Trust is an emotion that everyone feels and something that is heavily relevant in the world of business. If compromised, it can damage or even break relationships as well as affect productivity and motivation. It can be the deciding factor on how an employee views their employer, or how a customer views a business.

Trust and company culture

When considering company culture, trust stands as a crucial building block: It has a direct correlation with employees’ attitudes towards their roles, job satisfaction, well-being, and therefore ultimately business success. And you just need to take a look at the recent Facebook and Uber scandals to get an idea of what can happen if trust is jeopardised.

The consequences of these high-profile catastrophes don’t stop at the walls of the organisations involved, though – it leaves a bad smell on big businesses, and as a result, there is an increasing sense of distrust towards them. This leaves people moving away from bigger businesses and wanting something different, something with a workplace culture that allows them to grow as well as boost motivation and job satisfaction. These insights provide SMEs with a chance to consider their business goals in terms of a workplace culture that drives trust; a chance to change the game.

Too often is company culture regarded as ‘fluffy’ rather than something that is essential to the mechanics of the business. Culture defines a business’ possibilities, vision and potential; it’s how things get done and how things move forward.

The crisis

Your business values and how you demonstrate them determine the volume of people who engage with and invest trust in your business – whether it be employees or customers. The wider economy is becoming increasingly mindful of the relationship between business culture and success: the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that average trust in organisations sits at just 52% of the general public.

Our own research suggests a very similar sentiment, with 53% of UK workers admitting that they distrust the senior leaders and managers in their company. One of the key and most concerning reasons for this was that managers “don’t appear to know what they are doing”. From this we can learn one main lesson: whilst managers, CEOs and others in higher up positions may assume that trust and respect comes with their status, it is something that is solely earned by actions. To highlight this issue further, our research goes on to show that the lowest levels of trust is among 35-54 year olds – the age category that have been in the world of work the longest.

These issues provide SMEs with a further opportunity: start-ups and small businesses are in the perfect position to offer new, fresh ways of working, addressing challenges and, most importantly, providing great company culture.

Spot the signs of distrust and deal with them

Get down to the facts and find out how much your employees trust you. Think about what would be the most authentic approach for your business – perhaps a staff survey or one-to-ones. However you go about it, ensure your strategy enables you to collect as much information as possible. This will act as a foundation on which you can begin to shape the culture you want to see in your business.

This approach will enable you to identify any problems or areas for improvement, before analysing your business strategy, objectives and targets in terms of where culture plays a part. By picking apart your strategies and goals, it will make it easier for you to transform your business into a meaningful mission that will engage and enthuse employees.

Most importantly, approach your employees on a personal level. Make yourself available – after all, you can’t trust someone you don’t know. Investing some time into getting to know your employees and having conversations will contribute to the trust they build up towards you. If you strive to lead by example and engage with the real concerns and issues arising in your business, possibilities to build confidence and trust across the entire business will open up to you, no matter what the size.

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