4 Ways to Build Trust With Your Teams in Return-to-Office Times

Are you deciding what’s next for your workforce in the post-pandemic era? You’ll need to establish a foundation of trust if you want to maintain productivity and retain employees.

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The business landscape has changed a lot over the past year and a half due to COVID-19, and it’s shifting again as leaders navigate returning to the office. When determining the next best step for your workforce, it’ll be important for you to build and maintain trust with your teams.

Why? Because people have been through a lot over the course of the pandemic. Undergoing another change in routine can be a lot, and without trust, it can affect productivity and retention. According to The Workforce Institute report, 24% of people have resigned from a position because they didn’t feel a strong employee-employer trust bond, and 64% said trust impacts their sense of belonging (which then affects job performance).

Employees need to feel supported and encouraged in the post-pandemic era in order to do their best work. Especially since employees won’t be serving your customers at the highest level unless they feel supported, too. So whether you’re thinking about returning to in-person interactions or pursuing a different work model, here’s how you can build trust with your teams:

1. Unite your team through increased collaboration.

People who have the opportunity to work together on projects naturally build rapport. That rapport increases trust, which can positively impact individual and group performance. Gallup research suggests that teams with deep trust connections can enjoy a 21% improvement in production.

According to Susan Morrissey, president and CEO at SE2, collaboration can ensure success, but it requires work. “To build that trust, those involved have to take the extra time needed to overcommunicate, build relationships with others, and gather feedback,” she says. “Along the way, people will need to pause, regroup, and reset to ensure everyone is informed at every step. This is time-intensive work but worth it in the long run to prioritize these facets of a partnership.”

2. Regularly pursue feedback.

When was the last time you asked for feedback from your team? When employees feel heart, it makes them feel valued. Plus, if you act on their suggestions, you’ll see greater buy-in across the board. Employees are 4.6 times more likely to perform their best work, according to Salesforce, which means happier, more loyal customers.

Sean Harper, CEO and co-founder at Kin Insurance, notes that by setting up an internal sharing platform, he’s been able to reduce bottlenecks and improve operations, eliminating common trust friction points between employees. “The people involved can also comment and vote for the recommendations they think will have a positive impact on workflows,” he says. “This feedback has given us excellent insight into what works and helped us make processes more efficient.”

3. Hire the right people for your team.

Chris Patton, the founder of GoalPoint Employee Planning, knows the importance of thoughtful hiring. “There aren’t many things worse than having toxic people mixed within an otherwise high-functioning team,” he says. “Even one toxic personality can bring the rest of the team down. The people dealing with the toxic person can feel defeated and unsupported.”

People power organizations. If you hire the wrong culture and performance fits, you won’t foster trust no matter what else you do. That’s why you need to vet candidates beforehand to ensure smooth sailing after the official onboarding period. Look for diverse candidates who possess the inspiration to help you achieve your mission and the potential to become a foundational member of your workforce. Unite your team through increased collaboration.

4. Balance the power dynamic and empower employees.

When strategy consultant Murielle Tiambo ran a culture diagnostic at an innovative organization, she discovered that the talent felt discouraged. “When C-level executives learned that many employees did not feel empowered, they expressed surprise,” she says. “From their perspective, the leadership team had taken deliberate and consistent actions to empower people, giving them opportunities to take on new challenges and grow their skill sets. However, over half of the employees interviewed across multiple areas of the organization said that their leaders would give them responsibilities, but would fail to let go of authority.”

Yes, every company needs a leadership team. But not all decisions need to be made at the highest rung of the corporate ladder. You can empower employees by granting them autonomy and a level of authority. This will demonstrate that you trust your teams and empower them to make decisions on their own.

Whether your teams work remotely or in person, you can build trust that withstands any obstacles your organization might experience. This will be important as the business world moves into the next normal.

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