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Building a Culture of Trust: Takeaways from the Day One Conference

Some of Kiwi Partners’ HR consultants attended the From Day One conference at the Brooklyn Museum in April. This was a fantastic event where we discussed how HR professionals and organizations are dealing with key workforce challenges today. There was excellent content related to challenges including diversity and inclusion, employee engagement, organizational trust, trends in benefits, hybrid work arrangements, and changes in personnel practices during an uncertain economy.

The session that resonated most with me was about building cultures of trust. Trust is undoubtedly necessary to have lasting relationships at work. Trust occurs when people have reliability for one another; where there is open communication, and when people are interconnected, support, and care for each other. Trust in a team is exhibited by members being honest, including admitting their failures and learning from those mistakes. Trusting relationships allow team members to feel safe, encouraging each other to question old ways of doing things and increasing creativity.

An interesting report was shared during the session, a study conducted by DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2023, found that leaders who work remotely were 22% more likely to trust senior leaders than to those who work in person. Providing opportunities for remote work can make employers seem more trustful, which in part can drive these results. However, in remote settings, there is less room for gossip, unprofessional interactions, and more curated messages; most leadership communications are planned, rehearsed, and edited. Thinking about it this way, you can picture remote workforces placing more trust in their leaders.

As organizations move to hybrid or in-person settings, they must rethink how they will maintain their team’s trust. Some trust boosters for leaders to consider:

1) Sharing. Trusting means caring and showing yourself as an authentic human being, such as showing vulnerability (regularly) and creating an open space for you and your team to bring their whole selves to work.

2) Acknowledging failures. Be honest; if you make a mistake, take responsibility. Others will feel more open to sharing their errors if you foster a culture where learning from mistakes is allowed.

3) Ask for feedback, take note, and communicate when incorporating it. Leaders do not need to know the solution to all problems, and at times, it can require collaborating on a resolution. If you asked for feedback, remember to keep it handy. Even better, if you implemented changes due to staff recommendations, communicate it and make the connection.

Remember the above trust boosters and avoid some key trust breakers such as breaking promises, serving personal interests (e.g. not giving work credit to colleagues), acting inconsistently, avoiding confronting issues, making assumptions, and doubting others. Building trust takes time, and it is a two-way approach. When talking about cultures that foster collaboration and trust, change needs to start at the top.


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