Trust is an integral part of any successful company. When employees trust their employer and vice versa, it creates an environment of transparency and establishes a sense of security for everyone. But what do you do when you no longer have your standard trust indicators?
In the era of remote work, building trust isn't a straightforward task. It can be challenging without physical cues, "water cooler" meetings, or the ability to physically check in on productivity. Yet, trust isn't something a remote company can live without.
Trust is what allows remote employees to feel comfortable and confident in their day-to-day tasks and to be productive, creative and collaborative. It's also what enables remote leaders to let go of micromanaging and embrace autonomy.
In this article, we're taking a closer look at trust and why it's fundamental for remote teams. Then, we'll share some tips for building it in your organization.
Why is trust essential for remote teams?
The more autonomy a company offers its staff, the more important trust becomes. While efficiency metrics provide some information on employee performance, it doesn't paint the whole picture.
In the era of remote work, company leaders have to be able to trust employees to meet deadlines and complete tasks while not physically monitoring them. However, it's not just about leaders trusting employees. Employees also have to trust each other. How else will they know their colleagues are pulling their share of the workload?
Trust extends to leadership, too. For your employees to follow your lead, they have to trust your motives and ability. And in a remote environment, this all has to be communicated virtually. But how? We'll get into the nitty-gritty shortly. For now, let's take a close look at what trust actually means.
What is trust exactly?
In the professional sense, trust has more to do with reliability and dependability than it does with sharing secrets or holding information. Trust between employees, supervisors and leadership is all about how confident each party is that the others are doing their jobs and fulfilling their duties.
For company leaders, this means building trust in the processes you've set up and the workforce you've hired. For example, it means trusting that employees will be working when they're supposed to be and using their time efficiently. The older management styles got this "trust" with what they could see with their own eyes – if employees were present in the office at 9 AM, all was good.
Of course, that system wasn't exactly flawless. After all, being present and being productive are two very different things. When workers are given autonomy, like remote workers are, they tend to select efficient times and methods. A night owl may only be at half their best at 9:30 AM. That same employee may opt for a flexible schedule and get much more done. Trust enables managers to be confident that flexible arrangements work in the company's best interests. However, it's not just about the managers.
Trust works both ways
Similarly, employees need to trust their supervisors and peers. If employees don't trust that management is supporting them or acknowledging their good work, engagement and employee retention problems are sure to follow. They also need to have confidence in management's ability to lead the company toward future success.
That's why leaders looking to build and sustain a system of trust must ensure that it works in both directions rather than just providing assurance for the company management.
11 tips for creating trust and accountability
So, how do you do it? Here are 11 proven tips for building trust in your business. While most of these tips can apply to any situation, they become even more crucial when managing a remote workforce.
Set clear communication expectations
Communication gets tricky when employees work in different locations and time zones. That's why it's essential to set clear expectations around when and how your team should communicate. For example, employees should know how to reach their managers if they need support, and managers should know how to get in touch with their employees to check in.
In addition, there should be clear guidelines that layout answers to questions like:
- How often should employees expect to speak with their supervisors?
- Are employees expected to provide project updates? If so, how often?
- Do employees need to be online and available during specific working hours?
- Which communication tools should employees use to communicate with each other?
Your answers and expectations will depend on your industry and company. The most important thing is that you make everything clear. When everyone knows how to communicate, communication becomes seamless, leading to stronger trust for everyone.
Set clear goals for accountability
Just as employees need to feel comfortable with their communication expectations, they should also know their overall performance expectations. Without the physical reminders of specific goals or deadlines, leaders of remote teams need to set goals clearly and transparently – and make it clear that they're enforcing those expectations equally among all employees.
Clear goals get everyone on the same page and let employees know what you expect. In addition, if the goals are neatly defined and uniform, everyone can trust that everyone's working under the same standards, promoting fairness and trust.
