could become an avenue for employees to hide from owning up to their mistakes.
5. Develop positive personal traits
Positive traits still command respect and admiration in today’s world. Therefore, this is one of the simplest ways to inspire employees and earn their trust. Employees who are punctual, respond to emails promptly, plan ahead, prioritise tasks, responsible, honest and at the same time abide by the organisation’s rules, are always trustworthy.
Trust is a very simple concept that not many organisations can achieve. Organisations who have trust deficit between employees tend to be less productive, less effective and bear higher overheads due to costs of monitoring their employees.