The role of trust in workplace resiliency

Shefali Desai

By Shefali Desai
Shefali Desai is Head of Worksite for the Workplace Solutions unit of MassMutual.
Posted on Apr 15, 2020

Amid growing global health concerns related to the spread of COVID-19 and a dissonance of information – many Americans are feeling uncertain about the future. At the same time, employers are facing questions raised by market volatility and changing business conditions.

For instance:

  • How do I manage my finances to stay afloat?
  • What can I do to help my employees survive?

In MassMutual’s Worksite insurance business, we often look at how employee benefits can fuel the growth and longevity of a business. That’s because these benefits help employers protect their most valuable asset, their people. In turbulent times, the same sentiment holds true. A company’s future depends in a large part on their employees and how they respond to the challenges that lay ahead. A response, which is largely informed by how their employer supports and guides them – strengthening trust and cementing employee loyalty in the process.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop, employees are looking to their employer to provide reliable information, meaningful action, and genuine empathy.

Your employees’ most trusted source

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on COVID-19, employer communications are the most readily trusted source of information about the coronavirus with 63 percent of employees believing information from this channel after one exposure.1

This is not an unprecedented finding. Prior to the outbreak, the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer found, “my employer” was cited as the most trusted institution by 18 points over business in general and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).2 Employees rely on their employers. Providing employees with factual and timely information during these worrying times will only continue to strengthen their confidence and commitment.

As a trusted source, employers should share what is known about coronavirus and what resources they can provide to their employees. Be present and sincere in these communications and respond to employee questions candidly. This is an unprecedented situation, and employers are bound to face tough decisions. But your communications will be most effective when they are honest, thoughtful, and meaningful.

Putting your words into action

Employer trust has often been correlated with heightened employee engagement, productivity and loyalty — all key components to workplace resilience. Now, what actionable steps can you take to deepen this trust?

Considering the magnitude of current events, this presents itself as a considerable responsibility for employers. However, there are many practices that employers already have in motion to foster trust in the workplace. Adapting these efforts to meet the needs of your employees during this period of uncertainty, will help build lasting confidence and a committed workforce. These actions may include:

  • Increasing the accessibility and transparency of leadership — Consider hosting regular Q&A calls or “fireside chats” to address employee questions and concerns.
  • Demonstrating a commitment to your employees’ well-being — Your employees’ health and safety is paramount. Follow guidance from the CDC to ensure you are fostering a safe work environment whether it’s physical or virtual.
  • Nurturing a sense of community at work — Physical distancing can leave employees feeling isolated. Encourage teams to meet regularly and use video when possible – try virtual coffee breaks to allow teams to bond socially as they would in the office.
  • Communicating the company’s positon on and plan to address current issues and events — Ensure your business continuity plan is up-to-date and accessible by all employees. Alert your employees to any changes to the plan.

In addition to these communications and trust-building best practices, it’s critical to have the financial and operational systems in place to support your employees through this difficult time. The following are important action items to help sustain your business during this period of uncertainty:

  • Monitor cash flow to retain as much value as possible. This may include asking for an abatement from suppliers, mortgage lenders and other contractors.
  • Use all available federal resources offered through the CARES Act including Small Business Administration loans, payroll tax delay, and other business loans through the Federal Reserve.
  • Manage delayed contract fulfillment with clients.
  • Examine and reduce any unnecessary operating expenses.

A community effort

Impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt around the globe. While not everyone is on the same part of the journey, it’s important to recognize that we’re all affected. This brings us to the third pillar for building trust in the workplace – empathy.

Confronted with growing uncertainty, it’s important to acknowledge the emotional response of your employees, your clients and the communities you serve. In the coming days, we will all face adversity. But with each challenge overcome, we will see positivity restored. During this time, rhetoric from leadership should not focus on the return to business-as-usual, but how we can work together to persevere through these disconcerting times.

Looking for more information? Check out our Employer Checklist for actionable steps to guide your business’ COVID-19 response.

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