How to Build Employee Trust over Time

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 Relationship Management activities for the markets located in the Southwest, MidWest and Southeastern United States. Robert works closely with the teams in the various markets managing the key relationships with clients, VCs, PE Firms and key business partners. Today, Robert and the teams in the markets that he covers works with over 2000 innovative technology clients.

Robert joined SVB in 1999 when he opened the Dallas office for SVB. He worked out of the Dallas office until 2014 holding various roles for the bank. In 2014, he moved to Austin and established himself as a business leader in the technology community and took his current role. Over the years, Robert has served on various technology ecosystem and charitable boards. Prior to joining SVB, Robert was a commercial banker for JPMorgan Chase in Dallas for 13 years including 3 years as their Dallas Tech practice lead. In his spare time, Robert enjoys running in Austin and hanging out with his wife Cory and his two daughters that are in college at the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma which makes for an interesting family dynamic college football season.