Trust Culture in Pandemic Period: Put “People” First, Then “Trust”, Then “Targets”

Blog Posts,Feedback Culture / 20 November 2020

(Time Read | 4 min)

During the past three months, we have read significant number of articles and listened many webinars, presentations and analysis about the pandemic process and its effects. Majority of these contents were talking about some so-called easy to apply formulas and suggestions on overcoming the negative effects of Covid-19 crisis. As we know and experienced, unfortunately there is no such a magic strategy or formula that would invert the situation. Many of us must deal with the anxiety and delusional mood due to uncertainty as well as macro factors beyond our control. Besides corrosive sides of Covid-19, there are some practices, when applied, make it possible to walk away with some corporate gains. To give you some hints, we would like to share practices through a series of articles. We will be focusing on three specific areas: corporate culture, employee performance and skills development. We hope our experience opens a new perspective about untapped development opportunities in times of crisis. We welcome you to join us to share your thoughts and suggestions.

So far, 2020 is not going according to the plan. There has been a lot of change in our business life since working from home (WFH) period began; company targets were revised, budgets were narrowed, operations in some sectors stopped, productions reduced, fairs/organizations were cancelled, official working time shortened, real working time extended etc. Even though we are now discussing the plans to go back to offices as part of the normalization process, the new normal will still take some time to affect our daily lives.

A lot of people, including myself, are looking through this entire process of change, and trying to make forecasts regarding the future of business life.

Our observation about the most important message to companies from this process is this: focus first on your people, then business…

We All Want to Feel Safe

According to the Covid-19 analysis report published in the New York Times on May 8th, between 160-215 million people around the world will be down with Covid-19 and about 200,000 to 1.7 million of them will unfortunately be expected to die (pls. see CDC Confidential Study).

Many people are worried about the negative effects of pandemic on their lives, especially in terms of their health conditions and future expectations. While the economics side of it take the major stake from the pie, the need of “feeling safe” sits on top of all these concerns.

As executives and managers, we think that we make our employees feel economically safe by keeping them able to work and perform their profession at home. Part of our mission is completed by providing them digital tools such as video calling systems, remote connection applications, online education, and communication systems to enable them rolling.

Being able to WFH and getting paid helps, but it does not 100% fulfil the need of feeling safe. The key point to focus on is; people are frightened and as a result they expect an environment where they feel the trust, have confidence on their future, see the transparency on responsibility sharing among team members and have quick access to information in order to analyse.

From Macro and Micro Perspectives

Looking from the macro perspective, governments are not managing the progress appropriately therefore their performance is not at the satisfactory level. In addition to lack of transparency in terms of information sharing, it is very clear that the number one goal for the administrations is “the economy”. Their tendency is to make decisions benefiting the economy, not the public. And this causes people to lose their trust and diminish the confidence they have on their government.

Having the macro experience in my mind, from the micro scale, the message for me as a professional worker and/or a manager is clear: “during this process, we should focus on our employees, not our business goals”.

It is obvious that if your people feel that they are your number one priority, which means you make decisions for the good of them, we can say that the result will follow in time eventually.

Your Biggest Role is to Make Them Feel Safe   

As we learned in previous crises, these times require us to build trust, collective thinking, and consciousness to act as a team.

The finding in the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer is very clear. Trust is based on 3 basic elements:

  1. Competence (ability to do a job correctly)
  2. Ethics (a system of values)
  3. The right to speak (encouraging people to speak)

In the research, as you can see in the graphic, 4 institutions in our social life (Government Institutions, Media, Civil Society Organizations and Private Companies) are evaluated based 3 basic elements above. The result is that; although people question the ethics in their companies’, workplaces are “the most trusted institutions” compared to other evaluated institutions.

People Want Trust at Workplace

While people want a trust culture where they work, companies should not forget that the people who will take them out from the financial crisis are the people working for them. Corona virus should be seen as an opportunity in this sense.

“In this process, if you; approach your employees competently and ethically, listen their needs, and distribute responsibility fairly, you will increase trust, team spirit and endurance in your company”.

As mentioned in Amy Edmondso’s book “The Fearless Organization”, companies that value trust, ethics, and the voice of their employee, produce great financial results. On the other hand, the future will not be bright for companies that try to keep their economy alive by focusing on reducing employee costs during the crisis periods, such as Covid-19. They will definitely be subject of a poor performance in the future.

From this perspective, while making your decisions on issues such as WFH, paid leave, short-time work, training, development, wage cuts and performance goals; try to create an environment where your employees feel; safe, their voices are heard, and their rights are protected.

This is possible with a clear and transparent communication. You will see that you have overcome the negative effects of this period much faster as you increase your communication with your employees. The performance of your employees will increase significantly with the guidance you give them by your frequent feedbacks and your recognition to the added value created by them from working at home.

If you want to be among these leading companies that make a difference with a strong corporate culture and turn the negative effects of Covid-19 into their benefit, please contact our consultants. We are ready to serve you as a corporate culture and competency development focused real-time feedback platform “Buddy”, which will allow you to build a culture of trust and increase performance in accordance with the requirements of the period.