Leadership Competencies

Taking Your Employees on Trust: How to Develop a High-Trust Business Culture

Sales Commitment

What place does trust have in your business culture? Do you trust your employees with freedom and flexibility in their working environment, or do you believe that any leeway encourages them to take advantage of your business? Many companies strictly regulate their employees, but this often drives employees to act exactly as the employer expects – which is, unmotivated and unscrupulous.

On the flip side, high-trust companies often enjoy driven employees, high retention rates, and high financial returns. According to a study by Russell Investment Group, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in America, which are characterized largely by their high-trust business cultures, earned twice the returns of the general market between 1998 and 2010. The Best Companies also had half the turnover rate of the general population and received twice the number of applications for open positions.

How do high-trust employee relationships translate into these hard returns? When employees feel like they are trusted, they are more likely to be engaged in their work, offer ideas and insights, and collaborate with coworkers on projects. Additionally, having a high-trust business culture leaves a good impression on suppliers, customers and prospects.

Read on to gain some easy steps to foster transparency, respect, and work flexibility in your business.


Transparency in the workplace should be the default. Employees should be kept informed of pay levels, leadership decisions, and the overall state of the company.  Employers might be hesitant share the ups and especially the downs of the company with their entire workforce, but informed employees are more likely to be personally invested in the success of the company and be willing to buckle down during a downturn. In my company, I make financial data available to any employee who wants to take a look.

Several studies bear out my philosophy. In a recent survey by Deloitte, 48% of executives believe that a lack of transparency in communication will lead to higher turnover rates. Additionally, the Public Relations Society of America found a direct link between organizational transparency and employee trust. Employees who are kept in the loop are more likely to feel like partners in your business – and that’s a good thing.


Too often businesses treat their employees as dependent workers who should be grateful for employment. At my company, I recognize that my employees are volunteers who could easily find employment elsewhere. Businesses should treat their employees as responsible adults who want to do a good job – and most of the time, employees will prove them right.

One of Google’s hiring practices is: “Hire people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you are.” Google believes that employees should be a source of insight and ideas for the company – and they are one of the most successful companies in the world. Instead of developing a workplace structure with rigid divisions between departments, encourage fluid and collaborative thinking across the entire workplace. And when an employee offers a great idea, implement it!

Work Flexibility 

Many low-trust organizations impose strict office hours enforced by badge swiping. I’ve even heard of badges that won’t allow employees to enter the building at 7:59 am, to ensure they won’t accrue even a minute of overtime. In this heavily regulated environment, employers often lose money through employee retaliative measures, such as buddy punching.

At the other end of the spectrum, high-trust companies are allowing employees to work when and where they want. The Citrix Workplace of the Future survey found that 24% of global companies allow their employees to work at times and locations of their choosing. This sort of flexibility eliminates commuting costs and promotes a better work/life balance for employees – and in turn, employees trust and appreciate their employers more.

Of course, high trust doesn’t mean that you should throw structure completely out of the window; employees can’t perform well if they don’t know how to perform. Businesses should invest in flexible, integrated software that tracks project progress and work costs across the whole of their workforce.

Trust is crucial for a business’s continued success. As more and more of the workforce shifts away from menial tasks and toward knowledge-based work, employers will be increasingly expected to treat their workers with trust and respect. And we cannot forget the upcoming workforce generation. Generation Y is notorious for wanting to be able to work when, where, and how they want. So, moving forward, trust is going to become a necessity.


About Curt Finch

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Founded in 1996, Journyx automates payroll, billing and cost accounting while easing management of employee time and expenses, and provides confidence that all resources are utilized correctly and completely. Curt earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Virginia Tech.  As a software programmer fixing bugs for IBM in the early ‘90’s, Curt found that tracking the time it took to fix each bug revealed the per-bug profitability. Curt knew that this concept of using time-tracking data to determine project profitability was a winning idea and something that companies were not doing – yet… Curt created the world’s first web-based timesheet application and the foundation for the current Journyx product offerings in 1997. Learn more about Curt at https://journyx.com/company/curtfinch.   

Category: Leadership Competencies

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About the Author: Curt Finch

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Journyx strives to be relentlessly creative and to build tools that help you spend your time on things that matter. After all, time is all we have. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to …

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