Employee trust is not a commodity that can be purchased or traded. No chief operating officer quantifies trust. There is no line item for employee trust on a corporate balance sheet.
How important is employee trust? In a July 2016 Harvard Business Review article, Stephen Covey and Douglas Conant use hard data to demonstrate the economic value of trust. Organizations with the highest levels of trust between managers and employees outperform the S&P’s annual return by a factor of three.
The authors explain that an improvement in trust correlates to a decrease in cost and increase in speed.
Let’s look at trust from a project management perspective. Today a typical project team includes at least one remote worker. As detailed in the recently published Binfire Remote Worker’s Survey, approximately 25% do not know their teams well and a further 25% are “Neutral” as to whether they know their teams.
In the last decade, we have witnessed an explosive growth in the use of online project management software and collaboration tools. These tools enable team members to brainstorm, collaborate on tasks and to share project management milestones. However, technology is not an enabler of trust.
Trust is primarily generated as an outcome of positive behaviors between individuals. Within a project team, there needs to be trust between team members and trust between each individual and the project manager.
There are many external factors that impact deadlines and deliverables. Based on my experience, building trust is a deliberate strategy and not merely a side effect or unintended consequence of good behavior. To extrapolate from the HBR study above, a project team that trusts each other is more likely to deliver on time and within budget.
How do we create and nurture trust? First, we have to remember should never be taken for granted. Here are some common-sense guidelines to use when building a project management team:
- Project Managers should be role models for trust. There is no neat formula or algorithm. Becoming an example may be old fashioned, but it is also powerful. It starts with demonstrating trust to others. As a role model, a project manager needs to demonstrate integrity and empathy in order to foster trust.
- Encourage open communications. Make open communications an integral part of the project at kick off. One way to do this to identify all communications issues and formalize them in a communications plan. Communications should be frequent and in person. When there is a rhythm to communication, people learn to ask and answer questions and also to trust their fellow team members.
- Team building exercises. Team building exercises are not about letting off steam, having fun or wasting time. Team building exercises should be used to demonstrate to team members how everyone in a team is interdependent. Reliance on the group to help solve a problem in a fun way can have a meaningful impact on the overall group dynamic.
What is the role of project management software in building team trust?
Used correctly, project management software can be an enable and accelerate trust building.
Online project management software such as Binfire incorporate transparent workflows. Transparent workflows mean that everyone on the team is aware of the progress made by fellow team members. When Mary changes the timing of a deliverable or when John assigns a task, everyone on the team is automatically informed.
How does this impact trust? Admittedly, software cannot cause trust. However, when there is a trusting project team, colleagues can be empowered to make changes to a project plan without the need for formal approval.
Project management software can speed up communication and create a more intimate virtual environment. With online project management software such as Binfire, team members can access an interactive whiteboard or collaborate in real time via chat within the project management software.
Online management project software will not create trust within a project team. But when a project team is built upon trust and shared common values, project management software can be used to accelerate timelines, streamline communications. In this scenario, project management software is the enabler of improved results.