HR Information

New study highlights importance of trust in the workplace

A deficit of trust among workforces could harm the UK's economic recovery, according to a new report.

The study, Are organisations losing the trust of their workers?, highlights the importance of trust in motivating employees. The CIPD report found that employees who do not trust their senior managers are less likely to be productive and engaged.

Only around a third of employees (37 per cent) trust senior management, according to the results of the survey.

The report explores the factors behind weak employee trust, the consequences of a decline in trust and the ways in which it may be restored.

It finds that trust among employees may have been damaged by the recession and its aftermath. Recent improvements in levels of trust may be a consequence of the economic recovery.

Leadership, culture and behaviour are all major factors in establishing and maintaining trust. It is stronger when management is seen to treat people fairly and when leaders act in accordance with corporate values. Trust is reciprocal: when leaders show trust in their employees, employees tend to trust managers.

In low trust environments, employees are less likely to take risks and share knowledge, which can have the effect of stifling innovation. Additionally, if people feel unable to hold the behaviour of leaders to account, it may have a detrimental effect on an organisation's performance and reputation.

The study identifies ways of improving trust when it has been lost or damaged. These include improving communication and giving employees a stronger voice. Systems and behaviour should be seen to reinforce corporate values.

Mark Beatson, chief economist at the CIPD, said: "Trust is an economic issue. If employees do not trust their leaders, this damages business performance. Employees spend more time covering their backs and trying to second guess what management are up to. They are much less likely to be engaged in their work; indeed, they are more likely to be looking for another job and are unlikely to recommend their employer to anyone else."

A short-term improvement in trust levels may be occurring due to economic recovery but this needs to be consolidated using the means identified above.