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on March 15, 2017 Culture

How Can People Ops Gain Employee Trust?

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An excellent People organization requires equally excellent trust from all levels of the employee base. From developing and retaining talent, to building and managing company culture — employees must believe that People Ops holds their best interests in mind. This mutual trust and respect is essential for People Ops to successfully design and implement strategies that will better the organization.

With this in mind, what are some approaches People Ops can take to gain employee trust?

1. Be inclusive and consistent.

If you scan Glassdoor’s negative employer reviews, you’ll find many different kinds of complaints with a common root cause: the company isn’t listening to all of its employees. An organization should not have a pecking order or appear to play favorites — People Ops should have go-to tactics that make all employees feel equally important, regardless of their title and salary, or whether they work in-office or remotely.


Employees talk, so be consistent in how you handle each situation, big or small. If you quickly resolve one employee’s problem on a Tuesday, then ignore another employee’s similar problem on a Thursday, you’re giving someone a reason to think you’re being selective in addressing employee inquiries.

...But that Thursday was so busy, you couldn’t even find time to eat lunch.

To regulate the way you resolve employee issues, and avoid losing their confidence and trust, document best practices around how you’ll approach every situation. You should detail strategies in both an internal playbook for your team, and a second version that is public to employees.

Both playbooks should explain the systems in place for areas such as hiring, raises, and promotions. The public playbook will teach employees about how and when People Ops handles all employee matters, from inquiries, to requests, to difficult issues. Consistency will be displayed in the way the function applies those standards to every employee’s case.  

Regularly communicating with your employees is another fundamental element in promoting an inclusive, consistent work culture. Jenilee Deal,  VP People at Qadiu, shares how Qadium’s People team builds employee trust by holding regular one-on-ones with everyone in the company.

They do this by selecting a sample from the employee base each quarter, inviting those employees in for a sit-down with a member of the People team. This shows that People Ops doesn’t just talk to managers and execs, but wants to hear from employees too. In these one-on-ones, the People team asks Stay Interview questions to understand why employees stay and why they would leave.

To build trust, inclusiveness and consistency must be shown across entire employee lifecycle — from preboarding, to reward, all the way through to offboarding.

2. Don’t just gather feedback, act on it.

A core responsibility of People Ops is to surface the voice of the employee base. Besides assessing how an individual employee is feeling, it’s also important to understand how employees feel about the company — regarding culture, work-life balance, direction, leadership, and vision.

Surveys are an excellent tool for collecting feedback to measure Employee Engagement as well as overall organizational effectiveness. And with surveying tools like CultureAmp, meaningful, anonymous feedback can be highly accessible.

With those survey results, People Ops can then create a transparent process to drive change. For participation and trust, it’s important to explain why you’re running a survey and what you’re going to do with the results.

If you’re finding that results are dipping, it’s important to reach out to individual VPs and managers, asking them to encourage teams to provide their feedback. But don’t stop there — the most important step is to follow through in making meaningful changes.


Results are great, but how do you act on them? Figuring out the groups by which you review data is crucial to an effective feedback strategy. Decide how your team should group survey results, considering what factors are important and will drive action. Depending on your company, you might decide to group results by factors such as location, manager, age, or gender.

Once you’ve compiled your data, results should be shared across different audiences — a step that many People Ops teams miss. Compiling anonymous survey results to be publicly shared with employees is a great way to prove your function’s honesty and win respect. Employees will find it honorable that the People team is openly holding themselves accountable to drive change.

But presenting results at an all-hands meeting isn’t enough. Take it a step further by presenting departmental data to individual departments, or office-specific data to relevant office locations.

Holding one-on-ones with managers to discuss your data is essential in deciding what to do about results. In these one-on-ones, it’s important to notice strengths and work on weaknesses. Based on results, pick one or two specific, time-bound goals per group to drive action on — with time and energy pressure, it’s best to stick to fewer objectives and get them right. Remember, all goals don’t look the same — perhaps you decide that you need to organize a round-table to get more data on results — that in itself is a goal!

Once feedback is compiled and communicated to employees and managers, consider pitching your suggested changes and requesting employee feedback on proposals. Crowdsourcing tools, like Waggl’s real-time feedback technology, can help People Ops keep employees completely involved in the process, showing just how much you value their opinions.

