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The missing key to employee engagement

Addressing the employee engagement issue

An employee engagement survey, conducted in 2019 by The Predictive Index®, revealed that less than 32% of employees are actively engaged in the workplace. Employee engagement plays a key role in your ability to drive results—boosting both productivity and profitability. For years, organizations have been searching for ways to boost employee engagement—offering free lunch, increasing benefits and perks, and introducing table sports into the workplace. 

But ping pong tables and office lunches alone won’t revive your employee engagement. The same survey showed that one of the top drivers of disengagement and turnover intent was lack of trust in the senior leadership of the organization.

Building trust to sustain employee engagement

Ninety percent of employees who trust their employer report being satisfied with their job and are more likely to be motivated to do their best work, according to research from the American Psychological Association. Conversely, those who don’t trust their employer are more than four times as likely to show signs of turnover intent.

So the question is: How do you build trust in your organization? And what can you do to rebuild trust that’s been broken?

5 practical ways to build trust

1. Establish and live core values.

Corporate values are the expectations your organization has for your employees. They form the foundation of your company culture. Decisions, processes, and promotions should be made based on your established values. If you don’t have values clearly defined, start by figuring out which values will allow you to successfully execute your business strategy. If you have existing core values, ask yourself: Are our employees living out these values? Is our leadership team modeling these values for employees? If there’s misalignment between what your organization says it values and what it shows it values through action and decisions made, it can cause distrust.

2. Be transparent and encourage open communication.

A recent report by Achievers showed that lack of communication is the main cause of distrust employees have for company leaders. While discretion may be used in determining which decisions to share, when, and to whom, clear and open communication is necessary to build trust with employees. This can be accomplished through regular all-hands meetings where metrics, key initiatives, and strategic changes can be shared with the entire company. 

In addition to practicing transparency and open communication, respect and reward open communication from employees. This standard has to go both ways. If employees don’t feel they can share openly about their experience and provide honest feedback, trust will deteriorate.

3. Treat employees well.

Trust is built in the context of relationships—specifically positive relationships. When you genuinely care about your employees, building relationships—and, consequently, trust—becomes much easier. Take a moment to reflect on your own life: You probably tend to trust those who have shown they care about you and will go out of their way to benefit you. In turn, that increases your loyalty to that person. Trust in your organization works the same way: Employees want to know that, at the end of the day, the goal isn’t solely higher profit margins. They want to know that they matter and the organization cares about them.

4. Recognize employee contributions.

In a 2017 survey on work and well-being, conducted by the American Psychological Association, reported workers have more trust in their companies when the organization recognizes employees for their contribution and provides opportunities for involvement. As a business leader, it’s important to acknowledge the contributions of your team. This gives employees a greater sense of ownership in their work and investment in the organization. Think about a time you worked hard on a project, then weren’t recognized for your effort. This oversight can happen unintentionally, but it leads employees to feel as though their work doesn’t matter—which ultimately results in disengagement and a dip in productivity.

5. Offer opportunities for employees to get involved.

When employees are offered an opportunity to share their perspective, provide input on a decision, or get involved with strategic initiatives, it increases their level of trust in the organization. When leadership consistently makes decisions without input from employees, it can lead employees to believe that their insights aren’t valued or management doesn’t find their perspective valuable—leading to an erosion of trust.

In addition to opportunities to provide feedback and get involved in projects, be intentional about career pathing for your employees. Have regular conversations with your direct reports about their career goals, any training or development they’d need to get there, and how the organization can support them in reaching those goals. This investment in employee development will not only increase that individual’s capacity to contribute to the company, but also increase their loyalty to the organization as a whole.

How engaged is your organization?

Use our engagement diagnostic to get a pulse on employee engagement, as well as steps to improve your results.