Trust at Work

The surge in remote work has seen an unprecedented rise in engagement and with it, a new-found sense of trust and transparency between employees and employers. But the rising demand for employee monitoring software is a worrying sign that Trust At Work is dwindling.

Google the words ’employee tracking software’ and your search will reveal no shortage of employee monitoring software. In fact, software companies are scrambling to outsmart (and outmarket) one another in the race to provide employers with the tools and tech to keep watch on their remote employees. From real time desktop monitoring and time tracking to screen and keystroke recording, it’s all available – at a price.

But the real cost, I believe, is in the decline of trust. It may not be easy to measure this loss at first, but its effects are far-reaching – from poor productivity and disengagement to increased staff turnover.

So, what can companies do to ensure that remote employees remain engaged and contribute to the realisation of the organisation’s strategy – without resorting to surveillance?

The answer is simple: Turn up the trust. I’ve covered this topic before. Because it’s such a critical issue. Yet, it is one that is continuously overlooked by employers.

Less surveillance, more trust-building

Few would disagree that trust leads to higher engagement. But trust, I believe, is more than just a condition for engagement. Trust is the cornerstone of conscious engagement, by which I mean that it marks the difference between systematized engagement, and truly human-centred engagement.

Trust, we know, is emotionally-based – we feel trust towards others. What’s more, research shows that trust is reciprocal – when we feel trusted, we become more trusting of others.

To trust is human. It cannot be replicated in any system or process.

Where employee engagement looks to reengineer the external conditions of engagement, and to systematise them, conscious engagement reaches more deeply; into the human experience of engagement – how individuals engage with, and respond to, their work environment; and how, as a collective, organisations skillfully manage their energy for maximum human contribution.

As an evolving construct, conscious engagement can be defined as a state in which employees have self-awareness and empathy; in which they are enthusiastic, alert and focused on their work, and in which, collectively, the organisation’s capacity for reflection and reason leads to more principled decision-making, while its positive energy produces sustainable results.

I will be covering the topic of conscious engagement in future Humanist blog posts. But if there’s one takeout from this article, let it be this: Reducing engagement to a system or a process is a mistake. True engagement is a conscious, co-created reality that starts with trust-building.

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton

Felicity Hinton is the founder and chief strategist at Humanist, a culture-change agency that helps transform people for business success. Previously, she worked in human performance solution design, and advertising. She is a certified change manager (UCT), has a Bachelor’s degree in English (Wits), and has won several awards for her business writing, including a Silver Quill.

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