Wednesday, January 6, 2021, BENGALURU, India

Trust is the foundational imperative of 2021: Indian employees lead in willingness to trust and earn trust, cites global survey

Indian workers lead the world in the belief that trust in the workplace must be earned (90%) and that trust is higher at their organisation today than before the COVID-19 crisis (67%).

As the world steps into 2021 with hope and optimism, global research from The Workforce Institute at UKG explores the importance of elevating trust to a foundational imperative to create high-performing workplace cultures that better serve customers and their communities.

Trust in the Modern Workplace” is based on a global survey of nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders in 11 countries1. Commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted by Workplace Intelligence, the report examines the current state of trust—especially between employees and leaders—and the opportunities organisations can create by making trust a foundational element of their employee experience.

Rethinking the Trust Paradigm: Trust Should Be Given, Not Earned
According to the global research, most employees and business leaders—63%—think that trust at work must be earned. Among C-level leaders, nearly three-quarters (72%) believe that it is up to the employee to earn trust. Only one-third (37%) of employees and business leaders around the world feel trust should be presumed.

“Trust must constantly be nurtured, and when the organisation’s default position is to presume trust and good intentions, they can reimagine outdated processes and policies to focus on driving performance through a truly modern employee experience,” said Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, executive director, The Workforce Institute at UKG. “Trust makes it safe to pursue new innovations and challenge the status quo. It’s a critical element to deliver meaningful and connected experiences.”

The belief that trust must be earned is most prevalent in India (90%) compared to the U.S. (68%), the U.K. (67%), Australia and New Zealand (64%), Canada (64%), and France (64%).

Times of Crisis are Opportunities to Build Trust
More than half of global employees and business leaders (52%) say trust is higher at their organisation today than it was before the pandemic. Workplace trust improved most in India (67%), Mexico (56%), the U.S. (53%), the U.K. (52%), and Australia and New Zealand (50%).

COVID-19 did force organisations to rethink entire operating models practically overnight, including the proliferation of remote work. While 55% think it is easier to trust colleagues in a physical workplace versus those working virtually, nearly two-thirds (61%) say the pandemic has positively reshaped perceptions about flexible and remote work arrangements.

“Work-from-anywhere, at any time, is here to stay, but that does not mean the traditional physical workplace is dead—especially with tens of millions of frontline workers who must be present to do their jobs,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner, Workplace Intelligence. “Organisations will need to carefully consider how to foster relationships between location-based and remote employees to create a deliberate hybrid model that helps everyone reach their full performance potential—and trust is foundational to making it work.”

In India, Trust Drives Employee Engagement, Business Performance
When employees feel like trust is lacking from their workplace relationships—whether with coworkers, their manager, or in the processes that define their daily work—it has many negative consequences.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of employees globally say trust has a direct impact on their sense of belonging at work, including 4 out of 5 employees in India (79%) and two-thirds of employees in the U.S. (68%), Canada (65%), and Mexico (63%).

  • Employees who do not feel trusted are less productive: Four in 5 (81%) Indians say that the perception of low trust hurts their daily effort compared to 68% globally.
  • An overwhelming 79% of Indians feel a lack of trust affects their career choices compared to 58% globally—and 41% of respondents in India say they left a company because they did not feel trusted compared to the global average of 1 in 4.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of Indian workers—and more than half of all employees surveyed globally (55%)—feel that a lack of trust impacts their mental health.
  • Poor trust even hurts talent pools: One in 5 employees globally (22%) actively did not refer a friend, family member, or former colleague to an open role because they did not trust their company.

"Trust is the foundation of any great team especially when they navigate through a crisis. When people feel they are trusted, they invariably do their best, both as individuals and as a collective team,” said Sumeet Doshi, country manager, India, UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group). “Organisations that understand this and create an environment that is conducive to fostering trust will see greater success as they navigate through the uncertain environment that exists today.”

Trust is a Two-way Street and Organisations Need to Take a Step Forward
While the research shows it’s hard for organisations to presume trust in their employees, many employees are similarly hesitant to trust their employer—but this is not the case in India. In fact, an overwhelming 76% of Indian employees trust their organisation to put employee interests ahead of profits compared to only 61% of employees globally.

While employees are willing to give trust, they don’t always feel they receive trust in return. In India, only 13% of employees feel they are trusted to swap shifts with another employee without manager approval compared to 18% globally. When it comes to submitting timecards to payroll directly, only 6% of employees in India feel trusted to do so, compared to the global average of 14%—with employees from China (20%), Canada and Germany (19%), and the U.S. (16%) enjoying higher levels of trust in this area.

“Trust can take years to develop, yet it will quickly wither if it’s not a genuine priority,” said Dr. Mullen. “The organisations that pay specific attention to trust—by presuming trust, by modeling trust, and by engraining trust in their processes and policies—will have a vital advantage in the global competition to recruit and retain top talent.”

Supporting Resources


About The Workforce Institute at UKG

The Workforce Institute at UKG provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations worldwide. By bringing together a global consortium of HR and workforce management thought leaders, the think tank is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with practical ideas for optimizing the 21st century workplace while also providing an important voice for employees, including frontline and hourly workers. Founded in 2007, a hallmark of The Workforce Institute's research and education—including books, podcasts, surveys, blogs, and its annual list of workplace predictions—is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the interests of organizations in order to manage absenteeism, fight burnout, develop equitable work schedules, and build strong leaders, all to drive inspired performance. For additional information, visit www.workforceinstitute.org and join the conversation at @WF_Institute.

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