resources. sequel talks.

18 November 2015

Trust me…I’m the boss

Do your employees trust you; do you trust them?

It’s not something leaders or managers have had to think about much in years gone by when authority was all you needed to get a job done.

But, as became clear during the IOIC Insight seminar on ‘Trust & Generation Y’ this month, the days of ‘I say, you do’ are well and truly over.

Employees today want to feel their leaders are authentic, transparent and honest. They want to feel passionate about what they do, and who they work for. They want to trust, and be trusted.

A pay cheque at the end of the month is no longer enough to keep them engaged. They need to understand what they can do to deliver the company strategy, shape the direction the organisation is moving in and, importantly, feel valued in that role.

Nor does trust come as a result of a good reputation.

“Reputation is based on what you have experienced from an organisation in the past. Trust is what you expect, based on that reputation,” says Dr Katalin Illes, principal lecturer in leadership and development at Westminster Business School. And it has to be earned and nurtured – constantly.

“We are seeing a paradigm shift in the way we conduct our relationships with nature, each other and work,” says Dr Illes.

Matt Stephens of agency Quest agrees: “Generation Y are immediate, they live in the moment and move on. They are ‘heart’ people and how things feel matter more to them. They are tech savvy, opinionated and like to have conversations – they are interactive.”

And research suggests they trust each other for information about an organisation far more than their remote CEO.

So how can a company’s leaders earn – and keep – the trust of its employees?

“Leaders of people should be accountable and help teams understand the direction and strategy. It’s no longer appropriate to operate a command and control structure where you just tell people what to do. People need a facilitator to help them grow and be part of the business,” says Anthony Burrows, group head of employee engagement at Allied Irish Bank.

The working world today has no place for egos. A company’s people must be part of its strategy.

And Anthony should know, having joined the bank in 2012 when staff morale – and trust – were at rock bottom following the economic crash and turned opinion – and profit – around

“Be consistent with your communications,” he says. “Make sure that written comms match verbal messages. Inconsistency leads to mistrust. Leaders should show they are working as a team, as a unit, or employees won’t know what, or who, to believe. Make sure the top is cohesive; and then the people managers.

“People want managers who are compassionate, create stability, and create a sense of hope. If you can’t keep your promises to staff, tell them why. They will respect you for your honesty, even if they don’t like the outcome.

“Use performance reviews to set objectives aligned to the strategic direction of the organisation and let people know they have a part to play.

“Empower people to make decisions, take actions, and add value outside their business area. Reclaim team spirit and allow people to come up with ideas and solutions to problems.”


A 2008 Helliwell Huang study suggests that a 10% increase in trust has the equivalent effect on employee satisfaction of a 36% pay rise. In turn, raised employee engagement has all kinds of positive knock-on effects from increased productivity and innovation to reduced staff churn and sick leave.