Company culture has become an increasingly hot topic. On this side of the so-called Great Resignation, we’re seeing job seekers place an even higher priority on company culture and the environment in which they choose to work. On the flip side, companies are having to take a hard look at their internal culture to decide if they are doing all they can to keep their people.
Taking this one step further: Your company’s culture can have a direct impact on your ROI. It all boils down to the word “trust.” Harvard Business Review found that “team members who strongly agree that they trust their team leader are eight times as likely to be fully engaged as those who don’t.” When you cultivate an environment of trust within your organization, it impacts the work your team produces—and in turn, this trust trickles down to your customers’ view of you and your product.
So now onto the million-dollar question, how do you make sure that you are creating trust both inside and outside your organization? It boils down to three things: communication, consistency, and empowerment.
Communicate Well And Often
Any good relationship is built on communication, right? The relationships within your company are no different. In fact, Salesforce found that 86% of executives cited ineffective communication and collaboration as a major cause for failure in business.
Good thing quality communication can start at the project level through good documentation. Documentation provides a direct way to communicate standards and processes around a project. However, a lack of documentation (or documentation that is unclear) may result in employees feeling incompetent or like they are not allowed to know the ins-and-outs of a project. This leads to ill-equipped workers who are unable to perform to the best of their ability. And this is just at the project level!
What does the impact of communication look like for organizations as a whole? With a large amount of the workforce now working from home, effective communication has never been more crucial. According to a report done by the McKinsey Global Institute, improved internal communication (even just through Slack) can increase employee productivity by up to 25%. Let your employees in on what your company is doing, how they are doing, and what you are doing about it. Research from the Harvard Business Review suggests that employees who feel fully informed and engaged are 21% more productive.
Then, take that productivity change that you’re noticing and offer some recognition. Acknowledge when someone excels and provide constructive feedback when it’s needed—author and HR analyst Josh Bersin found that companies with a culture of feedback and recognition have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate. Keeping the conversation open and flowing creates trust on both sides of the table which gives employees the knowledge and confidence to do their best work.
It’s almost impossible to talk about trust without bringing up consistency. When we continue to act and perform in the same way, it creates trust in how we will handle or respond to certain situations. The processes that your company puts in place need to show consistency in order to foster trust and creativity in your employees. In development, when the format for documentation, the structure of a release cycle, and the feedback loop are well-known and consistent, this frees up employees to focus on the task at hand rather than worry about the pipeline.
Here at Sparkbox, we love to talk about design systems. They are a prime example of how you can foster consistency in conjunction with creativity in your organization. Our own Ben Callahan wrote an article on how great design systems create consistency while allowing room for flexibility to show trust in your employees. There’s that word trust again!
Sparkbox also did a study on the impact a design system can have on developer productivity and therefore your return on investment. The results of the study? A well-documented and maintained design system allows developers to build quicker, better, and more accessible code—all of which have an effect on ROI. Design systems also create a visual consistency across your brand and organization, and that brand consistency creates brand equity or a sense of value and trust in your brand from the consumer. This in turn helps decrease marketing spend and allow for easier brand expansion, which has a direct impact on your company’s ROI.
Empower Your Team
The piece that I feel is often missed in the trust conversation for companies is that trust must flow in both directions. Many companies will say that they want their employees to trust them (and they are building trust through communication and consistency.) But do they trust their employees? This downward flow of trust is the final key that will unlock your employees’ full potential—and ultimately the full potential of your organization.
Without the freedom to showcase their own ideas and talents, a person’s growth could be stunted by the internal culture of the organization. To build this system of trust, allow your employees to have ownership of an initiative and give them the knowledge and ability to make decisions regarding it. This frees up bottlenecks by allowing decisions to be made without having to go all the way up the chain and allows those closest to the project (and likely those who will be using it) the ability to have a say in the direction it goes. According to a report done by Salesforce, employees who feel that their voice is heard in the workplace are nearly five times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work.
I would push you to even take it a step further and help your employees find where they do their best work. Viewing employees as cogs in a machine, only able to perform the one task assigned to their role, puts a limit on the potential of the individual and the company. You may be robbing your organization of someone’s skill by putting your people in a box. Talk with them; find their strengths; find where they want to grow and give them the opportunities to do so. According to Gallup research, building employees’ strengths is a far more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses. It increases employee engagement and well-being, leading to higher performance and a lesser chance of their leaving the company.
Whether you claim a competitive, collaborative, creative, or control company culture, trust is an essential ingredient to ensure that you are getting the most out of your employees. Keeping an open line of communication surrounding the company and/or project, showing consistency in the work and processes that you create, and using both of those things to empower your employees to have a voice and make decisions will allow that trust to grow within your organization.