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November 15, 2022

Why trust and trustworthiness are essential in the new world of work

Organisations must develop trust internally and externally to succeed. David Horsager explains the deep importance of trust at work and in leadership at INSIGHTS 2022.

Table of Contents

David Horsager – The Wall Street Journal best-selling author of “The Trust Edge” and CEO of the Trust Edge Leadership Institute – took the stage at INSIGHTS 2022 to share just how vital trust is in our new world of work.

When people interact with leaders and organisations, they’re often asking, “Can I trust you?” And it’s never been more important – or more challenging –  to build that trust as we navigate prolonged uncertainty and change. Given that reality, it’s probably no surprise that Horsager believes “a lack of trust is the biggest expense you have.”

But what exactly does trust mean in a professional context? And how exactly do you build it?

What is trust?

In his engaging keynote, Horsager began with answering what trust is not, saying, “transparency can build trust, but transparency is not trust.” Honesty has a place when you build trust, but honesty itself is not trust.

While we all inherently understand the concept of trust, Horsager’s ground-breaking research* puts a fine point on it: “Trust is a confident belief in a person, product, or organisation.” His definition of trust puts belief at the center of the equation, showing the way perception plays an important role in how customers and employees trust an organisation.

The cost of distrust

The Trust Edge Leadership Institute’s research finds that as trust increases, positive business outcomes like output, morale, retention, productivity, innovation, loyalty, and revenue also increase. And the opposite is true – as trust decreases, negative outcomes like costs, problems, suspicion, attrition, time to market, and stress increase.

A series of whitepapers called The Trust Outlook that detail the Institute’s extensive research in this area. One of the key findings that Horsager highlighted in his keynote speech is the cost of distrust. Here are a few of the stats he shared:

  • Nine out of ten Americans would not refer the products or services of an organisation they don’t trust.
  • Half of all people – regardless of generational age – would work longer hours, be a better team player, and be more loyal if they trusted senior leadership more.
  • 48% of all Americans have invested $1,000 or more based purely on trust.
  • Only 13% of people completely trust their current employer.

Given these shocking stats, Horsager asked the audience a pointed question: “What is a lack of trust costing your team?”

The eight pillars of trust

The core of Horsager’s message revolves around what he calls the pillar of trust. These eight components are the distillation of his research into a framework that organisations can use to measure and build trust with today’s workforce and the wider world of customers. Here are the eight words Horsager wanted audience members to take away at the end of his talk:

  1. Clarity
  2. Compassion
  3. Character
  4. Competency
  5. Commitment
  6. Connection
  7. Contribution
  8. Consistency

Horsager then focused in on three central pieces to explore: clarity, commitment, and consistency.

Clarity wins

Horsager put it simply: “People trust the clear, but distrust the ambiguous.” If you’re trying to find more clarity in your work, Horsager recommends asking yourself a clarifying question: “How?” By repeating “how” at least three times, you can boil down your strategic thinking down to an action you can take today or tomorrow.

“The final how always has a who, a when, and a where.” By clarifying the work and the intention, you can make meaningful progress toward building trust on your team.

Commitment breeds commitment

“People believe in those who stand through adversity,” Horsager shared. When people see leaders committing to their teams and their brand amidst crisis, those people, in turn, feel more committed to their leaders and their organisation. His research shows that the number-one action that would increase workplace retention is to keep your promises.

Horsager also shared what to do when you break trust, saying that “you never rebuild trust on an apology.” Furthermore, “you only build trust when you make and build a new commitment.” With commitment at the center, organisations can prove their sincerity and trustworthy leadership over time: “What we’re really going after is trustworthiness.”

Consistency over time

“It’s the little things done consistently that make the biggest difference,” Horsager stated. Consistency happens over time, and trust is built alongside it. If you want to cultivate trustworthy leadership, you must show you’re worthy of that trust.

Horsager went on to say that “in every interaction, we either increase or decrease trust. Atrophy is guaranteed without intentional action.” With consistent, conscientious action, organisations can thoughtfully build trust with their employees and their customers.

Do the work

Horsager ended his rousing and insightful keynote with a call to action: “The problem with trust is that it takes work. If you want a high-performing culture, you have to do the work to build trust.”

*All data is referenced from the Trust Edge Leadership Institute’s The Trust Outlook whitepapers presented on David Horsager’s slide deck at INSIGHTS 2022.

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