The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer for: How do you build trust with your employees? is by Colm Delves, CEO of Digicel Group.
Building trust in any relationship is no easy feat. For business leaders, the responsibility of doing so throughout an entire organization can be especially complex. So how do you build trust with employees? It goes beyond simply investing in them and keeping them engaged. We need to create a high-performance culture through wellbeing, health and happiness by connecting with employees in unique and unconventional ways.
Perhaps now more than ever, trust goes hand in hand with a positive workplace culture. You’ll may recall The New York Times front-page story that examined the work culture Amazon (AMZN). In the weeks that followed, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos came under fire and Amazon customers took to social media against the company and announced the cancellation of their Amazon Prime memberships.
Today, companies not only need to keep employees motivated and engaged, they also have to keep employees and customers happy while building and maintaining brand equity. Many companies do this especially well. Zappos, for example, bases its culture around customer service. CEO Tony Hseih puts it simply in his book, Delivering Happiness, “It’s about giving employees permission and encouraging them to just be themselves.” He goes on to explain that it’s not just about customer happiness, but also employee happiness — I couldn’t agree more.
This is why we need workplace initiatives that not only strengthen employee performance, but also help them to live their best lives. Over the past three years, we’ve offered programs to employees that encourage positive health and wellness through nutrition, rest and recovery, and exercise. Staff at all levels of the company — over 6,000 people in total across 31 markets — have engaged in these programs, which include initiatives like access to free yoga and Zumba lessons at work, discount gym memberships, education and tips on living a healthy lifestyle and overall encouragement of a commitment to work–life balance and to giving back to our communities. All of these initiatives have in turn contributed to employee performance and employee satisfaction.
And, because trust is a two way street, it’s also important to directly engage with your employees. Establishing a direct connection proves how much we value our people. For instance, our senior management team — including our Chairman — has participated alongside our employees in our Executive Education Program, which aims to develop future leaders in partnership with the Wharton Business School. Through the program, our employees engage in a range of activities where they have been coached on psychological strategies for dealing with all aspects of mental performance such as dealing with anxiety and pressure, building confidence, strengthening resilience, coping mechanisms, and sustaining motivation.
Focusing on employees’ talent development not only shows investment in their performance, but also our trust in them to help us lead and address new challenges ahead. In fact, a 2015 study from the Society for Human Resource Management found that companies with values-based recognition programs see an overwhelmingly positive impact on company culture. With 86% reporting an increase in employee happiness and 85% saying the program added humanity in the workplace. By looking past the typical employee engagement programs and focusing on the value of our employees, we can have a major impact on our workplace culture.