Our studies across an array of firms reveal they can. For example, one case study involved a large organisation forced to make redundancies for the first time. Prior to this, it had invested in building consistently high quality relationships across all its different stakeholders. It worked with its supply chain to try and identify win-wins. It listened to its customers and made changes to its services and goods. It was a fair employer across its many sites.
When the recession hit, it had to focus on its customers. As it started to communicate this change of emphasis with its other stakeholders, something surprising happened. Instead of facing these challenges alone, a whole set of allies emerged: its suppliers listened to these changes, and then offered win-win solutions, with fresh terms and conditions that gave more flexibility. In reducing staff costs, it identified roles it no longer needed, but realised what great people it employed. Affected employees recognised the firm was trying to be fair, and in focusing on re-deployment, they saw it was not them, but roles that had to change. Due to how these-at-risk staff were treated and the provisions put in place to deal with the staffing impacts, employees felt increasing confidence and less vulnerable. Their trust levels actually rose during a redundancy programme! This firm had a trust bank that could now be drawn on. It is a delight to see the ongoing rise in its market share which attests to the tangible difference trust can make.
In another example from a much smaller firm, we found a similar trust bank. Here the founder acknowledged the employees’ contributions in writing every day and hosted an annual party for them. As market conditions changed the firm realised on the eve of one of these events, that an earlier good decision was now a major liability. Instead of cancelling the party, the founder invited their bank. His speech outlined the problem the firm was now facing, and the bank was so impressed with the high levels of staff engagement and innovation, that it changed the terms of the loan. It had clearly seen the resources available to turn this situation around. In showing employees respect – both in terms of recognising their contribution, but also telling them truth about problems they were facing, a trust dividend was created.