It takes a number of different ingredients to make a team work well. Somewhere at the top of that list is team trust. Team trust isn’t something that is born overnight but companies can foster it using some of these tactics.
According to Schoorman, Mayer, and Davis (2007), trust is defined as the willingness of one to be vulnerable to another based on the expectation by a trusting party that the party being trusted will perform a particular action important to the trusting party, regardless of the ability to monitor or control the other party.
Get to know each other virtually
Virtual work has become so common place in today’s job market that it is no longer surprising to find an organisation with employees across the globe.
As it is in traditional offices, team trust is important for virtual employees. To foster team trust, make sure that everyone introduces themselves. Once everyone knows each other, there should be regular opportunities for team mates interact. Having a few minutes at the start or end of meetings for people to share non work related news is standard operating procedure for many teams.
The interactions need not only be made in a work forum. Having a virtual coffee date together to catch up for a few minutes can help to build connections between colleagues. Celebrate birthdays and new additions to families with a virtual get together. Don’t forget to give new hires a warm welcome.
If it is possible, have opportunities for team members to meet physically once in a while.
Train the team
Team trainings improve skill levels and this will in turn boost trust. Employees want to work alongside colleagues that they know are on top of their game, those who bring real value and can propel the team. Nobody wants a team member who is just dead weight.
Before carrying out any training, assess skills gaps that exist within the team. One of the ways of doing this is to carry out surveys with team members. It is possible that some are highly competent in some areas where their colleagues are weak. Such information can help you tailor trainings that are beneficial.
Reward the team, not just individuals
All for one and one for all. This is the feeling that teams which trust each other have. They look out for each other, are able to support a colleague when they fall behind, they swap skills and challenge each other to be better.
This is because they want their collective output to be great. To encourage this dynamic, reward the team as a whole. It can be anything from a group lunch for a job well done or a few hours off work.
Trust begets trust. Show employees that you trust them and they are more likely to replicate it with each other. Leaders can exhibit trust in several ways; by sharing information openly, by giving employees a level of autonomy, giving teams more responsibilities and by admitting when they run into challenges on the job.
Team trust will grow when employees model this behaviour with each other. However, the task to ingrain this culture starts with the leaders.
Offer support in hard times
How do you know you can trust someone? Likely when they have been by your side through hard times. Even though we try to keep our work and home lives separate, the two affect each other and people at work will know if you are facing a problem in your personal life.
When team mates are encouraged to offer each other support, team trust is strengthened. This can be in the form of a visit to a sick colleague in the hospital or fundraiser for someone facing a financial hardship
Make time for team building
No matter how busy the schedules, make time for team building. Team building fosters connections among colleagues, it builds team trust, it helps people communicate better and results in more engaged employees.
Some criticise it for being a waste of money and time but the benefits speak for themselves. There are so many team building activities that it is hard to fail to find one to suit your budget and your team.
Make time for play
Incorporating games and play time into the workplace is a good way to foster team trust. At play, people can relax and have a good time with each other. When people play they get more comfortable with each other, reveal more and learn more about each other. Do not be surprised to hear one colleague say to another, “I did not know you liked this.”
Games can reveal traits that can be assets when it comes to work. More importantly, it fosters camaraderie.
Train team leaders
Team leaders play a big part in enhancing team trust. Through their actions, they can give rise to unhealthy competition, exhibit favouritism and stifle open communication. Constant training is necessary to have leaders who are approachable, fair and trustworthy.
As you train leaders on communication, conflict resolution and other leadership skills, train them on respect as well. Respect for everyone’s opinions and their ideas will build team trust and encourage everyone to freely speak up without fear of being dismissed or stepping on others’ toes.
Be open, even about the bad stuff
The COVID pandemic has put a lot of companies and teams to the test. Some have had to lay off staff, others have had to furlough employees while others have needed to cut salaries.
Any of these situations will affect morale. However hard it is, teams need to be told what is happening. Leaders who openly share will encourage trust in themselves, the company and amongst teams.
According to research by Clark, Clark and Crossley, 2010, there are several reasons to encourage trust in teams. Teams with high degrees of trust are more proactive, more focused on task output, more optimistic, more frequently initiate interactions, and provide more substantive, productive feedback. These are traits that will benefit any business.