EngagementCreating a relationship of trust in the workplace

Creating a relationship of trust in the workplace

Creating a relationship of trust between a manager and an employee can improve culture, engagement, and talent management. The question is – how can such a trustworthy culture be instilled into a business? With insights from Stephen Frost, CEO, Frost Inc, HRD Connect takes a deep dive into creating a culture of trust.

Establishing trust can introduce a positive working culture within businesses. If employees feel that they can trust their managers, they’ll feel more inclined to work to the best of their abilities.


“You can simply pay somebody to do a normal job, and that’s fine, but that’s so insufficient nowadays. Leaders now need to strive to get the most out of their workforces, to create high performing teams,” says Stephen Frost, CEO, Frost Inc.

“Making the talent economy a priority nowadays is important. Businesses need to dedicate time and resources to ensure that they’re as far ahead as possible in the war on talent.”

Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trend Study, found that employees care considerably more about their purpose and career progression. So, creating a trustworthy culture can benefit the performance of every business.

“Creating trust isn’t just about being nice and making people feel more included. It’s fundamentally about getting more value out of your people, and then giving more back,” continues Stephen.

“It’s an essential thing to have. Employees trusting you can be the difference between success and failure.”

“Trust can mean higher psychological safety, a pleasant work environment, and better mental health.”

Addressing a workforce’s level of trust remains vital. According to a survey by HBR and Energy Group, employees who felt their leaders treated them with respect were 63% more satisfied with their jobs, 55% more engaged, 58% more focused, and 110% more likely to stay working for the company.

On the flipside, there are many other consequences for businesses that suffer from lack of trust amongst their workforce.

“It’s important to look at the outcomes of not having good trust within a business. For example, there was a recent strike by the pilots of British Airways,” continues Stephen.

“Pilots are paid good money, but fundamentally, they didn’t trust management. And so, they went on strike.”

Although it may be easier for small start-ups to instil a trusting culture, every company can prioritise this by pushing transparency and vulnerability.

“It can be hard for big organizations where managers don’t know every individual,” continues Stephen.

“But people like Richard Branson have trust in their employees when they’ve never met him. It’s about being prepared to be vulnerable, talk about failure, and share things that seem counterintuitive.”

“One of the crises of systems in modern-day corporate life, is every CEO says how important diversity is. However, not everyone believes what they’re saying because they still have a huge gender pay gap”

By enforcing honest communication and transparency, it can help organisations push a culture where everyone trusts each other.

“At our company, we publish our salaries, our employees know what everyone’s paid. This creates an environment of trust where people see salary as a normal conversation.” continues Stephen.

There are many things that businesses can do to enforce a change in culture. Communication, honesty, and authenticity must always be at the centre of any strategy when looking to encourage trust.

However, once employers spend years building this level of trust with their employees, it can be difficult to maintain. If the relationship with managers and employees is positive, leaders must find ways to sustain it. Once a negative culture is cemented within a business, it becomes more difficult to renew it.

“There are many companies that have maintained a culture of fear for years – many employees stay late at night working on a presentation because they’re scared of what their boss will say the next morning,” continues Stephen.

“It’s important for people with power within a business to say that they don’t expect a negative culture.”

“I once worked with a senior employee in banking, who one day at 3:30 got up and said he was going to leave work early because he wanted to pick his son up from school,”

“By just doing that, it gave permission to others to do the same, because he led by example.”

Leaders that physically act on changes, rather than demanding change from their workforce, are the ones that succeed in this cultural shift. If workers witness their managers acting on developments in working styles, it can positively impact a relationship of trust.

“Jeremy Farrar from Welcome Trust said to his workforce that they shouldn’t send emails after seven o’clock, or over weekends, and there’s no expectation to respond. To further enforce that culture, he started doing that himself,” says Stephen.

“The actions of what leaders do is the best way to change workplace expectations.”

Technology can also play a huge part in this shift, communication and workplace tools have made everything more accessible and open for everyone in a business to view.

“Not many companies have open wages as we do. But if businesses can start things like 360 leadership, it can create transparency, openness, and the feeling that there is one conversation.”

It takes time for businesses to create a relationship of trust between a manager and employee. However, if companies can prioritise this by reinventing their culture, these changes can encourage a workforce to be themselves at work, creating an inclusive, engaging, and productive workplace.

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