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Start with Trust

Blog | Building Culture   |   May 31, 2016

by Rachel Ong

High staff turnover, poor working dynamics, and low morale. These are common issues that SMEs face today.

These are issues that are directly related to workplace culture. But how does an organization even begin to address these issues? How can you start when you are not yet ready with a budget or plan for organizational development?

We believe that whatever stage your organization is in, there is one place you can start: trust.

This is something we learned after almost ten years of being an SME focused on both building people and producing results. We worked hard to deliberately build a culture that puts people before process. Our workplace policies and practices honor people, and we have a lot of fun and fulfillment in what we do.

But it was only last year that an official survey done by the Great Place to Work® Institute helped us assess our workplace culture and identify factors that played a role in creating a healthy, fun, and productive work environment. The survey was answered anonymously by our staff, and the results revealed a 98% trust index. We also made it to the Great Place to Work® Singapore list, ranking 4th and being the only SME on the list. (Update: In November 2017 we were recognized as one of the Top 3 Best Workplaces (Small Organizations Category) with a 93% trust index.)

Creating a culture that values people starts with trust and it starts from the top. CEOs and senior management must take the first step, communicate and impart trust, train and instruct supervisors and team leaders about building trust.

At ROHEI, we trust each other and we believe that trust moves companies forward. When people trust their leaders, they feel safe, they focus on meeting goals, they go the extra mile, valuing the company because the company values them. When staff trust each other, there is no office politicking; they are free to focus on what they need to do. They work well together, they don’t get “sick” often, and they have a lot of fun.

Whenever I give talks and meet with leaders, I always encourage them to focus on building trust. Especially for Singapore SMEs, who struggle with high staff turnover, low morale, and are looking for ways to refresh their workplace. Why not start with trust?

So how or where can you begin building, or re-building, trust in your organization? Here are 3 ways you can start investing in trust, as organizational leaders.

1. Be the first to show trust

You can only create trust by giving it first, not expecting it to be given to you.

Be aware of little things you do that may mistakenly convey a lack of trust. For example, micromanaging where it is not needed.

On the other hand, allowing flexible work arrangements and working out a reporting system with your staff is one way of showing them they are trusted to be productive even when no one is watching.

Your office regulations should align with what you say is important. If your policy is that output is important, and you trust staff to manage their time, having log-in sheets for in and out times does not communicate that trust, and may mistakenly cause staff to feel their every move is being watched.

I take time to relate and connect with my team before even talking about performance. Based on ROHEI’s Real8Ability Factors, I want to be sure that I see, hear, understand, care for, and appreciate them. I want them to feel  safe. Only then can I effectively challenge, support, and encourage them.


Rachel spending time with staff at one of our monthly Staff Communication sessions.

2. Increase meaningful communication Make an effort to share as much as you can with your staff—good news, highlights and commendations, or even constructive feedback, stories, inspiring things you’ve watched or read.

As CE, I write weekly letters to our staff called From Me to You, highlighting important testimonies, particular people I would like to commend, other things the staff would otherwise not know about, but would encourage them. We also have weekly staff gatherings every Monday morning – this is where we share latest updates about what’s happening with our company and our fellow colleagues, and also some informal sharing on certain values or mentorship areas that we want staff to learn or develop. Every month we have a Staff Comm session—sharing updates, changes, praise reports, imparting wisdom, honoring one another, ending in a lunch buffet. The session also allows staff to interact with those they otherwise wouldn’t be able to during the busyness of everyday work.

Encourage deeper conversations among leaders and team members. Communication and meaningful conversations build relationships. When there is relationship at work, there is joy. Many will argue that relationships can distract from work. That is true, but having no relationship puts a limit on what a company can achieve, and how much of themselves people are willing to share. It’s the difference between someone doing their work to simply complete it, and someone putting their heart and soul, enjoying work while giving their best. Who would you trust more—someone who wants to merely finish work and go home, or someone who is doing it because they love it and they share your vision and enjoy being part of your team?


Rachel and Praise share about organizational changes.

3. Challenge staff and call them to greater things

People will step up to what you call them to. You will be surprised when you give big responsibilities to your staff. As you do so, encourage them and assure them that you have their back.

It is my desire to see each person in the team to flourish in their lane—to thrive through challenges, and experience the joy of growing and moving forward. I love assigning things to people who don’t think they can do it. It gives them something to work toward; the excitement of a challenge, and it becomes an experience they won’t forget. But make sure that they know you are there to support and coach them.

When staff are also constantly learning, they flourish. And when you give them big responsibilities, it communicates that they are valued and trusted.

Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust. Where trust is high, productivity is high as well. There is no room for politics and low morale. With this kind of freedom, you can take your organization to places you never thought you could go. Trust will cause people to surprise you about what they can do. With trust, you are more than just a highly productive team—you are a dream team. And isn’t it a joy to work with people you are happy to go the extra mile for, people who are committed to the vision, people you trust.



Honoring staff as they are called to greater roles.

It was a great honor to be on the Great Place to Work® list as the only Singapore SME, but our mission is to spread this culture so that more and more Singapore SMEs can have the courage to look more deeply into their workplace culture and gain an objective assessment, and work hard to become a great workplace. It is our dream to see even more SMEs on the list because this means that Singapore’s workplace culture is shifting from performance-oriented to people focused. It means that more and more people in the workforce are finding hope, joy, courage, and purpose in their work.

Rachel is founder and Chief Executive of ROHEI.

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