At Work

Work-life harmony: Part 3

Trust is defined as confidence in and reliance on the integrity, ability or character of a person or thing. Intuitively, everybody expects and exercises trust in his relationships.

Studies have consistently shown that high levels of trust bring substantial rewards. The Great Place to Work Institute, which has been tracking levels of employee trust in management for over 25 years, showed that the financial returns of the 100 Best Companies (with high employee trust) are better than their lower-trust peers.

Their long-term performance as a group is superior to that of comparable groups of companies such as the S&P 500. Apart from stronger performance and resilience in weathering economic downturns, other advantages include:

Attracting better talent;

Experiencing less voluntary turn-over;

Enjoying higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty;

Fostering greater innovation, creativity and higher productivity; and

Enhanced public reputation.

More companies are offering flexible work arrangements today to attract and retain talent and to differentiate themselves from competitors.

A culture of trust is crucial in ensuring the effective implementation of work-life integration programmes that will translate into real benefits for employees and employers.

Here are ways to enhance a company’s trust culture:

1 Set clear and mutually agreeable key performance indicators

Employers should help employees understand business priorities and encourage them to be equally clear about their personal priorities.

With all cards on the table, schedules and assignments can be arranged in ways that satisfy both sides. This way, employees are given specific goals but have autonomy over how to achieve these goals.

2 Keep the communication flowing

Companies must continually share their vision, values, business strategy and direction with employees and follow up on what they have been assigned to do. Employees should understand business objectives well to help bring the vision and strategies to fruition.

HSL Constructor is one employer who believes in having an open-door policy. New employees share their concerns with management through feedback forms and meetings with the management. Also, HSL advocates that to be trusted, one has to learn to trust others.

3 Focus on relationship-building

Employers should respect and support employees as “whole people” with important roles outside the workplace. By showing a sincere interest in the lives of their employees, managers will foster trust with their employees, enabling them to tackle their work-life conflicts effectively.

4 Engage and empower employees to solve problems

To build loyalty, managers need to actively engage their employees in contributing their ideas and creative solutions to solve problems and improve processes.

Empower staff to formulate solutions, and when implemented, give credit to those who contributed.

At Cherie Hearts, a local company that provides child and student care services, the focus on work-life harmony has resulted in a high-trust and loyal environment.

Members of the staff are encouraged to provide feedback and be open in communicating with the management and the human resource department. By doing this, the company gets the performance it wants, and the employees can meet their personal and family needs.

5 Walk the talk

Good managers know that actions speak louder than words, particularly in how they encourage their staff to embrace work-life balance.

The commitment to rethink and redesign work processes and experiment with new work options that replace the office-centred work model will demonstrate to and instil trust in employees that their company truly cares for them. Many solutions become possible when employers think out of the box and walk the talk.

Companies that work on building up their trust capital will find that they do not just have more balanced, engaged and loyal employees. They also experience higher levels of productivity and creativity, which in turn lead to greater profitability and an enhanced corporate reputation. — Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

Tomorrow: Maximising productivity at work

Article by Goh Wee Lee, senior consultant and managing partner of Strategic Value Consulting LLP.