Over half of American workers feel they have no one to turn to with a workplace issue, according to previous research. This year has brought even more strife for many companies making difficult decisions about staffing, creating new work policies to reflect remote desires, recruiting in a world with fewer willing workers and in some cases shutting down entire organizations. Given the confusion over returning to the office or creating hybrid work spaces, there has been a lot of discussion around keeping employee morale high and looking out for mental health triggers for workers.
With the Pfizer vaccine reaching full FDA approval and discussion around the vaccine, return to work and other Covid-19-related topics will likely increase. According to Todd Moran, chief learning strategist at NovoEd, “While HR and business leaders might shy away from these difficult conversations, creating open lines of communication between employees and leadership and fostering vulnerability at work are critical to collaboration, productivity and cohesiveness across the organization.”
A new study by Elements Global Services, an HR technology & services company,bears out the dire need for these candid conversations. The survey—comprised of 1,000 full-time workers—looked into HR complaints, employee monitoring and Google search trends and found a growing lack of trust between employees and employers in 2021. Key findings include:
- 83% said they trust their HR manager or department; however, two-thirds said they’ve neglected to report something to HR because they didn’t think HR would fix the issue.
- 49% who have neglected to report something cited fear of retaliation.
- 74% of those who work remotely are concerned about their employer monitoring when and how much they work.
- 76% of workers who use a computer are concerned about their employer monitoring their communications.
- 64% said they have deleted browsing history at some point.
- 53% said they have deleted a Slack or similar instant message so it cannot be seen by a boss
In responding to his company’s survey, Rick Hammell, CEO and founder of Elements Global Services, noted that employees are extremely concerned about being monitored or surveilled during their workday. As hybrid workplaces and use of new technology in the workplace continues to grow, he acknowledged there are countless ways an employer can track what you’re doing and how often you’re doing it. “For employers to identify solutions, bridge the gap and ease concerns of employees, employers first need to recognize the growing distrust created in today’s work environment,” Hammell said. “The key to alleviating distrust is investing in solutions and becoming more flexible, transparent and involved.”
Hammell noted that employees, specifically remote workers, have turned to hiding things from their managers as they are concerned their employers will use this information against them to either give employees more work or use for the ground of termination, further blurring the lines of a work-life balance and the idea of privacy in the workplace. “These findings illuminate that there is a great opportunity for business leaders to make valuable improvements to their departments and processes,” Hammell said. “The trust between HR managers and employees is there—the foundation has been laid. In today’s environment where many are working either fully remote or in a hybrid model, it is even more important to foster that relationship and invest in ways to grow and strengthen employer and employee relations.”
Building A Culture Of Candidness And Trust
Hammell remains upbeat around the erosion of trust issues and envisions that these findings provide organizations and business leaders ample opportunities to build their relationships with employees by trusting and allowing them to be accountable for missteps or miscues in the workplace. “First and foremost, employers need to trust that their employees are working diligently and consistently throughout the workday,” the Elements founder said. “CEOs and HR managers need to trust their hiring process and that the employees they’ve hired are the right employees for the job at hand. Additionally, employers and HR managers can use HR technology to improve transparency throughout the company, ultimately improving levels of trust for all parties.”
Both Hammell and Moran believe that creating a culture of transparency is key. Hammell believes there are many solutions employers can implement within their organization to earn greater trust from their employees and create a level of transparency that may not have been there originally. He advocates implementing a culture of transparency, accountability and consistency that allows companies and business leaders to keep lines of communication open between themselves and their hard-working employees, furthering trust and increasing overall well-being within the work environment whether remote or in-person. “It’s important for business leaders to create a culture in which employees are comfortable with approaching their superiors with mistakes made, questions or concerns,” Hammell said. “Creating a culture where employees will be encouraged instead of chastised for making errors can reduce the feelings of needing to delete browsing histories, Slack messages or feeling regret over communication amongst employees.”
And Moran agrees that transparency and vulnerability set the stage for real change to be made and establish trust throughout an organization, although realistically, he acknowledged that not all employees are going to be comfortable with being vulnerable from the get-go. “It’s also important to remember that being vulnerable is a learned trait, and beyond that, understand why this quality is desirable,” Moran said. Still, he’s a proponent of learning spaces where employees feel safe, relaxed and valued so they’re more comfortable opening up and embracing vulnerability. He believes the best way to create vulnerable, honest workplace communication is to encourage managers, mentors and leaders to speak up. “When employees see their manager, work friend, mentor or team lead being honest about how they’re feeling about work and life, as well as sharing how they’ve grown, employees will feel more comfortable opening up to their colleagues inside and outside of learning spaces,” Moran explained.
“If inclusion and belonging are the ultimate blocks in the pyramid of employee engagement, open lines of communication between colleagues and managers are the glue holding it all together,” Moran added. “A company made up of employees who aren’t afraid to share their feelings with colleagues and managers, feel supported in taking risks and feel comfortable speaking up creates a stronger, more purposeful work environment. And it all starts with opening the lines of communication,” he concluded.