Actualizing a High Trust Organization

Entities of People cannot Survive without Trust

Trust is the lubricant that drives organizations, nations, and the global community. Without trust, it is impossible for any entity to perform even at the base level.

Considering the fact that all entities are primarily made up of people, it is important for the individuals in any organization, nation, or the global community to trust each other and themselves to get the work done.

Indeed, not only is trust between people is necessary for the success of any endeavor, it is also essential for any entity to even exist.

The recent events in some Indian corporates such as Infosys and the TATA group illustrate how even venerable and reputed organizations known for their Corporate Governance standards can run into rough weather when trust within the organization and with the external stakeholders breaks down.

What is a High Trust Organization?

Thus, building, maintaining, and sustaining trust are essential, and it is one of the central tenets of Human Resource Management (HRM) theory to actualize such organizations that have a High Trust Quotient within them.

This means that HR professionals have the task of building trust, and more importantly, maintaining and sustaining it so that organizations continue to thrive in the Uber competitive marketplace.

While many factors determine whether a particular organization is a High Trust or Low Trust one, the key aspect is the organizational culture which needs to encourage trust between the employees and the organizational stakeholders and within the employees as well.

Organizational Culture Defines Implicit and Explicit Trust

Organizational Culture is the codified and implicit set of rules or codes of conduct by which organizations operate and hence, the way in which organizational culture is defined, maintained, and upheld is indeed important for organizations to function.

As can be seen from the definition given above, every organization and HR Function with clear instructions from the Senior Management and Executive leadership codifies some rules or codes of conduct that determine how employees must behave and act in their interactions with each other and with the larger organizational ecosystem.

Thus, it is contingent upon the HR function to first assist the stakeholders in defining the rules, and then ensuring that such rules are consistently maintained and enforced, and perhaps, the most important aspect here is that such codes of conduct must be upheld meaning that during times of crisis, the HR function must indeed “Walk the Talk” or must back up words with action.

Written and Unwritten Rules of Conduct

Also, every organization has an informal set of rules and codes of conduct that are implied and implicit, which means that employees who work in organizations “know what it takes to act according to the unwritten rules”.

Indeed, in the same manner in which social interactions between individuals are governed by spoken and unspoken rules of conduct, so do organizations have codes of conduct that are both formal and informal or written and codified and unwritten and implicit.

The task before the HR function is to ensure that both explicit and implicit codes of conduct are aligned to the central aim of the key imperative of maintaining trust between the employees and the organizational ecosystem and between and within the employees.

The Impact of Culture on Trust

A key challenge for any HR professional is to ensure that Cultural Factors and Socio-Cultural Influences do not come in the way of actualizing a High Trust organization.

To explain, trust is as much a function of personality as it is about the societal culture in which the people come from.

Thus, as many sociologists have pointed out, most Western nations are implicitly High Trust ones, and while developing countries do have High Trust cultures, it is often the case that due to the diversity of such cultures, there are challenges arising from cultural norms as far as building and maintaining trust is concerned.

This means that HR professionals in Low Trust cultures have the additional task of ensuring that cultural attributes do not affect the organizational norms related to maintaining and upholding trust between the employees and the larger ecosystem.

Response to Organizational Crises Determines whether they are High Trust or Low Trust

In this context, it is worthwhile to refer to the examples of the TATA group and Infosys which were mentioned in the beginning of this article.

Both these organizations have faced problems in recent times mainly due to the clash of cultures between the old and the new or the founders and the outsiders wherein trust between these sets of individuals broke down since each group had different notions of how trust operates in specific contexts.

Indeed, both these organizations are reputed for their High Trust organizational culture, and it is was indeed consternating to witness the unseemly spectacle of the very public spat between each group and the boardroom battles that arose from breaking down of trust between those groups.

Lastly, as has repeatedly been mentioned throughout this article, High Trust organizations also ensure that trust is upheld in times of crisis and hence, this is where the senior leadership and the HR professionals come into play when organizational crises happen.

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