As covered in “What it costs you to not collaborate,” having a high-trust environment in your construction company results in significant benefits, not the least of which is higher profit margins. Employees are more engaged, loyal, and productive. External partners collaborate with you on a project more effectively. Projects are more likely to be completed successfully.
Fostering a high-trust operational environment needs to be an intentional way of conducting business. Companies that have high levels of trust tend to concentrate on key behaviors internally and externally. Every organization can take the following steps to improve their level of trust.
- Know your baseline – To measure your company’s current level of trust, survey all of the employees, including managers, team leaders and support staff, using just a few questions like:
- On a scale of 1-5, how do you rate the level of trust within the company?
- When working together, do your co-workers have good intentions?
- Do your co-workers respond quickly to questions?
- On a scale of 1-5, how easy is it for a new employee to earn someone else’s trust?
Once you know employees’ perceptions of where you stand, you can decide on changes and improvements that will strengthen the trust environment.
- Minimize fear – As the March, 2020 Autodesk and FMI Corporation report “Trust Matters: The High Cost of Low Trust” asserts, trust requires uniformity. Your energy will be well spent keeping lines of communication open so you can eliminate or minimize situations that will cause uncertainty. You’ve doubtless heard the adage, “Even bad news is better than no news.” When it comes to no news, it’s human nature to start imagining a worst-case scenario and the fear that it will come to pass. Fear not only damages trust, it’s a poor starting point for employees to make decisions in their daily work.
- Be clear about expectations – Another way to reduce uncertainty in your company is by making sure everyone knows what’s expected of them. To achieve this:
- Be transparent – While there are some things managers will always keep close to the vest, there are still effective ways to share the company’s plans, goals and performance. It gives employees an opportunity to catch a vision in your strategy for success.
- Define expectations – If employees don’t understand their roles and responsibilities, being effective and focused really ends up being a matter of chance. They may achieve their work targets, or they may not. Clear expectations lead to better productivity.
- Provide feedback – Once an employee knows what’s expected of them, providing feedback on their performance is essential. The Autodesk-FMI report indicated feedback that includes how they’re doing well as well as what needs improvement “is well received and actioned.” This approach helps the employee develop skills, feel good about the ways their work contributes to the company’s overall success, and it builds trust.
- Communicate succinctly – Requests need to be specific and clear. According to a study by Microsoft, an average person’s attention span has eroded from 20 seconds in 2000 to about 8 seconds today. Choose a single issue for each request, and keep it brief.
- Encourage input – The suggestion box, popular in the 80s, has morphed into today’s digital feedback systems. A solid way to build trust is to gather ideas for improving the business. When an employee contributes a suggestion, they’re more likely to feel like they’re a trusted part of the company’s success.
- Be consistent – Routines eliminate uncertainty and increase trust, whether it’s report formats, meeting schedules, office procedures, or even rules. This consistency is important where external project partners are concerned as well.
- Simplify the ways teams collaborate – Businesses can reap multiple benefits when collaboration is streamlined with:
- Transparent communications – When working with project documents, teams need a single source of “truth” for all project data and information. Easy access to drawings and an organized way of working through changes will build trust among team members, with the company and with partners on the job.
- A focus on solutions – Rather than placing blame, encourage team members to bring attention to problems so they can be addressed before they escalate and cost the project more time and money.
- Getting everyone on the same page – Develop a plan for how team members will communicate during the project. Establish a decision matrix, including who has authority for what, how decisions will be made, how information will be communicated to teams, and how RFIs will be handled.
Building trust doesn’t happen overnight, but damaging it can. So take care to invest in maintaining your high-trust business environment so you can reap the benefits of higher profit margins, engaged and loyal employees, cooperative partners, and successful projects.
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