The new People Promise – Why trust is the missing secret in the talent wars, and how to build it

Jacqueline Culleton
12th May 2022
Article

The talent wars are raging, and, after the Great Resignation, employee turnover continues to be incredibly high, with a recent report citing an eye-watering 57%. People expect much more from organisations they work with, than has historically been the case  – and they aren’t afraid to leave if what’s on offer doesn’t meet their needs.

These shifting power dynamics, if not harnessed, have the potential to create huge instability for companies – and a real financial burden. Almost 50% of organisations currently have open positions, and there has been a huge increase in recruitment fees. At the same time, absenteeism currently costs UK employers around £21 billion each year, and a recent survey showed that 20% of employees are considering a move to contracting.

Many companies are trying to keep their people sweet with new perks, flexible working and bonuses. Those things may make people happier in the short-term – but they won’t fully bridge the gap between someone’s role and their personal commitment. To do that, you’ll have to add an ingredient that people can’t see, but they can feel. It’s trust – the ultimate currency in any relationship between a business and the people it employs.

And there’s a real lack of it right now. From lying politicians to fake news and big business misconduct, there seems little reason to believe a word any institution says about, well, anything. The latest Edelman trust barometer is pretty dire, with 1 out of 2 people believing media and government to be divisive – sharing disinformation to feed the distrust cycle for their own gain.

If ‘failure of leadership makes distrust the default’, then it stands to reason that business has a huge part to play in restoring what has been lost, and will stand to reap huge benefits. Not just happier and more engaged employees, but a more stable society. As the war for talent rages on, being able to genuinely trust the company you work for is not something to take for granted.

But how do you build an intangible thing like trust?

 

Just like any relationship, mutual trust is the foundation of every healthy organisational culture. Time and time again, when we work with companies that are having issues, you can boil it down to a lack of this essential ingredient.

Trust goes both ways. The pandemic forced lots of companies to trust their employees in new ways, most notably allowing people to work from home, and this has paid off for many – take Airbnb, who have just told employees that they can work from anywhere in the world after a hugely successful two years. As CEO Brian Chesky remarked, ‘For me, it’s simple: I trust you’. 

Whilst many made huge leaps forward in terms of building trust during the pandemic, there was also a massive rise in companies monitoring employees – from checking how often they type to how long it takes them to reply to emails.

Whilst it is understandable that some employers may have been nervous, too often we develop policies for the less than 1% that will abuse them. If you focus on the 99%, you’ll gain the vital respect and engagement of your people.

When we’re talking about a company’s People Promise – the experience you are offering to potential and current employees, or what some call your EVP (employee value proposition) – we are actually talking about an opportunity to prove you do what you say.

Every organisation is different, but we believe there are three core principles everyone can benefit from.

 

1. Show purpose in action

Actions speak louder than words. People are more passionate than ever now about working for companies that are driven by a clear purpose, and they are savvy about being able to tell whether this is really happening or not. It’s much less about what you say and more about what you are actually doing.

Of course, ensure purpose is brought alive through every touch point of your employees’ experience. This starts from day 0 – before any contract is signed – and it continues until after an employee has left the organisation.

But it doesn’t stop there – it’s about who you are. What are you investing in? What are you starting to do differently? What are you consciously not doing?

When done well, these elements make people feel safer and more committed to you, as well as more motivated to do an amazing job.

 

2. Pull back the curtain

Make sure information about benefits are upfront from the beginning so no-one has to ask awkward questions, or feel that crucial information is being hidden.

Glassdoor recently revealed that nearly 80% of women feel that asking about maternity benefits during an interview process would jeopardise their chances of landing a job, yet only 32% are proactively given this information.

This means there are a large number of women who are taking jobs with no idea of what their maternity rights are(!).

And don’t be afraid to show people behind the scenes. The aptly named Honest Burger publishes the results of its employee surveys on a yearly basis, along with details of pay by gender. We also like Klarna’s approach; they show you ‘day in the life’ employee profiles designed to bring their personality and people alive.

 

3. Build stuff together

Our work at Kin&Co shows over and over again that if employees feel ownership over something, by being given the freedom to get involved and share their real feelings and thoughts about it, then trust is built. And if they trust the process, they are much more likely to trust the outcome too, and ensure it sticks.

The world is changing fast, and gone are the days when you set a People Promise in stone to review in five years’ time. Treat your People Promise as a framework for ongoing dialogue with your employees. What is working? Where is improvement needed? How else can you keep the promises you’ve made?

 

If you want to understand more about how to map, measure and maintain your People Promise, we’re hosting our first event of 2022 on 24th May with some fresh thinking, fun tools and great conversation around how you can make your employees’ experience the best it can be.

For more details about the event, contact our client team at info@kinandco.com.