10 ways internal communicators can build up staff trust

Confidence in upper-tier executives that pervades an organization will breed engagement and boost productivity. These insights will help set your workforce on the path to success.

Higher levels of trust lead to higher individual, team and company performance.

That means more people working together, better problem solving, a more positive work climate and higher employee engagement.

So, how can internal communicators work to build employee trust inside their organizations?

As a follow-up to the report we launched last year, a group of global business leaders, senior in-house communicators and independent experts were asked about trust and the actions they felt were key to building and sustaining trust in their leadership team.

From all of this insight, here are our top 10 tips for internal communication professionals to build trust in your leadership team and business:

1. Benchmark trust and measure progress.

Become a champion for establishing a formal system of trust measurement in your organization. An annual survey that measures and benchmarks trust is one method, but there’s no universal way of doing this, so dedicate ample time to get it right.

2. Be consistent.

If predictability is one of the four pillars of trust, then consistency is the key to ensuring it. We trust what we know and expect. Internal communicators should challenge and counsel business leaders to communicate consistently. For example, always being open and honest (not just when it suits you).

3. Encourage feedback—and listen to it.

Leaders need feedback loops to know whether there are real (or perceived) problems in their business. Developing ways for employees’ voices to be heard and creating open dialogue with employees ensures there is effective communication between the leaders and all other employees.

If employees see that their views are being listened to—and acted upon—they are far more likely to accept the direction in which the company is traveling, so it’s a win/win.

4. Keep colleagues informed.

Without regular and consistent information, employees will lose focus-and trust. Whether you are communicating a strategy, launching a product internally or driving behavioral change, leaders must communicate their intentions clearly and consistently.

Stating something just once will not keep employees informed and engaged.

5. Communicate face to face.

In a world where widespread communication happens at the touch of a button, research proves again and again that employees dislike the overuse of electronic communication and that face-to-face exchanges are more engaging, authentic and trustworthy.

Face-to-face communication is one of the most important initiatives any organization can undertake to build trust. Focus on creating continuous opportunities for your business leaders to be seen, both formally (e.g., roadshows and other live events) and informally (e.g., walking the floors).

6. Dare to be different.

As Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

If internal communicators can earn the trust of senior leaders to challenge them on their communication approach, styles and preferences and encourage them to think differently, the results can be game-changing.

7. Love your line managers.

Because trust is transitive, line managers are often described as the miracle in the middle, the glue that binds the leadership team to everyone else. Communicate with them in a genuine, personalized way. Get them together, and collaborate with them. They are a vital component to building wider organizational trust.

8. Apply context.

Every organization’s culture is different. Learn and understand what creates and destroys trust in your organization. Promote the communication tools and practices that build trust; challenge those that don’t.

9. Be committed.

Talk is cheap. Leaders must be bold in making solid, enduring commitments to employees. They then must act on the commitments they make, with ongoing communication about progress.

10. Be a trusted advisor

Work hard to become a trusted advisor to your business leaders and managers. You need their trust so you can convince them they must earn employees’ trust. Start small, perhaps with regional/divisional managers and directors to gain confidence and advocates along the way.

You can download both the “Building Trust: Ten initiatives to help build trust-from trusted leaders in successful businesses” and “Leadership, Trust and Communication: Building Trust in Companies Through Effective Leadership Communication” reports from Top Banana’s website.

Nick Terry is managing director at Top Banana, a leadership-driven events specialist. A version of this article originally appeared on All Things IC.

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