By Scott Vollero
Do you trust your employees? If not, why the heck are they your employees?
Trust is one of the most effective and underrated means of team motivation. The catch: you have to demonstrate unambiguously the presence of said trust. You can’t just tell your employees that you trust and value them and expect everything to work out.
If you’re serious about motivating your employees to perform at their peak, consider these strategies for demonstrating that you actually trust them.
1. Give Them Ownership (Literally)
What better way to show your employees that you value their contributions than to give them a stake in your company’s success? Performance bonuses are table stakes in many competitive industries, but equity-based compensation — whether tied to performance, tenure or other factors — goes a step beyond. In an increasingly tight market for talent, equity can be a big (perhaps deciding) consideration for candidates weighing multiple job offers. As new hires become veteran employees and build your trust, increase their equity accordingly. While it’s tough for many business owners to stomach the thought of awarding shares to dozens or hundreds of employees, skin in the game is a small price to pay for loyalty.
2. Carve Out Domains
Another way to show your employees that you really, truly trust them: give them the run of important, but well-defined, business silos. Neutralize the shared-responsibility threat — when everyone is responsible, no one is responsible — by giving trusted employees veto power. If they don’t like how things are progressing under their purview, they should have the power to change them. “Owned” domains offer a particularly powerful incentive at rapidly growing businesses, where silos tend to expand and multiply with time.
3. Show Them the Value They Create (and Protect)
Not every employee can have his or her own personal fiefdom. But you can still communicate trust to rank-and-file employees by showing just how valuable their contributions can be. If you run a shop floor, for instance, put a price tag on your most valuable pieces of equipment. Faced with the prospect of damaging machines that add so much value to the workplace, the workers tasked with operating or supervising them are sure to treat them with the respect they deserve. And they’ll do so with pride, knowing that you easily could have entrusted the machines’ care to others.
4. Promote From Within
It’s tempting for growing businesses to cast a wide net for top talent. But this can be a short-sighted strategy that hamstrings your business in the long run. Loyal employees naturally resent outside hires, particularly when they’re brought in to fill senior roles that were posted internally. While it’s not always possible to fill specialized jobs with talent on hand, particularly in the early going, you’re more likely to get the most out of your employees if you can honestly make the case that you’re prioritizing internal development over headhunting.
5. Ask Them for Honest Feedback
People love to gripe about their jobs, even if they’re broadly satisfied with the work they do. If your workers are going to talk anyway, why not listen to what they have to say? Taking the time to solicit, organize, and respond to employee feedback demonstrates that you actually care about the employee experience, not just the bottom line.
6. Make It Clear When Trust Has Been Broken
Not every employee responds positively to trust. Some actively take advantage of their employers’ goodwill. If you ever find yourself faced with an employee who’s knowingly broken your trust, act quickly and decisively. You’ll make it clear to the rest of the team that your trust comes with a fair price — something that most people know instinctively, anyway.
How do you show your employees that you trust them? Have you tried any strategies that just don’t work?