This post uses research by Dr Paul Zac to show that trust is central to business success; and other research by Edelman to show trust in business has never been so low. What an opportunity to fill the vacuum and build long-term competitive advantage by going against the trends and deliberately building trust in your business and reaping a 76% dividend in engagement.
Confucius told his disciple Tsze-kung that three things are needed for a government: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler can’t hold on to all three, he should give up the weapons first and the food next. Trust should be guarded to the end. As he said, “Without trust we cannot stand.”
Business is the same. Want proof?
Return on Trust
Research by Dr. Paul J. Zak, Founding director of the Centre for Neuroeconomic Studies, reported in HBR Jan/Feb 2017, showed the following improvements in respondents between organisations in the top quartile of trust compared with those in the bottom quartile of trust:
- 76% more engagement
- 50% higher productivity
- 74% less stress
- 106% more energy at work
- 13% fewer sick days
- 60% more enjoyment at work
- 70% more aligned to the organisation’s purpose
- 66% closer to colleagues
- 41% more sense of accomplishment
- 29% more satisfaction with their lives
- 40% less burn-out.
Why is Trust SO Important?
Trust is to mental health what clean air and water are to physical health. Without trust, people become cynical, skeptical, withdrawn and pessimistic. With trust, people are more confident, optimistic, proactive and hopeful.
Trust is your main competitive advantage. It translates directly into more speed (less time spent on communication, redundancy and rework) and more energy (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) and more innovation. Companies spend ages searching for what makes them special when it is hiding in plain sight - it is trust.
Paul Zak has found that when we are in a nurturing environment, where we feel safe, secure and loved, our brains release more oxytocin. On the other hand in a stressful environment, with high levels of uncertainty and isolation oxytocin levels are depressed and we become less trusting.
Not only is building trust a major MEANS to business improvement (as shown by the business case above), it should also be a major GOAL. It is the right thing to do. To trust is to be human.
So why do so few organisations see it as a MEANS let alone a GOAL? Intuitively we all know we’d rather work in a trusting workplace and about the benefits; but managers don’t know how to improve trust.
Trust in Business is at an All-time low
According to the 2017 Edleman Trust Barometer, trust in business is at an all-time low in the 28 countries surveyed and is getting worse in all 28 countries. New Zealand is not shown but Australia is near the bottom (23/28) and has a trust rate of just 26% and this has fallen from 39% last year. We’d be foolish to assume New Zealand bucks this trend.
The Barometer shows 72% of people who think the system is failing them think companies should treat employees well; and 62% of the general population agrees with them. Lack of training and skills is one of the major reasons why the trust in business is so low.
What an Opportunity!
Paul Zac’s research shows that trust is central to business success; yet Edelman shows trust in business has never been so low. In this vacuum your organisation can build long-term competitive advantage by deliberately building trust in your business and reaping the 76% dividend.
How to improve trust
Zac shows treating employees well is central to building trust and so is training and development of skills. This is the business I’ve been in for 25 years: liberating the human energy at work.
Over that time I have found I’m only as successful as the belief of the senior managers and CEO. If they believe their people are capable of far more than the people themselves think they are capable of, then almost anything is possible. This is because once the Program is complete they will continue to do the right things. If they don’t, as soon as I leave, the energy dissipates and dissolves back to where it was at the start.
I have also found that one-off workshops are a waste of time. Building trust takes time. It is a process. It happens by investing in a deliberate program. My program consists of about 8 half-day workshops spread over about 3 months.