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5 Tips to Instill Trust and Foster Engagement

If you think that trust and engagement are “nice to haves” not “need to haves” in today’s competitive marketplace, I have a reading recommendation. It’s an article from Fast Company that was recently published, entitled “4 Strategies of America’s Best Places to Work.”  The article explains that after surveying 257 companies, the truly great companies were found to have employees who reported higher levels of trust and engagement. The ramifications of these results are two-fold. First, higher levels of trust and engagement make for happier employees. Second, these employees are also 87% less likely to leave for another job as compared to their peers.

Therefore, increasing trust and engagement are keys to reducing turnover costs and creating a culture of employee loyalty. EASY! Right?

Well, not so much. Obviously, creating a workplace culture that instills trust and fosters engagement is no simple feat. Initially, you might think that addressing such nebulous terms as trust and engagement are issues that only Fortune 100 companies have the resources to undertake.  Think again. While I’ll admit that instilling trust and fostering engagement is not as easy as falling off a log, it’s also not impossible.

Below is a short list of cost-effective ways for an executive management team to positively impact both trust and engagement.

1. Trust Booster: Be fair.

Think specifically about a manager who plays favorites. What kind of message does this manager send to her team? Workplaces that lack fairness undermine employees’ feelings of value and worth. Educating leadership about the importance in demonstrating fairness in their communications and in each individual interaction with their employees can benefit everyone.

2. Trust Booster: Have integrity.

Integrity means being honorable, telling the truth, and keeping promises. If leaders are known to cheat on their expense reports, tell “white lies” to protect others, and conveniently forget to uphold promises, the workplace will breed distrust and discontentment. Top managers need to honestly assess the group’s ability to walk the walk.

3. Trust Booster: Be authentic.

An authentic leader uniquely connects with individuals by sharing various interests and ideas with different individuals. Authentic leadership is difficult to teach because it is comprised of multiple traits, including self-awareness, confidence, openness, optimism, resilience, and honesty. Ultimately, authentic leaders care more about the welfare of others than their personal welfare.  To check the authenticity of a top management team, ask the following questions: Do top managers have friendly relationships with employees at every level of the organization? Do all employees benefit economically when the business has a stellar year? Can top managers admit when they are wrong?

4. Engagement Booster: Explain expectations.

Gallup research shows that “If you’re engaged, you know what’s expected of you at work, you feel connected to people you work with, and you want to be there.” In fact, Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing, claims that engagement is different than mere satisfaction because, “you feel a part of something significant, so you’re more likely to want to be part of a solution, to be part of a bigger tribe. All that has positive performance consequences for teams and organizations.”

The quote above touches on a number of workplace issues, but the first – ‘knowing what’s expected of you at work’ – cannot be overlooked. Employees crave clarity about job duties and require regular feedback to establish if they are on track. Top managers need to ensure that employees understand what is expected of them.

5. Engagement Booster: Connect employees’ talents with their “to-do” lists.

When you perform a task that you are especially good at, time goes by quickly and the results of your work are better than when you have a task that is not well-matched to your abilities. Think about doing homework in your favorite class versus your least favorite class.  The homework in your least favorite class always seemed to take an eternity and contain more errors, right?

Connecting employees’ talents with their to-do lists allows employees to experience more success at work. Uncovering each employee’s talents can be accomplished by encouraging every employee to take the StrengthsFinder assessment. The results will point employees in the right direction – in the direction of their strengths – and ultimately increase engagement and productivity.

For a link to the assessment to go: www.gallupstrengthscenter.com.

Are you ready for your organization to start behaving like one of those listed as a best place to work? Focus your organization’s 2014 efforts on increasing trust and engagement. Next year maybe your organization will join this list.

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