Transparency can build trust in a crisis – here’s how

Most business leaders would consider themselves of high integrity and would therefore be alarmed to read the statistics on employee trust. According to a survey by EY of more than 9,800 professionals across the world, more than half said that they don’t place “a great deal of trust” in their employers.

Organisations with low levels of trust will undoubtedly be having a tough time during this global crisis, but it should also be seen as an opportunity to build that trust. Research has shown that transparent employee communications improve how employees view their company and increases job engagement.

At Achievers, we believe strongly that internal communications that prioritises transparency can be a key strategic lever for building trust amidst turbulent times in particular. It can create a strong sense of camaraderie and shared responsibility. But HR directors and communications professionals also need to consider how to manage the fact that there may be more bad news than good to share over the coming months. How do you build trust and keep people informed, without sinking morale?

Here are four key elements to consider:

  1. Is the information shared sufficient? – Organisations need to consider carefully if what is conveyed provides employees with a true and accurate picture of what is going on in the business. Are you giving them the top line of the real situation, or a convenient narrative that doesn’t tell the full story?
  2. Is it easy to access? Secondly, leaders must consider if they are making it readily available to all eyes. Is it buried way down in a quarterly CEO email, or shared for discussion in an all hands meeting?
  3. Is your cadence of communications balanced? Promotion-oriented communication is positive and focuses on growth and ideals, while prevention-oriented communication emphasises responsibilities, vigilance, and the potential negative outcomes. Leaders need to balance both types of communication to keep employees aware and engaged.
  4. Are you celebrating employees’ contributions? Recognition of the effort people are putting in and the achievements and strides made can act as a salve for the more negative things that need to be communicated. Recognising people’s contributions can help everybody feel like they are in it together and create a sense of collective responsibility.

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 By focusing on addressing these four key questions, organisations can begin to ensure that their communications during and in the aftermath of lockdown can build a deep sense of trust. Employees will remember how their organisations handled the challenges presented by COVID-19. It can either leave difficult scars that may not heal, or a strong sense of loyalty and connectivity that will help a business thrive for many years to come.

Download an Achievers Workforce Institute insight paper on internal communications in a crisis here.