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The importance of trust to employee engagement

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The importance of trust to employee engagement

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I wrote last week about the pretty awful state of employee engagement around the world.  It was based upon a recent Gallup poll looking at the topic.  An interesting comment about the article on Twitter spoke about the importance of trust in the workplace, and how the absence of trust means employee engagement will always remain a distant pipe dream.

A new study published recently by Kings College, London highlighted this critical role.  Researchers Michael Clinton and David Guest studied personnel from the Royal Air Force, and in particular the unique, psychological contract that exists between employer and employee in the RAF.

After studying 6,000 responses to a 2008 employee survey and linking these responses to each employees subsequent administrative records, the researchers were able to determine staff turnover figures.  The survey quizzed employees on how successfully they felt their employers obligations had been fulfilled.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it emerged that when employees felt a high level of psychological contract existed between them and their employer, they were less likely to leave their post.  Importantly however, those who felt that the RAF was both fair and trustworthy were also less likely to leave, even if the psychological contract hadn’t been met.

The researchers believe this is due to a sense amongst employees that their commitment to their employer isn’t matched by commitment to them as employees.  They therefore lack a belief that their employer will look out for them.

It all underlines the importance in providing employees with a tangible sense that they can trust that you have their best interests at heart.  It’s something that’s often discussed when talking about attitudes to failure, with a culture emerging that provides employees with a confidence that mistakes won’t result in severe reprimands, but rather an opportunity for learning.  Replicate this outwards into other areas and you give people confidence in your stewardship.

Suffice to say, trust isn’t the only thing affecting employee engagement, but it’s something that ‘should’ be relatively easy to transmit to employees.  It’s a bit of a no brainer, isn’t it?  A good place to start might be increasing transparency, which I wrote about a few times last month.  Check them out.

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