According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey of 33,000 people in 28 countries, more than 1 in 4 employees don’t trust their employers. Trust was broken in many ways throughout the last year—from the ongoing global pandemic to political and social justice issues. “It’s no wonder that this year what employees want most is to be able to trust in something again,” notes a recent contributor in Forbes. 

Another key finding from the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer report was that 84% of employees are concerned about losing their jobs. It’s worth noting that in the midst of the “Great Resignation” and “Turnover Tsunami” that so many people are worried about losing their jobs. Does that speak to a lingering trust issue between employers and employees? 

Employers of all sizes and industries are experiencing a cultural shift in employee expectations. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the COVID-19 pandemic gave roughly 6 in 10 employees the opportunity to work from home. Essential workers had the opportunity to experience greater scheduling options than ever before. Employers are now in the position where they must lead a hybrid workforce, meet higher expectations, and create a fair and equitable environment. How can employers build the trust needed to succeed? 

The importance of trust

There’s no question that establishing trust isn’t easy—but that’s exactly what employees need and want from employers in these uncertain times. And employers would be wise to nurture that trust. Statistics show that employees in high-trust organizations thrive; these employees have:

  • 106% more energy

  • 50% higher productivity

  • 13% fewer sick days

  •  40% less burnout

As issues of workplace trust and fairness become more important than ever—especially in a hybrid workplace—many employers are reexamining their treatment of workers when it comes to benefits and other issues. For example:

  • Should you give remote employees the same amount of paid sick leave? 

  • Do on-premise employees have scheduling flexibility? 

  • How do you handle compensation issues for workers living in areas with a high cost of living compared to more economical areas? 

  • How do you ensure employees remain productive when working from home? 

As you build out your hybrid workforce policies, gather and consider advice to maintain and grow trust and ensure equitable treatment of employees.

5 practical ways to build trust and ensure fairness

Several HR blogs and analysts point out that employers must be cognizant of what’s going on in their workforce to avoid creating a “two-class system” where those who come in to the office are viewed as better employees. Though maintaining a hybrid model is challenging, it has become the new norm in terms of employee expectation. 

Long-term success with a hybrid workforce depends on the ability of the organization to make large scale changes in three areas: Management, Employees, and Organizational workflows. Employers must provide the equipment and tools to effectively manage a remote workforce and conduct work from a remote location. Additionally, workflows must change to enable efficient completion of work.

Here are five important considerations:

  1. Set your tone from the top. A culture of trust needs to be set at the top and it’s important for business owners and HR to guide managers toward reinforcing that tone throughout the business. It’s important for business leaders to be transparent, honest, and flexible. Leaders can maintain credibility by demonstrating empathy, goodwill, and preserving open lines of communication. It’s also important to communicate proactively to minimize misinformation and rumor spreading which breeds uncertainty and mistrust.

  2. Create a flexible work environment. Consider this statement from a recent blog, “Creating an equitable work arrangement means transitioning to a different type of accountability. It’s less focused on time and more on results.” As an employer, think about how you can allow employees to take time off when they aren’t feeling well without using paid time off benefits—whether they are onsite or remote. If your employees are accountable, they can still get the work done once they feel better.

  3.  Think differently about your paid leave policies. Some employers are trying a minimum paid leave policy requiring employees to take a certain amount of vacation every year to promote emotional wellbeing and work life balance. Many employers believe both onsite and remote employees should have the same amount of time off and both need to get away from work.

  4.  Maintain equity when making compensation decisions. Employee concerns over equal pay in a hybrid work environment are very real. When an employer has remote workers based in different locations, for example San Francisco and North Dakota, how can you pay them fairly for the same work? A recent article in Forbes notes, “As companies start recruiting talent across the county and perhaps the world, it could cause for concern for both on-premise and remote workers. They could worry that employers will purposely seek out applicants from lower-cost locations to save money and put downward pressure on overall compensation. They’ll be afraid to ask for a raise when they know they could be replaced by someone earning substantially less.”

  5. Be transparent about productivity monitoring. There are many digital tools and software options businesses are using to monitor employee productivity in a hybrid workplace. To maintain trust and fairness, business leaders need to clearly define goals and spec
    ific objectives before beginning to monitor employees as well as consider issues of business ethics, privacy, and information security. Earlier this year, Asure posted a blog exploring ethics and privacy considerations when monitoring a hybrid workforce. If monitoring data is not used responsibly, employees can be left feeling as if their privacy is being violated and they aren’t trusted by their employers.

Don’t delay your examination of trust and fairness

With lingering pandemic and economic uncertainty, it may seem easy to deprioritize HR issues like building culture, reexamining policy fairness, and strengthening trust. But employers can’t afford to lose focus on these issues with 65% of employees currently looking for a new job, according to an August poll by PwC. To attract top talent and retain your best people, employers must work now to preserve trust.

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