Why trust has never been more important

Published: 29 May 2020
Last reviewed: 10 Jul 2020

As we navigate our way through the current crisis, we have never been more dependant on trustworthy sources of information, guidance, and advice.  We need facts and knowledge reassuringly shared openly and honestly.

Written by David Blackburn – Chief People Officer, FSCS

As we navigate our way through the current crisis, we have never been more dependant on trustworthy sources of information, guidance, and advice.  We need facts and knowledge reassuringly shared openly and honestly.

Yet our headlines and news clips have highlighted that there still is, a literal crisis of trust in most of the world – in our societies, our institutions, our governments, our media (think Fake News and misinformation), and our organisations.  In the last couple of weeks, we have also seen United Kingdom policy on COVID-19 fracture: from national unity to separation and segregation.  With four nations announcing their own strategies; different messages and different approaches.

The unravelling of consensus makes it even more difficult for all of us to navigate our way forward.  We will only be able to get the whole country moving again – economically, socially, and culturally – if people can trust that where they work, shop, study and eat is safe.  Now as we are being actively encouraged to go back to work – in England at least – do we feel safe?

In 2013 I discovered the work of Stephen M. R. Covey on trust and I return to it again and again when grappling with these sorts of questions and challenges.  Covey defines trust as ‘…Confidence born of the character and the competence of a person or an organisation…’, and his extensive research identified the 13 behaviours that help people, organisations and societies build high trust relationships.

More than ever we need to Talk Straight, Create Transparency, Right Wrongs, Confront Reality, Clarify Expectations, Practice Accountability and Keep Commitments.  Because a lack of trust is also the issue at the heart of employee disengagement.  It is caused because so often throughout the employment relationship we tell half-truths, withhold information and say one thing when we mean another.  We have been doing this for so long and it has become such learned behaviour that in many organisations they barely notice that they are doing it!

Only with open and honest communication can you build trust.  We need to default to transparency and make everything open, visible and public unless something absolutely must be kept private.  We need to place significant emphasis on explaining the “why” so the reasons and thinking behind key decisions come before getting into the “how”.  We need to make room for diversity of opinion – some colleagues may never want to return to work in the office – and communicate continuously with warmth and emotion.

At the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) over the last two months we’ve launched a new Customer Focus Bulletin; weekly Bulletin; weekly Message from CEO; web Chats with the Executive Team; Digital Breakout Hours; Digital People Briefing using Teams Live; Virtual Managers Meeting; Virtual Coffee Breaks; FSCS Live Home Page; Executive Team Video Blogs; Quarantine Quiz Night; Photography Competition and Pilates / Yoga / Cardio Combat classes every week run by our employees.  We’ve shared our thinking at every stage of the journey and are developing precise return to work plans in full consultation with our staff. 

And the direct result: we’ve maintained our productivity; continued to help our customers get back on track and achieved our highest ever employee engagement.  Based on a 93% response rate of our People Survey last week: 92% of our people are proud to work for the FSCS; 90% understand how they are personally contributing to our success and 86% are excited about where the organisation is going.

Do our people feel safe?  I cannot answer that for every employee but what I can answer is that they trust us to do the right thing and tell them how we’re going to do it.

The Speed of Trust – The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M. R. Covey is available on Amazon and other booksellers.