Article: Connecting the Dots: Trust, Engagement and Results

#PM Roundtables

Connecting the Dots: Trust, Engagement and Results

In a jointly hosted roundtable discussion by People Matters and C2C Organizational Development, HR and talent leaders from various industries discussed the struggles of cultivating a trusting work ecosystem that boosts employee engagement and in turn translates into business results.
Connecting the Dots: Trust, Engagement and Results

Trust is a  complex concept defined interpreted differently by different people. Founders of the Reina Trust Building, Dr. Dennis and Dr. Michelle Reina have through 27 years of research found that trust is an emotionally provocative feeling--the absence of trust leads to a negative sensation among employees whereas the presence of trust provides a psychological feeling of safety.

Jawad Ahmed, Director of Client Management at C2C Organizational Development, in association with People Matters conducted an interactive and thought-provoking roundtable discussion with HR and business leaders in Mumbai on “Connecting the dots: trust, engagement and results”.

The topic that brought more than 20 HR leaders together for an intimate discussion was tackling the challenge of cultivating an organizational culture based upon trust and how trust directly translates into better engagement and hence results as well.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, Reina research has found. However, when it comes to the corporate world, this emotion is often taken for granted and not measured. The reason why trust or the absence of it is seldom talked about in an office is because of the abstract and emotionally provocative nature of the concept.

Why should talent leaders pay attention to trust?

Most companies excel on the basis of the trust and confidence that their customers place in them. In industries such as healthcare where trust is paramount and directly linked to life and death, it is crucial that the team of doctors and nurses trusts one another and acts in the best interests of the patient on the table. Other instances wherein trust plays a vital role is when talented employees across various teams fail to collaborate and maximize the team’s output via combined expertise.

Some of the major challenges that talent leaders face today have the underlying theme of absence of trust. For example, employees working in silos, lack of collaboration and teamwork and disengaged employees leading to a higher rate of attrition.

Building trust among employees is essentials for leaders who want their teams to be productive, work in teams efficiently and effectively and remain engaged in the organization so that they feel happy to come to work.

When talent leaders explore ways to drive a trust-building initiative in their respective companies, the key is to get the business buy-in. A results-oriented initiative to develop a sustainable trust focused culture is possible when the business side sees tangible results.

Trust is crucial in a team when the pressures are high. Trust helps drive growth, enhance efficiency, boosts up the ROI and also helps hasten the speed of change in an organization.

Apart from the business needs, every employee “has a need to be seen, heard and understood,” to quote Dr. Michelle Reina. To that end, deepening engagement, breaking down silos, change management and increasing leadership effectiveness that the researchers have discovered are some of the many desired outcomes and key drivers of a strategy for trust building.

For a multigenerational workforce of today, the need for engaging in meaningful work is much higher. Millennials in the workplace want to know how their efforts would make a difference in the workplace and that can happen only when they trust their own capabilities, their peers and the leaders whom they work with.

A recently published 10-year leadership study by Harvard Business Review found that the ability to create and build deep trusting relationships is the best predictor of top performing leaders who delivered the strongest business results.

“Trust in essence builds the bridge between the business need for results and the human need for connection,” said Ahmed, quoting the Reina research report. 

Building trust in leadership

Trust is about managing expectations. When employees know their leaders’ expectations from them, understand their goals in terms of the larger picture in light of the company’s objectives and vision, they are more likely to trust their leaders. A transparent exchange of information is the backbone of gaining and building trust among employees. When people know that they can speak their mind about their own concerns and issues, they are more likely to be committed, have confidence in their own capabilities and in their team members.

Behavior drives trust and vice versa. When strategic goals are not aligned, it leads to a feeling of distrust among the team members, Ahmed added.

Challenges faced by leaders

Most leaders struggle in trusting their teams. Trust is shaped based on leaders’ behaviors. From top-down, leaders should practice staying away from the blame game, gossiping, and shooting the messenger who happens to bring bad news.

Giving constructive feedback in a timely and helpful manner is crucial to creating a foundation of trust, according to the research report. Sometimes team members need the benefit of the doubt and coaching from leaders in order to motivate them to build their capabilities. Challenging employees to learn and grow is a way in which leaders can inculcate confidence among employees.

For Amit Kumar Das, Vice President of HR at JSW Paints and New Ventures, assessing the trust levels within teams and correlating them to tangible results in an important element of building high-performing teams.

“Building trust is an important element in terms of cohesiveness within teams. Trust is the foundation of team performance,” Das said. “When there is a trust deficit, it is time to start working on solving it. Trust-building is a continuous journey of evaluating performance.”

Challenges faced by teams

No matter how crucial trust building is for a team, given the dynamic nature of teams and evolving job roles, there are a few major areas where teams struggle to trust one another. For example, getting defensive while receiving feedback is a behavior that would make people distrust you. Addressing breaches of trust directly and talking about the concern or issue transparently is a way to overcome the challenge of unfair criticisms and gossiping.

Imbibing the three dimensions of trust which are: the trust of character that builds the direction of leadership, trust of communication that creates an ecosystem that makes people feel safe to communicate openly and honestly and trust of capability which enables employees to leverage their own skills and take ownership of projects.

The key takeaway for industry leaders participating in this discussion was to implement a step-by-step approach of assessing trust levels in their respective teams and creating a results-oriented trust building journey.

Participants included: Amit Gupta, Senior President and Head HCM, Yes Bank; Anand R, Leadership Development Head, Accenture; Anupama Pillai, Associate Director of HR, Diebold Niexdorf; Bhavin Salva, Assistant Vice President of HR, Bank of America; Gautam Nabar, OD Specialist, Liberty Insurance; Geetanjali Wheeler, Head of Training and Development, Vodafone Idea Business Services; Gouri Abhay, Lead Talent Management and Organization Development, Bharti AXA Life Insurance; Manisha Patil, GM & Head of HR, CMS Computers Ltd.; Mohan Singh, Group Head of HR, Sterling & Wilson Pvt. Ltd.; Neeta Kakde, Assistant Vice President, Edelweiss Tokio; Pravin Sakre, Lead HR, JSW; Rachita Chakraborty, Deputy Vice President--Organization Transformation, Lodha Group; VP & Head Learning & Development, Reliance Industries Limited; Shahnaz Toddywala, VP HR, Bank of America; Sharmishtha Bhadra, Head L&D, Talent & OD, Trent Hypermarket Pvt. Ltd.; Shivdas M Rao, Head of Learning, India HUB, HSBC Invest Direct Securities; Unnikrishnan Vasu, Assistant VP of Research Operations & HR, Ugam Solutions; Virendra Lamba, Director HR, Boehringer Ingelheim; Vishal Vithlani, Head Training & Development (L&D), Motilal Oswal Financial Services; Zenith Nayar, Head --HR Transformation, Group Business Partner HR, L&T Technology Services.

Topics: PM Roundtables, Team Alignment, Executive Coaching

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