5 Ways HR Can Build a Culture of Employee Trust

It’s no secret that employees tend to have a negative perception of HR. It can be hard to tell whose interests HR puts first: those of the company or the employee. The truth is that it often comes down to the individual HR professional and the company culture. However, HR professionals know that it’s important to have a genuine relationship of mutual trust with employees in order to build a better workplace.

In our recent survey on workplace relationships, less than 5 percent of respondents said that they would tell HR if they were dating a colleague. Even more telling, if a company’s dating policy required employees to report their relationship, still only 42 percent of employees say they would comply.

Why is it that employees hold back this work-related personal detail from the very department designed to help? 49 percent of employees have below average trust in HR to keep an office relationship confidential. This goes to show that HR needs to spend more time building up that trust.

Here are five ways to ensure your employees feel comfortable confiding in HR.

1. Prioritize Confidentiality

If an HR professional shares insider information with colleagues in other departments, employees may enjoy the scoop, but will likely steer clear when they have their own personal problem. Keep private things private and honor employee confidentiality no matter what. This includes refraining from sharing private information with company leadership without employee consent. Unless there are legal concerns, the employee should never feel like you’re going to betray their trust with anyone at the company, from top to bottom.

2. Sincerity is Crucial

It can take time to build employee trust, but it only takes one breach of confidentiality to break that trust. Don’t make the promise of confidentiality an empty one. The more genuine you are about advocating for employees and upholding a trustworthy relationship, the more employees will proactively put their confidence in you.

3. Be a Presence

HR usually sits slightly separated from the rest of the workforce, as they work with confidential information, such as compensation and performance data. Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you should ever be out of mind. Go beyond an “open door policy” by taking time each day to walk the floors and chat with employees. Building a personal relationship will make it much easier for employees to come to you when they need to talk.

4. Avoid Favoritism

While it is important for HR to have friendly and personal relationships with employees throughout the organization, there is a clear line to be drawn. If HR is seen spending a lot of time with one or two employees in and outside of the office, others may perceive favoritism and question the types of information being discussed. Be careful not to jeopardize employee confidence by prioritizing some work relationships over others.

5. Take Action

If you administer regular employee engagement surveys, it’s crucial to openly communicate the results each step of the way. Don’t be afraid to share both positive and negative feedback, and how you intend to do better in the future. But don’t stop there. Make sure that you report back on new initiatives you launch in response to the survey and then collect feedback on these initiatives. Invite employees to participate in an active feedback loop, so that they can track progress and see that HR is following through.

The data doesn’t lie, and it’s clear to see that there is an immediate need for improved HR-employee trust. Without this trust, companies risk decreased employee happiness, higher turnover, and compliance missteps. Take the time to get a pulse on your organization and consider reinvesting in the foundations of mutual trust.

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