Trust Leads to Engagement

Wedding RingsOver the past couple years I have read numerous studies that indicate the average organization has only about 1/3 of employees engaged in the work.

There is some variation from one study to another, but the general trend is clear. For example, the Dale Carnegie Organization came up with 29% engaged, 45% not engaged and 26% actively not engaged.

Said another way, if you are the CEO of an average company, you have as many employees pulling against your vision as you have pulling for it and the rest of the people are not pulling much at all.

The result of this condition is a gaping hole in financial viability of many organizations bigger than the hole that sunk the Titanic. Improving the level of trust between layers in the organization is the best way to plug the hole and right the ship.

Of course, some organizations beat this trend with much higher engagement, still others are even worse off than the average statistics. A common denominator of the groups that are doing well is that they have built a culture of trust.

It turns out that trust shows a very high correlation with having engaged workers. It is not a chicken or egg question here, the trust comes first.

After studying trust in organizations for over 30 years, I believe that improving the trust level by just 2 percentage points will translate into productivity improvements between 10-20%. The reason is that engagement in the work increases dramatically when leaders change their behaviors to increase the trust level.

The change must be sustained or the gains will quickly fade, but if leaders are sincerely trying to improve trust, employees will recognize and appreciate the effort and put more effort in their jobs.

The most important trust-building behavior for leaders is to create an environment of low fear where people know it is safe to voice their concerns and not have to worry about retribution.

Exercise for you: Try to guess what percentage of your team members are truly engaged in their work. Listen to what they say; if it is positive and about the goals of the organization, they are engaged; if it is negative and griping about conditions, they are likely not engaged.

If employee engagement is above 50%, you are beating the odds: keep up the good work and expand it to others! If it is below 50%, you have a lot to be gained by improving the level of trust.

Engagement of the workforce does not happen by default or because people need a paycheck to survive. It does not kindle with empowerment seminars or employee satisfaction surveys.

The surest way to obtain the productivity that comes from high employee engagement is for leaders to learn and practice the behaviors that foster a culture of high trust.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to http://www.avanoo.com/first3/517

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