building trust the important part of safety culture

Trust forms the foundation for effective communication, employee retention, staff motivation and contribution to discretionary effort and most importantly workplace safety. So how do you maintain and build on the trust you may currently have in your workplace? This is an important question for today’s world of change. We know from our experience that when there is trust within any group, team organization, any change is easy to establish and maintain. It seems that trust underpins almost everything that we try and do in today’s organization.

We all think we understand about trust because of our own experiences. But it seems to stop there. How do we improve trust levels between people? One of the reasons that this is such a difficult question is that we have always considered trust as a quality by itself. It has been suggested that we should consider it differently. Although a definition of trust could be described as, “a state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something” there is a body of opinion that suggests there are three components that make up trust.

  • The capacity for trusting.
  • The perception of competence.
  • The perception of intentions.

When you think of trust as being made up of these three components, it is much easier to understand. You can think about the capacity for trusting as your willingness to risk trusting other people. The perception of competence comprises your perception of your ability plus the ability of others to carry out their part of the task. Finally, the perception of intentions is your perception that the actions and words of other people are motivated by desires that serve all parties rather than being just self serving.

Productive and safety cultures require healthy levels of mutual trust because it is the basis of:

  • Being able to rely on people
  • Working as a team.
  • Reducing risk.
  • Having credible communication.

In larger organizations you cannot always control the level of trust that you experience, but you can act in seven ways that will create pockets of trust within your immediate work environment to create a safety culture if you carry out following.

  1. You can hire and promote people to leadership positions who are capable of forming positive, trusting interpersonal relationships with their followers.
  2. You can develop the skills of all your staff so that they are competent in interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
  3. You can keep all your people truthfully informed. Let them know what’s going on.
  4. You can be consistent under all circumstances. Your predictability will encourage people to trust you.
  5. You can act with integrity and keep all your commitments. The moment you are unable to keep a commitment, you can explain what is happening without delay
  6. You can respect every single staff member by listening and understanding first.
  7. You can give positive reinforcement when it is due.