HR’s newest mission: Building a culture of trust

Employee Benefit News | April 3, 2019


In an environment of workplace uncertainty and change, building or even just maintaining trust can be a herculean task for employers.

Indeed, 58% of people say they trust strangers more than their own bosses, according to a Harvard Business Review survey. Trust is a critical component to creating a happy and effective workplace, Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” said Tuesday at CNBC’s @Work Talent and HR event in New York City.

So how can HR professionals build employee trust? It begins with getting them to believe they have their employees’ best interests at heart.

“I don’t think we’d ever be satisfied until everyone felt that way,” said Jayne Parker, senior executive vice president and CHRO at the Walt Disney Company. “We do a lot of research to look at this because we know how important trust is.”

About 30% of workers aren’t happy with their jobs, according to a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey survey. Factors contributing to an employee’s sense of work satisfaction are pay, opportunity, autonomy, recognition and meaning, Jon Cohen, SurveyMonkey’s chief research officer, said during another session at the event.

“Workers want to trust their managers and believe they want them to succeed,” Cohen said. “Of the employees who don’t trust their boss, two-thirds said they’d consider quitting.”

With a company the size of Disney, developing teams and building trust within those individual units can translate to overall company trust. Disney has worked hard, Parker said, to make sure employees can say, “I trust the person I work for. I trust they’ll treat me with sincerity.”

Indeed, 65% of employees who don’t trust their direct supervisors to provide them opportunities to advance their careers have considered quitting their jobs in the last three months, according to the survey, which was discussed at the event. Conversely, just 17% of people who trust their supervisors “a lot” to advance their career have considered quitting.

SurveyMonkey asked 9,000 U.S. workers whether they were satisfied with their jobs; 85% of respondents said they were “somewhat satisfied” with their work. However, these results shouldn’t give employers comfort, says Cohen. Those employees still have plenty of reasons to look for new jobs — uncertainty being one of them.

“The happiness people report at work is real, but the anxiety is real too,” Cohen says.

Disney recently closed its $71.3 billion deal to acquire large swaths of Fox’s entertainment segment. As such, there is insecurity within the offices of both entertainment giants, Parker explained.

As the closing date approached, reports started circulating that employees of both companies were expecting layoffs. In a situation like this distrust starts to emerge and people begin to ask “backstabbing questions,” Parker said. Employees want to know who will have their back. It’s up to the employer to be as transparent as possible and be honest that there will be changes made.

The employee may not happily skip off after this conversation, but they can have a better understanding of what is going on, easing the tension of the situation.

“We spent the past year focusing on sincerity and authenticity,” Parker said of the merger. “We have to be honest that there is going to be change in the company.”

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