Issue 9, Jul 2016 - Culture of Trust

How to Create a Culture of Trust

By Ms Rachel Ong

“Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.” - Stephen Covey

In 2015, we at ROHEI decided to participate in a survey by the Great Place to Work® Institute. It was our first time to be a part of this, and we saw it as an opportunity to learn about ourselves, gain insights about work culture, and explore ways to better nurture our people. We are very deliberate about our culture, but in our 8 years we had not yet engaged in an official assessment of how we were doing. We simply had internal dialogues and what we call a laughter index —when there is a lot of laughter, we know our culture is healthy.
ROHEI is in the field of Learning and Development, and our heart is to equip the global workforce with core skills (soft skills), through experiential and customized training programs, consulting, and coaching for organizations, as well as personal development courses for individuals. Investing in our own workplace culture upgrades our service to clients. Many of the things we teach have to do with leadership, building trust, building people up, and nurturing healthy relationships at work. We cannot teach or impart something unless we
ourselves live it out first. 
The Great Place to Work® survey was answered anonymously by our staff, and the results were evaluated by the Great Place to Work® Institute. We made it to Singapore’s top 5. ROHEI ranked 4th in Singapore and was the only SME on the Great Place to Work® Singapore list. We were also surprised, humbled, and extremely honored to learn that our trust index was at 98%. 
The results of the survey helped us understand and recognize trust as a factor in our culture. The survey also helped us study what makes a healthy, productive and inspiring workplace culture. Receiving the award has also opened opportunities for us to share what we have learned and encourage businesses, MNCs but most especially SMEs to invest in culture-building, to make trust and relationship a priority. 
Many internal problems companies face today such as high staff turnover, poor working dynamics, and low morale, can all be traced to lack of trust. Low trust levels lower productivity. Many counterproductive issues and hurdles arise when trust is not nurtured.
At ROHEI, we trust each other and we believe that trust brings companies forward. When people trust their leaders, they feel safe, they focus on meeting goals, they go the extra mile, valuing the company because the company values them. When staff trust each other, there is no office politicking; they are free to focus on what they need to do. They work well together, they don’t get “sick” often, and they have a lot of fun.
Whenever I give talks and meet with leaders, I always encourage them to focus on building trust, especially when it comes to Singapore SMEs, many of whom struggle with high staff turnover, low morale, and are looking for ways to refresh their workplace. My recommendation is to start with trust.
So how or where can you begin building, or re-building, trust in your organization? Here are three ways you can start investing in trust, as leaders — whether senior management, supervisors or team leaders. 
Creating a Culture of Trust
1. Be the first to show trust
You can only create trust by giving it first, not expecting it to be given to you. 
Be aware of little things you do that may mistakenly convey a lack of trust. For example, micromanaging where it is not needed. 
On the other hand, allowing flexible work arrangements and working out a reporting system with your staff is one way of showing them they are trusted to be productive even when no one is watching.
Your office regulations should align with what you say is important. If your policy is that output is important, and you trust staff to manage their time, having log-in sheets for in and out times does not communicate that trust, and may mistakenly cause staff to feel their every move is being watched. 
I take time to relate and connect with my team before even talking about performance. Based on ROHEI’s Real8Ability Factors, I want to be sure that I see, hear, understand, care for, and appreciate them. I want them to feel cared for and safe. Only then can I effectively challenge, support, and encourage them.
2. Increase meaningful communication
Make an effort to share as much as you can with your staff - good news, highlights and commendation, or even constructive feedback, stories, inspiring things you’ve watched or read.
As CE, I write weekly letters to our staff called From Me to You, highlighting important testimonies, particular people I would like to commend, other things the staff would otherwise not know about, but would encourage them. We also have weekly staff gatherings every Monday morning - this is where we share latest updates about what’s happening with our company and our fellow colleagues, and also some informal sharing on certain values or mentorship areas that we want staff to learn or develop. Every month we have a Staff Comm session —sharing updates, changes, praise reports, imparting wisdom, honoring one another, ending in a lunch buffet. The session also allows staff to interact with those they otherwise wouldn’t be able to during the busyness of everyday work. 
Encourage deeper conversations among leaders and team members. Communication and meaningful conversations build relationships. When there is relationship at work, there is joy. Many will argue that relationships can distract from work. That is true, but having no relationship puts a limit on what a company can achieve, and how much of themselves people are willing to share. It’s the difference between someone doing their work to simply complete it, and someone putting their heart and soul, enjoying work while giving their best. Who would you trust more—someone who wants to merely finish work and go home, or someone who is doing it because they love it and they share your vision and enjoy being part of your team?
3. Challenge staff and call them to greater things
People will step up to what you call them to. You will be surprised when you give big responsibilities to your staff. As you do so, encourage them and assure them that you have their back. 
It is my desire to see each person in the team to flourish in their lane—to thrive through challenges, and experience the joy of growing and moving forward. I love assigning things to people who don’t think they can do it. It gives them something to work toward; the excitement of a challenge, and it becomes an experience they won’t forget. But they need to know you are there to support and coach them. 
When staff are also constantly learning, they flourish. And when you give them big responsibilities, it communicates that they are valued and trusted. 
Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.  Where trust is high, productivity is high as well. There is no room for politics and low morale. With this kind of freedom, you can take your organization to places you never thought you could go. Trust will cause people to surprise you about what they can do. With trust, you are more than just a highly productive team — you are a dream team. And isn’t it a joy to work with people you are happy to go the extra mile for, people who are committed to the vision, people you trust.
About the writer:
Rachel is the founder and Chief Executive of ROHEI, a learning and development consultancy that seeks to inspire hope, joy, courage, and purpose in the global workforce. Rachel’s leadership has helped grow the team from 2 to over 55 in nine years. While being in the top 5 of the Great Place to Work® Singapore 2015 list, ROHEI was recognised among the Top 20 Best Small & Medium Workplaces in Asia 2016 by the Great Place to Work® Institute. You can reach Rachel at [at]" style="line-height: 1.5;" target="_blank"> [at] To learn more about ROHEI, visit their website at


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