Effects of Communication on Trust and Employee Involvement

FiduciaTrust in Top Management, trust amongst colleagues, organizational openness, are becoming increasingly important topics in the attempt of companies to improve employee involvement and the sharing of skills and know-how between employees.

Research from the Naval Postgraduate School has shown that there is a correlation between trust, employee engagement and communication. The research tried to answer to these three questions:

  1. What is the importance of quantity and quality of the information in relation to trust and behaviour?
  2. What is the influence that the information received from top management, managers and colleagues has on trust?
  3. What is the exact link between communication, trust and results?

The researchers’ hypothesis is very simple:

The expected results that communication leads to, is the consequence of the development of trust, but not just trust, it is also a consequence of the perception of organizational openness (freedom to express one’s opinion), and employee involvement.

In other words, the greater the quality and quantity of information, the greater the ability of people to act and therefore to bring the desired results.

In this way, every time we receive the right information, we will trust the person giving it to us much easier.

What is Trust?

Before going into the details of the research, I believe it is important to define trust as:

“A person’s will to be vulnerable to the actions of another person”.

In other words, trust implies voluntary acceptance of the risks generated by someone else’s actions. This is a very important definition, as trust is based on the beliefs we develop on another person.

The quality of information is very important

But trust isn’t limited to just receiving a good amount of information. It mostly occurs when this information is provided at the right time, accurately and if it is useful. Therefore, we must also focus on the quality of the information.

Receiving sufficient and accurate information from a colleague (e.g. between two people who change shifts), a manager (adequate indications on short-term goals) or top manager (adequate indications on long-term goals), allows increasing trust with whom provided that information.

It depends on who gives you the information

Researches found that the amount of information received doesn’t always turn out to be that important. The different interpretation is found in the hierarchical relationship between people.

In fact, it has been understood that among peers of the same rank what helps to increase trust is the quality of information, that has to be timely, accurate and relevant.

Does trust increase people’s involvement?

When people trust they feel they are able to work better and therefore also increases their involvement and participation in important activities that lead to the desired results.

Therefore, as we have seen, middle management must provide timely, accurate and adequate information, consequently, they will also improve everyone’s envolvement.

But what happens with top management?

fiducia con top managementHere things change. It is no longer the quality of the information that is important, rather the quantity.

The researchers interpreted this as a lack of information from top management, but for the simple reason that it is not their job to give specific and detailed information to everyone.

They have to see the bigger picture and look ahead, so they give general information about the long-term goals to be achieved.

It is up to middle management to interpret that information and translate it into useful, adequate, accurate and high-quality information for each person.

Involvement of staff and openness

The study also showed that there is a good link between staff involvement and organizational openness. That is, organizations in which people feel safe and where there is a high level of trust will also make them feel more open to express themselves and therefore feel that they are achieving the companies goals.

The research has provided a good demonstration of the fundamental role of communication in organizations or workgroups.

In my opinion, these rules apply to all relationships. In particular, in the workplace, they can increase motivation, participation and the quality of work and quality of relationships, which in turn translates into a better quality of life for workers and greater efficiency for the organization.

Do these rules also apply to aviation?

Certainly. These are not specific rules that apply to only one context. We know that among the competencies of any professional there are also communication skills, the ability to create constructive relationships, leadership and so on. These are all skills that have nothing to do with the technical knowledge of pilots or managers of an airline.

Creating relationships based on trust between the management of an airline and the pilots who have to translate the decisions into practice is fundamental to increase personnel involvement and motivation to achieve company goals. Especially in times when the workload and costs are very high.

There is a lack of lasting relationships in airlines due, in my opinion, to the very high number of employees and partially due to the lack of a willingness of top management to create lasting and trusting relationships between flight crews and the company.

It is up to each one of us to ask ourselves if we are facilitating the creation of relationships based on trust (and therefore of the involvement of people), through better communication.

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