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HR has crucial role to play in building trust, says CIPD


HR has a crucial part to play in establishing trust in business leaders, with personable and honest being the traits people most relate to in their managers.

The report, Cultivating Trustworthy Leaders, was compiled by the CIPD in association with the University of Bath.

It highlights several ways HR departments can increase trust in leaders, from recruitment through to reward. It is a follow-up to previous report Where Has All the Trust Gone and draws on experiences across 13 top UK companies including BBC Worldwide and John Lewis. 

The research identifies four "foundational pillars" of trust. They are: ability, benevolence, integrity and predictability.

There are five key ways HR can embed these into leaders, according to the report. These are:

  • Implementing values-based interviewing, asking interviewees about beliefs and behaviours
  • Encouraging leaders to share their personal stories, which reveal something of them as people rather than functionaries
  • Providing master-classes on self-awareness
  • Encouraging the use of assessment practices such as 360-degree feedback
  • Creating platforms for open conversations about trust
  • Ensuring that trustworthy behaviours are visibly rewarded.

Veronica Hope Hailey, dean of the School of Management at the University of Bath, led the research for the report. She warned that while HR processes can be useful in establishing trust in leaders, they can only go so far. 

"What came through from the research was that when considering the four drivers of trustworthiness, HR selection processes were good at measuring ability and predictability," she said. "However, the softer elements of trustworthiness, benevolence and integrity, were much more dependent upon assessing an individual as a whole person."

Claire McCartney, research adviser at the CIPD, said that organisations with high levels of trust are known to be more innovative and effective. She added that, given recent crises of trust in banking and other sectors, this issue is more important than ever.

"But it’s also important that organisations allow their leaders to flourish without getting too bogged down by process and technology," she said. "HR needs to let their policies evolve alongside the personal and relational side of trust. It’s also really important for leaders to demonstrate benevolence, integrity and consistency in their actions.”

HR magazine has previously explored trust and HR in-depth. Read the feature here