3. Be transparent.

Today, People Ops doesn’t have the same control over the organization’s image that it did five years ago. Between social media and public databases like Glassdoor — culture, benefits, and salaries are all common knowledge. With company information so readily available, People Ops must be just as transparent itself.


Start early. Be transparent throughout the entire recruitment, preboarding, and onboarding process. Not only will this strengthen a culture of trust by earning it with candidates and new hires, but you’ll come out with employees who are a better fit for your organization.

In the early stages of the active employee lifecycle, distrust often comes from a simple lack of communication. Research shows that 69% of employees do not trust their employer to know what benefits are right for them. Consider using a Total Rewards Statement to communicate and promote your rewards package along with your reasons behind choosing it. This can show employees how much thought People Ops has put into their benefits package, encouraging them to trust and value your judgement.

Over the years, People Ops has taken on yet another responsibility of how information flows within the organization outside the People function. For ongoing transparency, People Ops must manage the alignment, collaboration, clarity, and celebration that happens throughout the business.

What is spoken about at all-hands meetings? Are the executive teams debriefing everyone after board meetings? Are functions sharing with one another their progress, blockers, and the pivots they’re making to their strategy — and how does that align with company goals? Are we celebrating when new hires are joining the team, and are we being transparent about when people leave the company?

When employees don’t know what is going on, they assume the worst. It is the responsibility of People Ops to keep information flowing throughout the organization to build and maintain trust.

4. Articulate your brand.

What does your team believe about people? What are your values as a head of People? What does your overall function value?  

Every company has a different kind of People Ops program — you might have a culture-based, performance-based, or compliance-based team. Articulating who you are and what you believe to be true is a great way to build trust.

At Qadium, People Ops articulates its brand by detailing the mission, philosophy, and roadmap of the People function.

Jenilee Deal explains that a People team’s mission is company and culture-specific. Consider your company’s vision and values, and create your People mission around them. Once you have your mission, communicate it to everyone in your organization.

Your philosophy embodies what the function believes to be true, and those truths are at the core of how People teams build their programs. Perhaps you believe in hiring less people and treating them better, rather than hiring more people and not treating them as well — if this is what your function believes to be true, then your programs should be carried out by that vantage point.

Over time, your People function should know what it believes in, and be clear about those beliefs with the entire company to establish trust. Communicating your philosophy shows employees where your programs are coming from and the value behind them.

Your roadmap should be a blueprint of what the function is going to accomplish over the next 1-2 years. The roadmap details your function’s accountability and value, and builds excitement around what you’re planning to accomplish.

Create a working model of what the function looks like and how progress will be measured. Include the sub-functions of People Ops and Recruiting — at Qadium, the People team’s sub-functions include:

- Culture & Experience
- Total Rewards
- Performance Measurement
- Policy & Compliance
- Recruiting Operations and Hiring

Qadium also keeps a dashboard to track metrics and goals to understand how both the function and the employee base are doing. Some key metrics and goals to track include:

- Growth rate
- Turnover rate
- Average tenure
- Diversity stats
- Performance measurement and distribution
- Average time to promotion
- Key survey data points
  • Scaling metrics relevant to organizational design and growth

It’s important to look at metrics as a whole as well as by department, and to also correlate them to employee engagement and survey results. To foster transparency, discuss findings or intuitions with team leads and make sure to update the company on your progress as you execute goals.

Some employees believe that the People function is a fuzzy field, failing to understand its ROI. But by laying out a clear roadmap and specific goals that are interesting to employees, they will realize how your function benefits them. This will earn you credibility, proving that you are a valuable function deserving of time, energy, resources, and trust.

Higher levels of employee trust contribute to more innovative, productive, and engaged teams. Want to learn how Sapling’s onboarding technology can drive Employee Engagement and success? Download Sapling’s Essential Guide To Employee Onboarding Success or sign up for a product demo below.blog_banner.png

Jeni Fahy

Jeni Fahy is a contributing author at Sapling, a culture-first organization helping People Ops leaders deliver employee experience programs with consistency, visibility, and analytics. If you’re interested in enhancing your employee experience with strategic employee onboarding, schedule a demo with the Sapling team.