Building a Workplace Culture of Trust: Yes, Technology Can Help Cultivate It

Second of two parts

More and more organizations are recognizing the benefits of sharing data and giving direct control – not only to managers, but to the employees themselves.

There is a good reasons for this shift.

According to a report by NERA Economic Consulting, in 2014 employers paid out over $400 million in wage and hour settlements. Many of these were a result of managers changing the clock in/out times of hourly employees.

Clocking in and clocking out

For example, if an employee forgot to clock in or out, they had to ask their manager to go in and update the time and attendance system with the appropriate time (which of course is then used to calculate their pay). When managers have the power to change employee time, they are occasionally tempted to reduce the actual number of hours worked in order to avoid paying overtime.

There have been a number of very large employers who have paid out substantial fines due to this type of activity. But more progressive employers have begun to recognize the value of putting the responsibility back on the employee instead of the manager for this type of activity.

In other words, employees are responsible for their own time, and if they miss a punch they can go in and edit it themselves.

At first glance that may sound like letting the inmates run the prison, but the reality is that the cost of a few employees taking advantage (and getting a few extra hours here or there) is a lot lower than multi-million dollar lawsuits.

And remember, the technology is fully capable of picking up trends (ie when an employee is editing their punches three times as often as anyone else), which can then alert the manager to have a conversation with their employee and reset expectations on acceptable behavior.

The benefits of transparency

Another interesting caveat about sharing data with the front-line employee, is that most people are naturally competitive. More and more organizations are creating a culture of transparency that allows employees to understand exactly where they stand in relation to their peers when it comes to quantifiable metrics.

We all recognize that the world of professional sports already uses this type of model – where we know every possible type of performance metric about each individual player, including how much money they make.

But, what if we started doing this in corporate America? You already see this type of activity in sales roles where each individual sales rep can see exactly how much their peers have sold, and how they compare.

If you put it like that, how could any reasonable company not want more transparency? Yet when asked in a 2015 Brandon Hall Group survey about the main reasons for automation, transparency came in dead last, with only 10 percent of survey takers listing that as their top driver.

Cliff Stevenson is worried by this. He says:

On one hand companies say they want transparency, but on the other hand, they are frightened to death of it. Really it comes back to the same thing – trust. You have to believe that employees, even the ones you don’t see, are working for the common good. Even when it’s a temporary team, it’s still a team, and people will work as a team if you trust them.”

A new workforce strategy: Gamification

In fact, this plays right into another new trend that corporate America is only recently starting to consider adding to their workforce strategy: Gamification.

This is not simply emulating video game experiences, rather it is a matter of using basic precepts of psychology to change human behavior. Using progress mechanics such as points, badges and leaderboards appeals to the fundamental human needs that gaming principles meet, and plays an important part in how people stay connected with each other.

And here is the best part — through the use of technology we can automate these processes.

For example, if I have had perfect attendance for six straight months, the system could automatically send me 100 points (and send a note to my manager indicating that I received a “reward” for my perfect attendance).  Neither I nor my manager had to lift a finger to make that happen. We could create similar automated triggers for schedule compliance, completing training courses, participating in the wellness program, referring new hires to the organization, virtually any type of preferred behavior.

The bottom line is we are all gamers at heart. Fundamentally, learning and growing is the drug.

Through the use of technology we have the potential to completely reimagine the way we approach coaching and performance. If our automated systems are doing the hard work of tracking down all of this data (and aggregating it for us), it gives us the opportunity to provide immediate coaching and feedback.

And one of the largest obstacles historically has been the lack of feedback acceptance.  While we have all heard the notion that “feedback is a gift,” I think most of us would prefer it came with a gift receipt so we can take it back.

But by using data we remove the subjectivity of the feedback. It is not your manager’s opinion that you were late three times last week, it is a fact that the system recorded. Now why you were late may be a whole other story.

The distributed workforce: Are you really working at home?

And what about this notion of flexible work arrangements?

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in 1990 only 3 percent of the US workforce worked from home.  According to a recent Deloitte report, in 2015 approximately 37 percent of the global workforce consisted of mobile workers.

With these numbers expected to grow, how do we ensure these individuals are truly productive and engaged?  Again, the answer is by monitoring the technology they interact with in order to glean insights about their activity and behaviors.

While there have been notable failures in the quest for a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), with Best Buy being the prime example, the ability to measure outcomes and performance through technology are greater than ever.

And let’s face it, Marissa Meyer’s decision to require remote Yahoo employees to start working in an office hasn’t exactly resulted in success (with the recent announcement of 15 percent of the Yahoo workforce being let go).  Add to this trend the continued distribution of employees across global locations as well as the temporary nature of work (more and more project orientation) and the need for technology to help us track and quantify performance becomes even greater.

Article Continues Below

Trust is an emotion

Today’s work environment continues to change and evolve rapidly and dramatically.

Not long ago we blocked people from accessing social media like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Now we trust that individual employees are capable of appropriately representing our companies through this ubiquitous medium of communication and collaboration.

Trust by its very nature is distinctly human. It is both emotional and logical, but at the end of the day we feel trust.

If technology can take away the need to worry about compliance-related aspects of management, we are free to improve the relationships we develop with our employees, and thereby enhance the trust that is so foundational for everything else.

According to Richard Fagerlin, author of Trustology,

Giving trust to employees, colleagues, and team members requires vulnerability and respect. Giving respect and offering vulnerability are essential for high trust relationships.”

Arguably the most significant outcome of working in an environment of trust is creativity and innovation. When we feel trust, we share crazy ideas and take bigger risks.

Creating a culture of trust in your organization could be the difference between success and failure in 2016. Maybe Big Brother isn’t so bad after all.

Did you miss part 1? See Technology and the Gig Economy: Will It Cultivate Trust, or Destroy It

Marcus Mossberger

Marcus Mossberger is responsible for working with Infor customers to identify opportunities to align their largest people-related challenges with new and existing Infor solutions and services, including core Human Resource Management, Talent Management, Talent Science, Workforce Management, Learning Management, and HR Service Delivery. He brings more than 10 years of expertise in the Human Capital Management (HCM) industry to the Infor team. Prior to joining Infor, Mossberger was a Product Manager at API Healthcare, where he was responsible for the creation of market demand for HR, Payroll and Talent Management solutions. Preceding his leadership there, he was a Sales, Strategy and HR professional at Cerner Corporation. His genuine passion for managing HCM solutions stems from years of working as an HR practitioner, as well as his experience developing products and services, managing partnerships, improving operations, and developing new business.