Trust deficit threatening economic recovery, CIPD report warns

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A lack of trust in UK employers poses a potential threat to an economic recovery, according to a report published by the CIPD.

The study, Are organisations losing the trust of their workers, found employees who do not trust their senior managers – 37% of employees surveyed for the report – are likely to be less productive and less engaged.

The study analysed various factors likely to be behind weak employee trust, the implications for businesses when trust is lost and how it can be rebuilt.

It found 29% of employees think trust is strong between employees and senior management in their workplace and 33% of employees think trust is weak.

The study showed that leadership, culture and behaviour make a big difference to trust. It's stronger when management and "the system" are seen to treat people fairly, when people behave in line with corporate values and when leaders also show trust in their employees.

CIPD CEO Peter Cheese said it is critical employers in all sectors recognise the importance of trust.

"Trust takes time to build, but can be very quickly broken, and the bar of expectation in organisational and leadership behaviour and values has gone up as a result of too many poor examples in recent years," Cheese said.

"Rebuilding trust is not rocket science, although it requires a sustained focus and some hard work. Regular and honest two-way communication is a start, where not only are employees engaged and kept informed of the business purpose, context and rationale for change, but the views of employees are actively sought out and listened to."

Cheese said it is important to have clear corporate values that capture the expected behaviours of employees and are then lived up to by senior management.

CIPD chief economist Mark Beatson said trust is an economic issue and poor trust could damage business performance.

"Employees spend more time covering their backs and trying to second-guess what management are up to. They are much less likely to be engaged in their work; indeed, they are more likely to be looking for another job and are unlikely to recommend their employer to anyone else."

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