Professor Rosalind Searle from Coventry University and expert in relationships in a business environment gave an inspiring presentation about trust and what it means for business. She asked the audience to think about their relationships, to consider whose opinion they valued and who they were willing to share information with. She then asked the audience to think of the opposite, whose intentions they doubt, who they feel the need to constantly check and monitor. Rosalind’s point to the audience was to think about how our emotions towards people can impact on our ability to understand information.
The key for any relationship, including that of brand perception, is trust. Trust is about trustworthiness which itself has different dimensions, firstly capability, whether we trust a task to be done. Secondly benevolence, trust is based on whether we feel respected and cared for. Rosalind stated that businesses that demonstrate both of those qualities reap great reward both internally and externally.
Rosalind went on to say why a business with a high trust context performs well raising points that there is usually more job satisfaction as well as retail satisfaction. People are more willing to share their experience of a business if it is a positive one. People are more likely to work together which creates a collaborative and cooperative working environment. Customers and employees alike feel considered and thought about.
Rosalind also gave an idea of what happens in a low trust context and how much impact that can have on a business. Financially an organisation that is low trust tends to be much more expensive to run particularly from a communication perspective. Staff and customer’s initial response to any communication is disbelief and so organisations will spend more having to repeat communication. Performance is also affected which of course has a negative impact on the customer experience. Rosalind also emphasises that in an environment like this counterproductive behaviour is likely to grow with work effort declining and resignations increasing.
But what does that mean for the construction industry? We are an industry with a variety of professionals with differing views who need to collaborate and engage together. Currently we are very much a task and process orientated industry but how much attention are we paying to our relationships? The industry is facing a ticking time bomb as we continue to focus on the process rather than the people involved in it. If we want to achieve collaborative working we need to start acknowledging the people, from the contractors, to the suppliers and to the end user.
Rosalind ended her presentation with an emphasis on leadership, she highlighted that the top of your organisation is the organisation. That integrity is vital for a high trust context; people follow example and therefore doing the right thing matters enormously at the top of an organisation.
Benevolence is also an important aspect of building trust, if employees and customers feel they are cared for then a trust bank is created. As Rosalind said, trust arrives on foot, it takes time to build relationships but trust leaves on horseback, one small mistake can have a huge effect. So as an organisation are you focusing on building the right relationships?