I note that trust is in the news again. Here is a link to Anthony Hilton writing in the Evening Standard.
I expect that you consider yourself to be a trustworthy person. I certainly believe that I am. I imagine that very few people would believe that they are not worthy of others trust.
So why is it that many organisations and indeed whole industry sectors appear to not be trustworthy? After all trustworthy people work in and for them?
And if it’s important that organistions develop and increase trust levels, what can HR do to enable and lead the change?
Here is a personal story. One member of my family has an account with Nationwide. If you’ve seen its advertising recently you will know that it is positioning itself as different to the banks – as more trustworthy than other financial institutions. So why is it that, having agreed to do something for us, failing and then agreeing in writing to put it right, it has then reneged on its agreement?
And it is not that the individuals are untrustworthy. Everyone we have dealt with has been helpful, conciliatory and keen to sort out the problem. But they have been failed by their organisation. The end result is that, for us, the organisation is not to be trusted.
I notice how disappointed I am. Doubly so as I feel I’ve been conned by their advertising into trusting them more than I should have done.
I truly want to be able to trust organisations. Indeed much of my work involves helping organisations become more trustworthy in practice. So it is fascinating to me to observe just how frequently organisational dynamics leads to very different corporate behaviours from those demonstrated by individuals. And how the organisational dynamic overrides the individual preference.
So good people end up doing bad things.
What can HR do? Well actually I think that HR can do a lot to engage people in debate and dialogue. For example by asking some questions;
- How important is trust to our organisation?
- What stands in the way of it becoming more trustworthy?
- How does what we say about trust and what we do differ?
- What would a more trustworthy organisation look, feel and sound like?
- What would we stop doing?
- What would we start doing differently?
- What might it mean for our employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, executives and competitors?
And around the Boardroom table, HR can take the lead in challenging the extent to which the leadership team wants to see change around trust.
If we can’t trust our HR departments to do this, who can we trust?