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'Trust gap' between leaders and employees damaging organisations

There's a global 'trust gap' between leaders and employees. Employees consider trust more important now than ever, but their levels of trust are on the slide.

So says the Forum Global Leadership Pulse Survey, which found that while two-thirds of employees rated their trust level as only moderate, more than nine out of ten said that it was 'highly important' to have leaders they could trust.

The trust gap didn't stop there. A stark mismatch of perceptions about behaviour was discovered between employees and their leaders. More than 70 per cent of leaders said they often or always acknowledged their mistakes, but only 15 per cent of employees said the same of their leaders. When it came to saying sorry for mistakes, 87 per cent of leaders said they often or always apologised - but only 19 per cent of employees said that this was the case.

Does it matter? The report said, yes - very much. It said that burying mistakes or blaming others for them can badly damage trust. Meanwhile, it found a strong link between employees' ratings of trust and their ratings of their managers' willingness to acknowledge and apologise for their own mistakes.

Leaders can get it wrong in other ways too. Being inconsistent, lying, not following up on commitments, lacking transparency, not leading by example, poor communication, gossiping behind people's back were found to account for 80 per cent of responses about how leaders lose trust.

Other research has found that a high level of employee trust goes hand in hand with greater loyalty and better performance. An engaged, trusting workforce can enjoy double-digit increases in productivity and profitability, plus reductions in staff turnover approaching 40 per cent.

Acas can help your leaders improve and boost your organisation's levels of trust. The Employment Relations Comment piece pdf  Placing Trust in Employee Engagement [120kb] puts forward simple practical steps that organisations can take to build or rebuild trust. Acas also offers training courses aimed at bolstering trust and engagement, such as Skills for supervisors and those listed under Staff retention.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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