How to Rebuild Employee Trust After a Crisis

To put it lightly, the last six months have been a turbulent time for employers. Many of us have had to make some tough decisions, change aspects of our businesses dramatically and have had to shift to remote working or a significantly reduced workforce. All of which are challenges we couldn’t have even imagined this time last year.

One of the biggest problems for employers has been trying to keep their business afloat in times of financial turmoil, without hurting or ruining their relationship with loyal employees. It’s been a delicate balancing act between finances and loyalty, which has been devastating for many businesses.

While in the UK, the furlough scheme has provided a lifeline for employers, who have been able to hold on to their top talent without taking any drastic measures, these safety nets cannot last forever.

It should also be considered that while furlough is an excellent solution to save businesses having to make extreme cuts to jobs, it can leave employees feeling undervalued. Many furloughed employees may feel like their place in the organisation is unsafe, should future cuts need to occur. In most instances, this isn’t true; employees are trying their hardest to hold onto their talented people. However, when a business has survived without you for months, it’s understandable that employees may question their value.

As businesses begin to welcome back employees, and things for many begin to feel slightly more normal, employees may still feel a bit hostile and unsure about the security of their job and their place in your organisation. Employees that have stayed with you throughout the pandemic may still have these feelings of uncertainty; echoed by the treatment of their colleagues or excess workloads they’ve had to pick up. Teams may question whether the business is financially viable in the new normal, or whether they should look elsewhere. Even if you have handled yourself well during the pandemic, strained employee relationships will provide a threat to your employer brand.

Going forward into the new normal, it is a company culture of trust that will help you to retain your best talent and attract a higher calibre of candidate when the time has come to hire once more. It will enhance your employer brand and your reputation. Trust, however, isn’t a result that you can aim for and measure, it’s something that must be built over time. Trust amongst your people is not the sole responsibility of HR teams; it is built upon a reflection of the whole business. 

In fact, a lot of trust stems from the leadership, with 45% of employees stating that lack of confidence in leadership is the biggest issue impacting work performance.

So how can you rebuild the trust of your workforce after a crisis like coronavirus? How can you unite your teams once more and ensure that employees don’t hold grudges based on difficult decisions?

Honesty is the Best Policy

As with any relationship, the first way to build trust is, to be honest. Address any imperfections and mistakes you’ve made during the coronavirus crisis and use them as a catalyst for transformation. Don’t just sweep them under the carpet and hope to carry on with business as usual. If an employer can admit to mistakes, it’s the first step in rebuilding trust and improving your employer brand and perceptions as it’s clear you recognise areas for improvement.

Things may not be great for a while after the pandemic either, no one is expecting to snap straight back to smooth sailing. Employees will understand this; however, they’ll appreciate you more if you’re honest about your current situation. This doesn’t mean revealing all financial details or giving huge presentations every week but creating a clear picture of what’s going on and any future goals is sure to help enrich your employer brand. Employees like to be kept in the loop, feel involved and have regular updates; particularly in times of such incredible uncertainty.

Create a Transparent Culture

While it’s one thing for leaders, to be honest, you should also create a company culture of transparency if you want to build trust. You can start by inviting honest feedback, and actually listen to what employees are saying – taking their suggestions on board. Encourage communication throughout your organisation, so everyone no matter what their role or department knows what’s going on in the business and that they have a voice. If an employee has an issue, they need to be able to see it’s resolved or at least have a valid reason why it can’t be; otherwise, your employer brand will falter as you’ll look careless.

A transparent culture starts with leadership. Employees don’t want to see their boss sneaking around, holding secretive meetings, or hiring for a role no one in the business is aware of; it will only make them more nervous about their future and bring previous concerns to the fore. If you expect employees to communicate and be honest, this transparency must begin at the top. As part of a commitment to honesty, you should also ensure transparency is a core aspect of your EVP development; this means it can be filtered into every aspect of the employee journey.

Give Responsibility and Accountability

To really rebuild trust with employees, workplaces should consider giving their loyal workforce more responsibility and accountability within the business. Giving more responsibility shows that you have faith in your staff, and rewarding hard work shows genuine appreciation for the efforts they put in. This gratitude will reflect well on you as an employer, improving your employer brand.

Allow employees to see the contribution they make to the business; whether it’s showing their work in the real world, sharing results or even just having more conversations and reviews. Plus, rewarding outstanding performances will reinforce positive relationships and your reputation as an employer.

It may also help to involve your employees in crucial decision making. While it’s evident that some things must be decided by leaders alone, gaining opinions on aspects that will affect your employees will only have positive implications on your employer brand. When it comes to things like flexible working, new software that specific departments will use or even selecting a charity for the business to support; ask for your employees’ input, and they’ll feel more involved in the company, creating a greater sense of loyalty. Including the broader team in making choices will invert the organisational pyramid and show that your organisation is not only serious about change but determined to create a workspace and culture that employees will enjoy for years to come.

Create a Greater Sense of Individuality                                                                  

Not every department in your organisation is the same; they’re made up of different characters, carry out different tasks and have different needs. As an employer, recognising these individual departments and creating a greater sense of individuality within your organisation could help your employees feel appreciated. Focusing on individual departments, their people, growth and aims will prove that leaders in your organisation truly understand and care about what is going on throughout the business. You can segment your EVP and messaging to relate specifically to different departments or areas of the company. This segmentation means speaking to specific employees in a way that will resonate and offering benefits that will genuinely help their daily life and are personalised to their role. In doing this, employees will feel as though you care about them and their needs; they will trust that their leaders understand their issues and concerns which will only strengthen your employer brand form an internal perspective.

Along with this, you can also decentralise a lot of decision making away from the CEO and give more power to individual departments. This means that problems can be addressed quickly, and the people running departments have a real potential to bring about change as and when it’s needed. Employees will have more trust that the leaders who know about their role and department can help them and ensure that their voices are heard.

Trust Your Employees

One of the easiest ways to rebuild trust in your organisation is to trust in return. If your employees have managed to successfully work from home during the pandemic with no issues, it may be time to offer them a flexible working solution so that they can continue to work in a way that suits them. Similarly, if an employee has stuck with you through thick and thin, it may be time to give them a little more responsibility and show your trust that way.

If you micro-manage your team after they’ve had trust and freedom to work through the pandemic, their attitudes to working will change dramatically, and they’ll be more likely to look for alternative employment in a business that trusts them. Building trust means building relationships; if you want employees to have faith in you as an employer going forward, you must have confidence in their ability to ensure business success post-pandemic.

Provide an Opportunity for Collaboration

One of the best things about being reunited as a team is opportunities for cross-department collaboration. This creates a more united front for any business and ensures a team unity that is sure to build trust and improve your employer brand.

Collaboration is all about providing the tools for your workforce to take part in varied and exciting projects and trusting that they will deliver something effective. Collaboration changes up the working day, allows relationships to be formed with new people and gives opportunities for employees to contribute to projects or tasks which they might not usually have. Most importantly, it reinforces the idea that they are trusted and refreshing excitement around their employment again.

If you require help building an EVP, refining and promoting your employer brand in the new normal, Talent Works is ready to help. With experience in market research for recruitment to inform your EVP, digital attraction campaigns and creative recruitment marketing strategies, we can help rebuild trust for your organisation both internally and externally. Contact us to start a conversation.