MT People: Taking on trust

You can hardly open a newspaper or turn on your TV these days without seeing or hearing the word trust. With several surveys across the globe now reflecting the fact that about 50% of employees no longer trust their CEO, this issue clearly can't be ignored in business. But is trust just something nice to talk about or does it add value to the bottom line?

by Sue Swanborough, HR director, General Mills UK & Ireland
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Consider your organisation - does it have collaborative partnerships, effortless communication, strong innovation, engagement and loyalty, or is it hampered by micro-management, unhappy staff and stakeholders, and time wasted defending positions and decisions?

It's not just a case of which environment would be better to work in; it's a case of which environment is best for creating a successful business. Consider the overhead cost that it takes to run a business. Any company that wants to be fleet of foot and innovative cannot afford to invest in non-added value activity.

CEOs and HR directors drawn from across all industry sectors at a recent conference I attended were asked to identify the potential cost to their business of a lack of trust in relation to a specific activity. The sums identified ranged from the hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds. Imagine the impact across multiple activities or locations in a large business and the total cost of lack of trust is extraordinary.

Employees who trust their bosses and their organisations feel more able to challenge, to voice their opinions and to suggest innovations. This contributes directly to business success, as well as allowing them to grow personally.

An obvious benefit of increased engagement is reduced turnover. At General Mills, our metrics show that internal development is high and staff turnover is low. People want to stay - in the past week, two people returned to us after leaving to travel. As we welcome back these talented people, we avoid cost and time spent on recruitment and new-starter learning curves.

In practice, what does trust meant to us? Building trust starts at the top and involves focus on self-awareness among the executive team and a realisation that all of our behaviours reflect who we are. So if your people don't believe that those at the head of the business have the best interests of the firm and all who work in it at heart, or that they can run it successfully, everything else falls down.

What are you doing to add value to your bottom line by building trust in your organisation?

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