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How to Build Employee Trust over Time

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Every young company seeks a path to sustainable growth. But the shift from startup to the growth stage is not without challenges. For one, executives are often unprepared for the impact of growth on company culture and employee relations. The higher the headcount and the more layered and complex operations become, the more important it is to cultivate trust between leaders and the team. Failure to do so can lead to lower productivity and undermine growth.

Successful companies learn that the key factors in gaining and maintaining employee trust include consistent communication, a shared company culture and meaningful work that keeps employees engaged.

Maintain clear and consistent employee communication 
Employees are often drawn to specific companies because of the visionaries at their helm and the mission they articulate. Since scaling often involves change — and even chaos — it is important to stay true to your general vision and routinely communicate that to employees and investors in order to maintain their trust. Employees will lose faith if the vision they bought into seems to go through “flavors of the month” without clear explanation. Demonstrate consistency and commitment so that as changes occur to accommodate company growth, employees will be prepared and feel more comfortable.

You can help employees maintain their conviction and trust in your vision by communicating directly with them. Hold town hall meetings, send out regular news updates, and foster other opportunities for open dialogue. Take the time to listen to employee feedback and analyze how it relates to your corporate vision, responding directly whenever possible. Newly minted executives may consider using an executive coach and conducting 360-degree feedback sessions to hone their skills at  this.

Create and share company culture
 
Company culture is determined by the leaders’ words and actions. A healthy company culture comes from respectful and candid communication and focus on a shared mission. This, in turn, gives employees a clear corporate identity to embrace.
Your role as a leader is to model the culture that your company seeks to build and maintain. Take every opportunity to reinforce not only what is encouraged (and what is not tolerated), but also the underlying reasons why. It helps to give examples with real-life stories. Be transparent and consistent, and you’ll build a strong culture that employees can celebrate.

Provide meaningful work 
Make sure that work activities align with the overall company vision. Employees join a company because they’re passionate about the work and mission, not because they look forward to games and swag. When the value of their work doesn’t clearly connect to the company vision, employees may feel disconnected — like cogs in a machine. If that happens, they may slack off rather than applying their best efforts.

To keep them engaged and build trust, provide employees with long-term opportunities to solve problems with a real business impact. If a specific problem is beyond an employee’s experience, put them on a team that pools the necessary cross-functional skills and let them know that you want them to gain expertise. When these teams are successful, reward and acknowledge the success publicly and celebrate as a company.

By reinforcing your company’s vision through clear communication and a leadership team that focuses on a healthy culture and meaningful work, you can help build a workforce eager and prepared to take your company to the next level. This will deliver the productivity, focus and teamwork required to handle growth and gain the advantage in today’s competitive environment.

Robert Sureck is the Senior Market Manager for Silicon Valley Bank's Southwest region.

For more ideas on how you can help your company reach its goals, read How to Balance Candor and Discretion.

About the Author

As the Senior Market Manager for Silicon Valley Bank, Robert oversees all business activities and client relationship development in the broader Southwest through its offices in Austin, Dallas and Tempe. Robert and his teams work closely with CEO/Founders, VCs & PE firms to deliver unique solutions to meet the rapidly changing needs of high-growth technology companies of all sizes. Today, his teams work with over 500 technology companies and have current commitments in excess of $350MM.

Robert joined SVB in 1999 when he opened the Dallas office for the bank. He worked out of the Dallas office managing it’s business activities until 2014 when he moved to Austin to be part of that market’s vibrant technology ecosystem while maintaining his responsibilities for the Southwest Region of SVB. Robert has also held various leadership positions in the community including board memberships of Texchange, Metroplex Technology Business Council (now Tech Titans) and South Collin County Infant Program. In 2007, Sureck and the SVB Dallas team were honored with the Technology Advocate Award at the annual Tech Titans dinner for their work in advancing the technology ecosystem forward.

Robert earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in Finance from the University of North Texas. Prior to joining SVB, Sureck was a commercial banker with Chase for 10 years including 3 years running their Dallas technology team.

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