Chief executives and heads of HR have been wrestling for years with the question, “How can I create a great workplace?”, to answer that question, follow the evidence – trust. The research asserts that leaders in those so-called “best companies” lean heavily on that one human value that not all so-called “leaders” actually possess. Trust.

In many of my own employee surveys conducted with client companies, I have found that management is transparent in its business practices and transparent in how they communicate with employees. And transparency begets trust.

The science

According to a report published in Harvard Business Review, employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, collaborate better, and stay longer at their current companies than their counterparts employed at low-trust organizations.

In one compelling study led by Paul Zak, a pioneer in the field of neuroeconomics and author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, his team measured the brain activity of people while they worked and discovered that trust is the secret sauce of what makes work exciting, productive, and innovative. To better understand why two people trust each other in the first place, Zak found that the brain chemical oxytocin was the catalyst in facilitating trust and connection to others.

To promote more trust in virtual and hybrid teams, pro-social leadership behaviors like empathy and compassion, for example, have been found to release the feel-good neurochemicals in the brain, like oxytocin.

Finding trust in leadership

Bringing trust to a more practical level, the evidence suggests that leaders do several things that correlate well with committed behaviors:

  • They keep the lines of communication open.
  • They share their vision for the future with employees.
  • They take the pulse of the organization by constantly listening and responding to what they hear so they can serve the needs of their people.
  • They offer employees ample opportunities for training and development.

To foster a high-trust organization, leaders must have a strong character that does not compromise value. They also must demonstrate a commitment to purpose that inspires others to follow. And when leaders have a strong inclination to serve the needs of others before their own, when they show genuine caring and compassion for their people by looking after their best interests, it happens.

If you’re a leader reading this, know that your people are looking at you right now for guidance and a confident way forward. They want to know they can trust you with good decisions; they want to hear the voice of hope and see compassion in the chaos.

There is an absolute ROI when organizations invest in creating a safe culture. Great workplaces have significantly less turnover and attract employees who have a vested interest in their companies.