It’s easy to go through the motions and re-build trust with your employees with the hidden agenda of things going back to the way they were “pre-COVID”. If you haven’t yet, you need to rethink your position, or, as I mentioned in my last article, your employees will revolt.
You need to rebuild trust, a trust that will last. If you’re already taking steps and laying down your defenses, meeting with your troops, and creating a battle plan then you’re heading in the right direction. However, you can’t stop there. You need to ensure that you’re building a trust that will bleed into your company culture.
Remember, your employees want community. They want to feel like they are seen and heard and part of something bigger than just a transactional relationship. To give them this and make it an integral part of your company culture, you must dig deeper.
Start by establishing an objective.
Most people in positions of leadership focus on returning to what is familiar. In other words, the environment, rules, and behaviors by which they were successful and rewarded. This is not leadership, but fear protected by ego. It is about the comfort level and perceived power and success of the individual rather than a servant mindset that focuses on the success of their organization. Often this requires leaning into discomfort and vulnerability.
Accept that the old way, what was normal pre-Covid wasn’t working very well then, and it is woefully inadequate for the post-Covid workforce. The rebellion is tangible. August 2021 saw 4.3 million people leave their positions and expectations are that this will continue.
What did your investigation reveal about your organization’s most pressing need? Recognize that if this isn’t your singular objective, the others won’t matter. Remember if action doesn’t follow, forget KPIs, your most pressing need will be replacing the people walking out the door.
People will test your mettle. There will be pushback and blame. There will be rogue managers. Anytime a change is enacted, there is resistance. Just like in battle, there is an esprit de corps that develops through weathering the charge together. Focus on the objective and repeat it often. Feed the troops regularly with clear priorities, progress, and praise.
You are creating a new culture, and some will not fit. That’s ok. As the new culture takes hold, your company will attract those that do, and it will be stronger and better for it. This phase is experimenting with what binds your organization together and builds trust in its leadership. It is a discovery phase that begins to define the corporate identity, values, and behaviors by which to create an alliance.
A battle plan with a unifying objective lets everyone try on the same uniform and experience what it’s like to work together. It puts you on the same side conquering the obstacles together.
Oppose the forces that threaten victory.
Inevitably, the objective uncovered through this process was also unbudgeted. Yet confronting this tension is where you will experience your greatest risk of failure and the greatest opportunity to transform your organization.
Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell you the whole truth.
You need to get creative. For example, if your organization struggles with overwhelm and burnout, requiring people to work harder and longer to make your strategic or customer commitments will backfire. Valuing your employees is demonstrated by reasonable work expectations and if that is the objective leadership has committed to, your actions need to support it. If not, absenteeism, work slowdowns, resignations, and even unionization will follow. And the war within begins all over again.
Creative solutions are best found by activating your organization in solving the issue. Be honest about the impact of missing your commitments and how it will impact them individually. Reiterate your commitment to reasonable work expectations and request their help. By doing so you reinforce your dedication and value of your workers, the commitment to your customers, and empower your employees to take ownership of the solution and therefore their future. This is a trust-building moment.
The opportunity in collaboration is massive. Trust in leadership and engagement of your workforce produces creative solutions that transform.
One company found that without increasing headcount they could keep production at required levels by replacing the difficult-to-staff swing shift with a weekend crew. People volunteered for the weekend shift to avoid daycare costs. To scale, the company added some benefits not typically offered for part-time employees and was successful in attracting workers that couldn’t commit to full-time employment. As a result, they staffed for production levels that were previously obtainable.
The CEO committed to regular weekly meetings with updates about project priorities and progress. Managers at all levels focused on three critical company objectives and paused all other initiatives. With permission not to “do it all,” those three critical objectives were accomplished in record time. People were proud of their accomplishments, the value they added to the company’s success, and energized to do even more. In the process, they experienced the fulfillment of leadership’s commitment to reasonable workload, and the result was an even greater sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Your people are your company. Without them, you have nothing.
Are you working towards building trust with your employees, or are you still unsure of where to start? Let’s discuss where you’re at and how we can help you and your leadership team develop your battle plan and prepare your managers to execute it successfully.