In an age of economic uncertainty and change, corporate leaders are seeking ways to be more agile and innovative. As more and more businesses are resuming operations virtually, employees have been asked to adopt a work from home culture, which is becoming the new normal as COVID-19 shows little signs of disappearing soon.
In my previous articles, I presented some tips on how businesses can keep their customers engaged online and also shared some tools which can be used to aid the transition.
While the suggestions mainly surrounded how to maintain effective communication in a remote work scenario, they do not take into account a bigger issue, which will affect traditional businesses as they attempt this transition. This issue, the so-called elephant in the room, is the issue of trust.
Trust is often cited by relationship experts as the key to a long-lasting and successful union. But trust is also an essential ingredient in your workplace relationships, impacting employee satisfaction, retention, and even productivity.
Where a culture of trust exists among employees and supervisors, it is often easy to see autonomy, agency and initiative from employees. These key attributes are often drivers of innovation and productivity within a company. Beyond these benefits, trust forms an integral part of a healthy workplace.
A recent study asked persons to list their top three preferences for successful workplace culture. 53% said trust.
Ultimately for employees, being trusted means being valued and a valued employee is more often than not, a reliable and productive person.
I want to touch a bit on actions businesses, both small and large, can take to build and manage a culture of trust in a remote work environment. As businesses begin the transition, it's very important to note that, while your activities may enjoy a seamless transition online, individual businesses will have to take deliberate action to re-evaluate their trust culture.
The recent increase in the number of remote workers is an opportunity for organizations to listen to the needs of employees, provide flexible work schedules and support employee well-being. This will foster trust between employees and employers as well as build a culture that helps bridge any divide between different generations. - Ray Grainger, CEO, Mavenlink.
Traditionally, commonly so in the Caribbean, business operators tend to believe that if an employee is not stationed at the office, he/she is not working. One can argue that Covid-19 has discredited this notion as persons have been working from home over the past two months. The following are some tips businesses can take to re-engineer their culture as they transition to digital.
Employment is an arrangement where work is exchanged for payment but I’ve noticed that sometimes as entrepreneurs/business owners we tend to forget or ignore that “arrangements” are built on partnership.
Partnership should suggest a belief in the other party to execute.
Businesses must become willing to hire individuals, giving them both the title and responsibility/freedom to make meaningful decisions without being second-guessed.
While transitioning to digital, it can be potentially detrimental to continue with a culture where “I” have to make all the decisions.
Businesses must empower employees to exercise the power of their roles.
As employees get accustomed to the new normal, businesses have to realise that they have less visibility of, and opportunities to interact with staff members. This presents a challenge for how work is usually presented and distributed in an office environment.
To adapt to the shift, employers should design projects with clear objectives, deliverables and timelines to be assigned to employees. Having clear and focused expectations removes the tendency to micro-manage activities while giving staff members the confidence to develop their own processes and productivity flow.
The central idea being, get the job done.
In addition to setting clear expectations and deliverables, it is also equally necessary to establish and communicate the means through which we will promote accountability. Many businesses underestimate the importance of having and sharing documented policies with their employees. Doing so exposes staff to the rules so that they clearly understand the consequences if trust is broken or undermined.
Importantly too, as businesses transition to digital, it is critical that businesses take time to define data access boundaries for employees.
The responsibility for building and fostering trust is never a one-way street.
Employees must shoulder their responsibility within this culture of trust. This means developing a habit of simple integrity. In the most practical terms, this requires employees to mean what they say and be truthful in words, actions and commitments.
This consistency has a circular effect in that it engenders more trust from management and promotes the business as ethical and consistent in its dealings as well.
Tied directly to this idea of integrity (credibility) employees now more than ever, NEED to communicate. Working from home is not a reason to let your professional reputation falter. Clear, consistent communication to provide updates, clarify issues, outline difficulties can convey a willingness to be a part of the team and a commitment to maintaining a high standard of service.
In addition to this, it sends a message that the employee respects the members of the team and the supervisors who rely on their work product to make critical business decisions.
Ultimately, we can understand that trust increases profitability and helps attract and keep talent. Inadversively, a lack of trust lowers productivity and increases employee turnover. Effective management therefore must formulate and implement a strategy to develop a culture of trust.