Employee experience can be defined as the journey an employee takes with your organization over the course of their employment. Everything from the way they experience recruitment, interviewing, onboarding, training, career development, performance management, recognition, rewards, and even the way they exit the organization makes up their overall experience.
Employee experience is in the spotlight because of the importance of retention and engagement issues in today’s marketplace. Organizations are competing for the best and brightest workers who won’t jump ship for the next shiny new offer that comes their way. To keep their top talent, organizations are taking a close look at how their employee experience can set them apart from the crowd.
We recently completed research on this topic and gathered input from over 700 leadership, learning, and talent development professionals. We asked them to share their key strategies for improving their employee experience and the feedback showed a clear frontrunner:
Building trust between managers and direct reports
Why did this strategy rank ahead of other important initiatives like addressing workloads to prevent burnout, connecting work to purpose, setting clear performance expectations, and promoting teamwork and collaboration? It’s because trust is the foundation of the employee/employer relationship, and a person’s direct manager is the organization’s representative.
Research supports the criticality of trust between employees and their managers as the basis for being highly engaged at work. ADP Research conducted a global study on engagement that involved over 19,000 people across 19 countries and 13 industries. The study included full-time employees, part-time employees, gig workers, those with multiple jobs, and people with full-time jobs plus gig jobs on the side.
ADP found that two primary factors that characterized highly engaged employees stood out above all others: being on a team and trust in the team leader. In fact, a worker is 12x more likely to be fully engaged if they trust their team leader.
Our own research on the roles of cognitive trust (what I like to call “trust from the head”) and affective trust (“trust from the heart”) show a direct correlation between high levels of employee trust in their leaders and those employees having positive intentions to be highly engaged at work. Our study showed that leader trustworthiness is highly correlated to the five key intentions that drive employee work passion: discretionary effort, intent to perform, intent to endorse, intent to remain, and organizational citizenship.
So, trust is the foundation for a great employee experience. How do you build it?
Many leaders think trust “just happens,” like some sort of relationship osmosis. These people often understand trust is important, but they don’t know what it takes to have their people perceive them as being trustworthy. There are four elements of trust in a relationship that we’ve captured in the Building Trust model. If leaders use behaviors aligned with the four elements of trust, they will build trust with their people. If they don’t use those behaviors, or do the opposite, they will erode trust. It’s commonsense but not always common practice.
Your organization’s employee experience is critical to its health and success. But to bring it closer to home, it’s critical to your success as a leader, and the foundation of that experience begins with the trust your people have in you. Remember, every interaction you have with them is an opportunity to build trust or erode it. Will you focus on building trust with your people in 2023?