Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Managing in an Era of Distrust

As always I so enjoy speaking with my friends at Maritz Research. Rick Garlick, senior director of consulting for Maritz Research, joined me again to talk about their annual study on the state of workplace engagement. This is the third or fourth year I've talked with Rick about the study, and this year some interesting changes were uncovered.

It's not surprising, given the recent history of corporate America, that a victim of the upheaval in the workplace has been trust, specifically trust in our senior leaders and direct managers. What was surprising this year was the addition of a lack of trust with co-workers. The study, now in it's 9th or 10th year (sorry Rick, I can't remember) showcases trends in workplace trust. Rick's expert advice is showing how that erosion of trust is impacting customers and customer service.

Maritz has done a lot of work on the relationship between employee and employer values. They've found that those companies which pay significant attention to values and building trust are regularly top performers. Their counterparts are those who try to win at all costs, typically losing at all levels.

In my interview with Rick I asked him what actions to take to improve trust in the workplace. His suggestions are:
  1. Open and transparent communications
  2. Follow through and keep promises
  3. Fix the disconnectedness and isolation; bring people together
  4. Use community service projects as a means to the greater end
This last suggestion struck me like a lightening bolt. I realized that many cause-related organizations are NOT creating opportunities for their corporate counterparts to support them via volunteerism. If they are, the approach is usually "we need your help." What if the pitch was changed around to: "Hey big business. Your trust and morale are at the lowest they've ever been. We have a solution. We are the solution. Bring your teams together, align around a common goal, get people talking and sharing. Get them over here for work projects and make a difference while you get your company back on track." Now that's a meaningful proposition!!

As always, Rick is a great source of information so be sure to listen to the podcast. And, check back next year for Rick's annual visit to talk about their latest study results.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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