How exactly do we build trust in remote or hybrid teams?
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On March 13th last year, Kenya reported the first case of COVID-19. Seven days later, Uganda announced its first case as well. The rapid spread of the disease over the course of one year has necessitated a modification in working models. A recent report by Fuzu states that 43 percent of organizations are employing flexible working models, but there are large variations by industry.
With all the efforts to make these flexible working models feasible, the foundation is one critical component. Trust.
According to HR Consultant and Director of Pealer Leah, trust goes both ways. The employee has to trust their boss that his/her job is still guaranteed, based on contractual agreements, and the employer has to trust that the employee is going to work diligently regardless of the environment.
29 percent of respondents we surveyed stated that company culture suffered when employees transitioned to remote work. Employees recruited during the pandemic have found it difficult to adapt to the company culture. A member of an HR team in an international agency told us that he is yet to meet some new employees who joined in 2020 because working from home has made social interactions among employees more difficult.
Social connections and collaboration are the primary benefits of "time in the office", which is essential in improving efficiency and harnessing innovation. In response, many organizations have designed activities to motivate teams to connect with each other and maintain the company culture. “We designed outdoor social- distanced events to allow employees to have a personal touch with each other. This improved the situation a lot,” said Hannah Karuru, Head of Human Resources at Chloride Exide. The fact is, there is a correlation between developing trust between teams and upholding company culture.
It’s relatively easy to establish trust between employers and employees who work in an office setting. It’s natural to strike up casual conversations with colleagues who work in different departments or in different teams. We gather all kinds of personal and professional details about who they are and how they comport themselves that make it easy to pass trust back and forth between each other. But how do colleagues in remote work who rarely meet in person, if at all, discern that others are reliable? How do we develop concerns for coworkers’ welfare when we work remotely so that we can feel reasonably comfortable interacting with one another? How exactly do we build trust in remote or hybrid teams?
How do we establish trust?
Career expert and author who is a contributor to Forbes magazine gives some insight on building trust. In the article “Working Remote: How To Build Trust From A Distance” she advises companies who are working remotely.
She begins by noting that humans are hard-wired to trust. The trust is built based on reciprocity. Both the employer and the employee need to equally trust each other. They both need to take the required steps to build, establish and maintain trust in each other. In her submission, here are some of the tips she gives:
1. Practice self-disclosure: One of the most powerful ways to develop emotional trust with people is by self-disclosure or the process of making yourself known to others. The employer should be open and honest with their employees. Both employers and their team members should share more about themselves. Author, Brower says that you don’t have to share your secrets. Of course, self-disclosure also requires that we make judgments about the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable in specific contexts and what degree of personal information we feel comfortable disclosing. This type of sharing has to be explicit, intentional, and voluntary.
2. Be predictable: Naturally, as humans, if someone builds a reputation of following their words with action, we trust them. As an employer, you need to be known as a “certain” person. Brower writes that “People crave certainty and classic leadership studies have shown team members would choose a predictable, yet badly-behaved boss over an unpredictable one.” People shun volatile characters and withhold their trust if they don’t know what reaction they will get.
3. Be supportive: People trust someone who is genuinely supportive. If you support your employees in their personal goals, it makes it easy for them to trust you. Brower picks out an instance when a senior person is chiding a junior worker. Support means sticking out for that junior if they are not in the wrong. When you show them that they can rely on you, the trust will flow naturally and will be reciprocated.
Trust is not demanded, it is earned. Reciprocity is a key ingredient when it comes to building trust. Brower advises people to invest in relationships. As a natural response trust will flow seamlessly. Invest in your relationships and you will see that trust will never be a struggle.
About the Authors
Jussi Hinkkanen is Fuzu’s Founder & CEO. He is a software and strategy expert with 15+ years on-the-ground experience across African countries. He has a proven track record from multinationals and start-ups across the globe, from building strategic partnerships across 10+ African markets and from launching B2C services to millions of users in the region. His 20+ year-long career includes notable organizations like Nokia, Microsoft & UN.
Dylan McCall-Landry is Fuzu's COO where he leads Fuzu’s teams supporting employers and institutions to find top talent. He was previously an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co. where he led projects across the US and Africa on organizational design, business turnaround, and strategy. He holds a MA in International Economics from Johns Hopkins University.
Muthoni Mathenge is Fuzu’s Head of Account Excellence where she supports employers across East Africa to leverage the power of Fuzu to find their next great hire. Prior to Fuzu, she was a Lead Customer Support and Retention specialist at Poa internet. She holds a Masters’ from Egerton University.
Roshelle Kayeyia is a Strategy and Operations Associate pursuing her studies in Business Analytics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously worked as a Relationship Officer at Equity Bank.
This article is part of a broader series from Fuzu’s research. This is part 1 of 8. Part 2 to be released on Friday, April 16th, 2021.