Make time for regular check-ins
Autonomy doesn't mean unsupervised. Managers should still schedule formal sessions for catching up, addressing concerns and detailing progress. These could be weekly one-on-one virtual meetings with team members, monthly progress calls or both. Spontaneous conversations when employees are already online can also be effective. Regular check-ins keep employees engaged by making them feel a part of the larger whole rather than just being out on an "island" with limited communication or connections.
Be a dependable and responsive leader
Managers need to set expectations for communication and accountability. However, it's critically important that they don't just set these expectations. They need to follow them, too. As we discussed above, trust is a two-way street. So, leaders must remember their employees are observing their behavior and will likely mirror whatever they do.
If team members know they'll get a quick response when they need a question answered, a bit of support or clarification on a project or goal, they'll likely return the favor. Just remember, leaders set the tone for the organization, which extends to trust.
Cultivate a culture of transparency
Transparency and honesty are the foundation of trust. Set an approachable, easy-to-understand tone with your leadership teams. Be clear about performance metrics and results, and share your reasoning when possible.
Transparency goes a long way toward building trust among both employees and supervisors. Employees can sense when you're withholding information or only sharing partial truths. Being opaque with your motivations and plans only works to sow distrust. Companies fair much better when they're transparent.
Focus on employee engagement
Engaged remote employees are more likely to stick around and be committed to a company's mission. They also tend to put in extra work or share ideas without prompting. When you focus on employee engagement, you communicate that you're invested in their development. This investment helps cultivate trust and leads to better productivity, too.
Enable a healthy work-life balance
Burnout isn't just a negative for employees' health; it also hurts an organization's productivity. Employees that work remotely often have difficulty disconnecting from work. As an employer, it's your responsibility to help your remote team strike a balance.
Be fair and transparent regarding work-life balance. Set clear expectations and encourage your employees to take some time off. Respect their boundaries and working hours, and they'll trust that you have their best intentions in mind.
Create an environment that works well for everyone
Different personality styles are attracted to different types of work and communication. Make sure your organization's leaders know how to tailor the environment to suit everyone. For example, some employees might be fine communicating entirely through emails. Others will prefer phone conversations or virtual meetings. Consider utilizing different types of communication techniques, so everyone feels supported.
Also, ask for input regularly, and act on it. If a lot of employees feel a different structure or policy would be beneficial, heed their advice. Collaborative environments foster trust and result in innovation, so create a culture that values input.
Utilize collaboration tools
Take advantage of the collaboration tools available on the market and invest in technology to enable your teams to collaborate more efficiently. When employees see their companies invest in making their jobs easier, they're much more likely to trust leadership. Getting real-time feedback on attendance or performance can also provide managers the reassurance they need to step back from micromanaging and focus on fostering growth instead.
Foster team connection
Studies have shown that employees with stronger connections and friendships stick around longer and are more productive than their less-connected counterparts. Besides that, workers and managers are more likely to trust colleagues with whom they share a personal connection or friendship. In short, connections matter.
Consider teambuilding exercises or other outside-the-box activities that can get your remote teams to know each other better, especially those working side-by-side on certain projects or activities. Making it clear that your organization fosters relationships will go a long way toward building trust between colleagues and departments.
While it can be tempting to monitor employees' progress or performance constantly, it often undermines many of the assets that remote work provides employees in the first place – autonomy, trust and uninterrupted focus. In addition, continually asking for status updates or "checking in" will ultimately erode your employees' confidence and make them distrustful of management.
It's much easier to avoid these issues than fix them. Stay away from micromanaging and focus on positive activities that can reinforce trust and build communication or relationships between managers and employees.
Building trust with your remote team with Outstaffer.com
Building trust is essential to thriving remote work teams. While challenging, it isn't impossible, especially if you have the right team and tools from the start. That's where we can help.
At Outstaffer.com, we make it easy to hire, pay and equip remote employees from around the world in just a few clicks. Plus, with our #WorkFromAnywhere platform and Managed Devices, we make it easy to instill trust and security within your team with tools like Workforce Monitoring and Time and Attendance Tracking.
Want to learn more? Schedule your free demo today.