Why HR professionals are Ideally Positioned to Build Trust

Building trust in your organization greatly benefits the employees, the culture, and the organization’s performance, which are all tightly related.

Unfortunately, building trust is not an easy task for two reasons. First, because trust is relative. While some behaviors (such as telling the truth) are universal, others are not. In fact, the same behavior that would cause one person to trust you could cause another person to distrust you. Second, knowing what behavior you want to change is not enough. Old behaviors are very hard to change. You must form new habits.

The process of increasing your trustworthiness has the following steps:

  • Identifying a critical relationship in which another employee (such as a. coworker, a boss, or someone who reports to you) depends on you. If they don’t trust you, they will not rely on you.
  • Identifying your specific behavior that holds you back from being trusted by that person. Remember that trust is relative, and even if a certain behavior is acceptable in one relationship, it might cause the other person in this critical relationship to distrust you. The reason for focusing on bad behavior is that people respond much stronger (negatively) to bad behavior than they do (positively) to positive behavior, and research has proved that many times.
  • Creating a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable but not too easy, relevant and impactful, and time-bound) plan that will allow you to form new habits that will change old behaviors. The plan should consider the process of forming new habits.
  • Execute until the new habit becomes automatic and doesn’t require thinking and effort anymore.

Sounds easy? Well, it’s not. There are too many places where you can make mistakes. You may identify a relationship that is not critical, or the dependency of the other person on you is not important enough. You may identify the wrong behavior to work on and spend time and effort trying to fix a behavior that is not holding you back from being more trusted in that relationship while not working on the behavior that does. Your plan might be too easy, too hard, not impactful enough, or otherwise easy to drop before forming new habits. Finally, according to research, even if you do everything right, you still only have a 50% probability of success.

And who is better suited to build trust in the organization than the HR professional?

  • They are already trained and experienced in human behavior in the organizational setting, and addressing this human resources issue (trust) fits their job description. They can dramatically increase the probability of identifying the right behavior and developing the right plan to change that behavior.
  • They are internal to the company and are very familiar with the people, the internal dynamics, and the corporate culture and goals.
  • Having worked with the employees they are helping, they are more trusted by those employees than an external coach would.
  • They are already on the company’s payroll.
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