As we’ve learned over the past 18 months, remote work has impacted every element of an organization’s culture and operation. One of the most complex challenges leaders have faced in a more virtual environment is earning and maintaining the trust of their employees. High-trust organizations have higher retention rates, and employees are more productive, efficient, energetic and collaborative than those in low-trust organizations. Trust certainly has been a key success driver for our organization. Here is what we have learned over the last year and a half about building trust in a remote working environment.
Trust is all about relationships. Over time, our interactions with others, no matter how large or small the gesture, build relationships. In general, gestures such as making small talk, asking questions, and showing goodwill go a long way in maintaining credibility. As we shifted to remote work, these opportunities to make small talk and ask questions have been limited to 30-minute video meetings. In some cases, our pets are the only other beings we come into contact with throughout the workday while working from home. We simply stopped interacting with our coworkers the way we used to, but we found ways to make up for it.
For the majority of our office employees, we have been working remotely since March 2020, and initially, this significantly decreased person-to-person interactions. At ScanSource, we have always had a strong sense of community in our offices. In an effort to maintain our culture and build a sense of community virtually, our leaders had to get creative. We promoted collaboration by hosting global events, held more frequent virtual check-ins to build team communication, launched our very first virtual concert series highlighting employees’ talents, “attended” our fair share of virtual holiday parties, and implemented fun, virtual events, such as trivia nights, bingo, and more.
We continue working to establish better means of communication and higher visibility across the globe, with the goal of sharing daily location-based news and announcements with each member of our company. We also are working to upgrade our intranet to a truly global platform in the very near future. In the past few months, we have begun to reopen our offices to employees who feel safe coming in or prefer more of a hybrid approach. Our facilities team completely revamped the layout of our headquarters, creating a more collaborative environment outfitted with standing desk stations, work “pods,” and updated health and sanitation measures.
Understanding your employees and continuing to make improvements
It is important to remember that trust is a two-way street. As our team members began working from home, we entered uncharted territories. We had to prove that we trusted employees to perform their jobs, despite their location. This involved establishing regular meetings with managers and our teams to ensure our leaders felt comfortable with the transition, especially as their teams moved to a remote environment.
With the health and financial challenges that accompanied the pandemic, we knew we had to find new ways to support our people and provide resources to aid this complex transition. Our people are more than just ScanSource employees – they are parents, sons and daughters who have lives and challenges beyond their computer screens and day-to-day work. To give our teams the support they needed, we implemented a program to allow employees to take paid time off if they had COVID, were taking care of someone with COVID, or were otherwise affected by the pandemic with situations like closed daycare or school. The health and well-being of our employees, both mentally and physically, is paramount, and we want them to feel comfortable taking care of themselves and their families.
This past year, we deployed a Franklin Covey survey that is used to index trust within an organization and ultimately guide operational improvement. We are using these results to plan for real improvements make new commitments to our employees and develop plans to ensure we meet our goals. From the survey, we learned there are some things we do very well – such as demonstrating respect and delivering results – while in other areas we have room to improve. As the global leader of our HR team, taking these results seriously is very important to me, and we believe all employees’ opinions and viewpoints are valuable. At ScanSource, we aim to see everyone equally and listen to their concerns.
Another essential aspect of building trust among your employees is accountability. At the end of the day, our leaders need to be held accountable, just as our managers and individual contributors are held to a high standard. As we look to make positive changes based on the results of our employee surveys, my HR team knows that we must be “beyond reproach.” We know that the people who are responsible for making policy must be the ones to exhibit the behavior expected by the policy.
The pandemic brought uncertainty to many business sectors, and employees want to see that their leaders are acknowledging current circumstances and openly sharing decisions with the organization. For ScanSource, we always keep our core values and our culture at the center of every decision we make. We aim to keep our employees engaged and informed about our decisions by hosting monthly company meetings that communicate important decisions and how they impact the organization.
Building trust for the long-term
Since remote work is here to stay, it will be imperative for HR and organizational leaders to keep their fingers on the pulse of their employee communities. The remote work environment is not conducive to building trust in the traditional way, so we will need to continue to stay creative – just as we have done throughout the pandemic – to maintain office culture and relationships with our employees. COVID has emphasized the importance of trust within an organization and reminded us how fragile it can be. The companies that will be the most successful in the future will be the ones that can adapt to the circumstances and continue to earn the trust of their employees. More than ever, leaders must be agile and stay close to emerging trends as they relate to remote and hybrid work environments. Look at building trust in this new age as an opportunity, instead of a hindrance.