Want to increase trust? Look at your 'People Deal' (HR Grapevine)

Want to increase trust? Look at your 'People Deal' (HR Grapevine)
Published: 17 January 2020

Last year, communications consultants Edelman revealed that levels of trust increased where individuals felt in control of a relationship, with 75% of people globally trusting their own employer.

The public is increasingly well-informed and is vocal about what they will accept from businesses. A lack of trust in a company can lead to employees choosing to leave and consumers choosing not to purchase from them. Trust is so important that 81% of millennials stated that they expected companies to stand for something and to represent the issues which matter most to them. With unemployment at 3.8% and with almost 50% of people expected to change employers in the next 12 months, it’s imperative that you get your ‘People Deal’ right as part of your growth strategy.

Employee engagement surveys and exit interviews do not always reveal candid thoughts about the company, its leadership, culture and working practices, for fear of reprisal. The business can often be left confused by positive engagement scores whilst experiencing high levels of attrition. If the inability to voice truthful opinions stems from a lack of trust between employers and their employees, what should businesses be doing to improve?

Your ‘People Deal’

Your ‘People Deal’ should outline what you expect from your employees and, importantly, what they can expect from you. Trust is reciprocal, yet with the increasing focus on accountability, ethics and responsible business, the lens is firmly directed at your leaders.

Respond to challenges
According to the Edelman survey, 77% of employees believe it is important for the CEO to respond to challenges and take the lead on issues of importance, regardless of government policy. Mechanisms where your CEO can learn about what employees value are essential for the company to champion societal needs whilst remaining true to its brand purpose.

I spoke with a Managing Director at Lloyds Bank who worked for them during the financial crisis and subsequent government bail-out. He spoke about morale in the company plummeting, large-scale redundancies and staff having to go through continual restructures, which became tiring. In a time of great uncertainty, he explained that he learned that being honest with staff was essential. Although many employees were scared, they did appreciate the candour.

Be Inclusive
Trust is a significant factor for engaging women and the Edelman survey highlighted that women are less trusting than men. With potential reasons including the lack of female representation in board-level roles, a more widely-reported wage gap, and the focus on discrimination and harassment stemming from the “#MeToo” movement; your ‘People Deal’ needs to focus on how it is meeting the demands of female workers.

In the Forbes article “5 of the best UK companies for women to work for”, Sky was awarded the number one position due to its Women in Leadership programme. Dedicated to achieving 50% gender balance in leadership roles by 2020, it demonstrates that if you’re not actively including people, you’re probably excluding them.

To put that into context, Glassdoor published “13 incredible companies for working women”. With a potential five stars to be awarded, most scored around three and a half out of five. To look at that as a percentage, it potentially means 37% of women at those companies don’t think their organisation is that incredible. That’s a significant number of employees feeling that they’re not getting a great deal.

When considering your ‘People Deal’ for women (and any other under-represented group), it is worth committing to initiatives where outcomes can be measured and improved on. P&G has done this well with the ‘We See Equal’ campaign supporting the fight against gender bias. The company can put its money where its mouth is as 45% of managers and one-third of its board are female.

Fairness
This is a factor which builds trust, yet it can easily be broken by the pressure managers face to personalise each employee’s experience. This can include how flexible working is managed, how promotions are awarded, how rewards are issued and discretionary treatment towards ‘preferred’ employees. Often, unfairness leads to low morale and declining productivity, and contributes to employee turnover. The ‘People Deal’ therefore becomes a psychological contract and this is essential for employees to feel they are valued and safe and able to raise their concerns.

An example of an organisation doing this well is Diabetes UK. I recently spoke with their People & OD Director, Adrian Blair, about how a clearly-communicated sense of purpose and redefining their ‘People Deal’ has been essential to grow the charity and support it in achieving its aim of ensuring diabetes can do no harm. Its outcomes range from empowering and upskilling managers, resulting in employees contributing twice as much effort and commitment, and an outcome-orientated performance approach that has attracted a more diverse range of applicants.

Mercer’s employment trends survey (2019) shows that responsibility for societal issues and low and declining engagement are major areas of concern for business leaders. Indirectly this could mean that employees will choose not to work for organisations which they perceive to be mistrustful, bad for society or with poor reputations. Being transparent in what your company stands for, what your culture is really like, and ensuring development opportunities are available for people from all backgrounds will increase trust and ensure you attract the very best talent for your business.

Kathryn Gallan recruits leadership positions at Berwick Partners. As part of Berwick Partners’ “best team” approach, she utilises her knowledge of the digital and retail sectors to advise clients on the best talent in the market.

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