Sales Inquiry : 855-351-4731    GET A QUOTE
Build Trust in HR

7 Ways to Build Trust in HR

Many HR teams have a trust problem. Specifically, the 2023 State of Performance Enablement report from Betterworks found trust in HR at an average of only 26% among employees and—just as importantly but perhaps more surprisingly—at only 32% among organization leaders.

Part of the problem is that HR often occupies an impossible middle ground between business leaders/owners and the workforce.

Dr. Jarik Conrad, VP of human insights at UKG and executive director at The Workforce Institute had this to say about the middle ground HR often finds itself in. “HR has been unsuccessfully walking a tightrope between business partner and employee advocate, not making the connection that those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Consequences of Low Trust

In other words, employees often see HR as an operation that will act to protect executives and the organization but not them. Organizational leaders may then see HR from the opposite perspective, especially when HR’s risk management and compliance mandates present an obstacle to business planning.

This lack of trust has real-world consequences. It contributes to why HR sometimes lacks a real seat at the table in the C-suite, with a meaningful voice in organizational decision-making. It can also erode morale, engagement, and HR’s ability to work with employees.

“When employees don’t trust HR, they don’t reach out to them with their issues or concerns,” says Dr. Conrad. That creates vulnerability to smaller problems today turning into big problems tomorrow. It can also impact performance and productivity levels.

Research has found that organizations that are trusted by their workers outperform the S&P 500 by as much as 50%. So, what can HR do to bridge this trust gap?

1. Encourage HR Interaction with Employees

Encouraging Human Resources departments or teams to engage with employees is crucial for building trust and a positive workplace culture. HR professionals should focus on getting to know employees personally as it strengthens relationships.

Attending work events, after-work socials, and informal gatherings provides a great chance for HR to connect with employees on a personal level. Engaging in casual conversations and actively listening to employees' experience and concerns allows HR teams to gain insights into how employees feel about their work.

The benefits of the HR department interacting with employees are significant. First, this makes HR more approachable and shows that employees are valued as individuals, not just workers. This connection encourages employees to share their thoughts and concerns openly with HR.

2. Be Open and Transparent 

The Harvard Business Review recommends it's important to "build a culture that keeps everyone in the loop." This means being open and honest in how HR communicates with each other at work. Transparency is key.

HR should make sure all messages to employers are clear, truthful, and consistent. Whether it's about company policies, changes in the company, or feedback sessions, being transparent helps build respect and trust among employees.

When HR is open and transparent, it helps everyone feel included and respected. Employees are more likely to trust the company's leaders and feel good about their job. Transparency while building trust and respect, also gives employees the confidence to share their thoughts and concerns.

Transparent communication helps everyone understand why decisions are made and how they affect team members. By explaining the reasons behind changes, HR helps everyone feel like they're part of the company and working towards the same goals.

3. Advocate for Employees

HR should act as an advocate for employee concerns and needs. This means listening to employee feedback, understanding their challenges, and finding solutions that work for both employees and company interests. By being an advocate, HR shows they value and respect the workforce.

Listening to feedback helps HR understand different perspectives and identify areas for improvement. Engaging with employees fosters empathy and insight into the employee experience. HR should propose solutions that balance employee well-being with company goals.

Advocating for employees is a core responsibility of HR. By listening, understanding, and finding solutions that benefit everyone, HR can build a high level of trust and create a positive workplace culture.

4. Be Consistent and Fair

HR needs to be fair and consistent in how they apply rules and policies. In fact, more than half of the people surveyed by Betterworks said fairness is the most important part of the employee experience.

Fairness means treating everyone equally, regardless of their position, and making decisions objectively. Consistency is also key, ensuring uniform application of policies and procedures to create predictability and transparency.

The HR department plays a huge role in enforcing this. They need to make sure that everyone is treated the same way and that rules are applied in a fair and consistent manner. This helps build trust in the workplace and stops perceptions of bias or favoritism.

5. Offer an Outlet and Safe Space

Creating safe space for employees is vital for their well-being and a positive working environment. The Society for Human Resource Management advises HR teams to be available to offer emotional support.

"Reach out to employees on a personal basis," says Judith Blanton, director of professional affairs for RHR International and executive board member of the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology.

Blanton also emphasizes the important of HR professionals being present beyond their offices. "Get out of your offices and into the hallway. Be there for them." She was discussing crisis situations, but the same advice applies anytime employees need support in dealing with difficult professional relationship or work situation.

Blanton's advice extend to everyday scenarios, emphasizing the importance of HR's accessibility. By being approachable, HR fosters an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking guidance.

6. Provide a Chance for Employee Feedback

Encouraging feedback is essential for building trust within the company. When employees have chances to share their thoughts, it shows that HR values their input and is committed to making things better.

Regular feedback sessions let employees speak up about what's working well and what needs improvement. It makes them feel heard and helps HR understand their need.

Taking action based on feedback is just as important. It shows that HR is responsive and genuinely cares about making positive changes. Whether it's updating policies or addressing concerns, taking real steps show employees that their feedback matters.

Feedback can be collected through surveys, suggestion boxes, or one-on-one meetings, making sure everyone has a chance to share their thoughts.

7. Support Employee Careers 

Investing in employees' professional growth shows that the company cares about their career progression. HR can build trust by providing training, development opportunities, and clear paths for advancement. Creating a coaching and mentoring culture can also help employees feel supported and trusted.

Clear paths for advancement give employees a roadmap for growing within the company. When employees see opportunities for growth, they feel more confident in their roles and trust the company's commitment to their success.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, compliance, payroll and benefits administration. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.