Building Trust with Employees Goes Both Ways

Building trust with employees takes work, but the effort pays off

There are advantages to building a company around remote work. You can hire the right people, no matter where they live. You can work without office distractions. And because of the tools and software available, you can cut down on waste and administrative inefficiencies, like faxing, for instance.

Building trust with employees, however, takes a bit more work. Why? Trust is a product of relationships, and relationships need communication to take shape and grow. In a remote setting, it’s easy to let communication slip, especially if you don’t make it a priority.

While communication is the foundation of relationships and trust, it is only the ground floor. The ideas here are built upon that foundation, but to thrive as a remote team, you have to take that further.

5 Tips for building trust with employees so your remote team can flourish

What’s important to understand is that building trust with employees isn’t just about managers trusting that their staff is working efficiently and staying productive. That trust has to go both ways. The people on your team have to trust each other and you, as well.

1. Use communication tools

You have to have the right tools to communicate with one another. Email works wonderfully for sending documents, schedules, or specific details about clients or projects. It doesn’t work quite so well when you need to communicate more spontaneously – or tell a joke or share a family vacation picture.

Slack is one of the most well-known communication programs, and it truly brings effortless “conversations” into the remote realm.

Screenhero (which Slack now owns) gives you the ability to share screens and work simultaneously on a project with multiple mouse cursors and voice chat.

2. Be a team

We all make mistakes. An article goes out with a broken link. A piece of software is missing a line of code. A customer’s support ticket gets lost. It happens. When an occasional mistake pops up, can you accomplish anything by playing the blame game? Probably nothing productive.

From a customer’s point of view, your company is a single entity – a team. That means it’s your job to behave like a team. Blaming Frank over in tech support isn’t going to make your customer happy.

What can you do instead? One study found that teams with shared leadership foster “a more team-based approach that improves ‘leadership’ as a whole across the team.” Another helpful idea is to create guidelines and boundaries for communicating.

3. Establish boundaries

Communication is essential for a remote team, but how and when you communicate is equally important. Create rules to shape and guide the way your team interacts with one another, but some basic ideas to get started are:

  • Always listen to other people’s ideas.
  • Remember there is a real person on the other end of your messages.
  • Don’t contact colleagues when they are on vacation.

Writing for Forbes, Sebastian Bailey also suggests creating guidelines for “appropriate language in emails.” He also recommends that leaders regularly share success stories and set an example for proper communication. It’s easy to share the mistakes and complaints, but sharing successes is the hallmark of a leader who values his or her team.

4. Be clear on metrics

“You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin–to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”

What does a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Rings have to do with metrics and trust? Quite a bit, actually.

Part of success is setting deadlines, achieving goals and tracking progress along the way. You, as a leader, have to trust that your team is capable and responsible. But they need to trust, you, too. They need to trust that when a problem comes up, you won’t let them “face trouble alone, and go off without a word.”

So when someone on the team doesn’t meet the established metrics, work with them. Figure out if the goals are attainable in a different way, or with a different timeline.

5. Use metrics for accountability

Accountability is necessary, but how does that impact building trust with employees? Because accountability, like trust, goes in two directions.

The key to accountability is transparency, and that’s easy enough to come by. With workflow apps like Trello, it’s easy to see where in the line a project is. It’s easy to discover the problem area if one person or task is consistently the hold up in the work flow.

That’s not where accountability ends, though. Jessica Howington, writing for Remote.Co, points out that “just as you hold your staffers accountable, you need to keep yourself accountable. Be honest in your words and actions, and make sure you follow through on what you say.”

If you want to learn more about communication, building trust with employees, and bringing success to your career, take a look at our online courses. Learn how to engineer the rewarding career you deserve.

Photo by Cytonn Photography