Your employees showed up at work today. But are they engaged?
According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 study, a staggering 85% of HR and business leaders report that lack of employee engagement is their most pressing issue.
Some leaders may look to policy changes to address the problem—wear your jeans, bring your pets, bring in a foosball table for the lounge.
Creating a comfortable environment no doubt has its benefits, but without buy-in, those perks quickly become gimmicks.
The key to buy-in, of course, is the same fundamental factor in any healthy relationship: trust. Here are five ways to create a culture of trust at work and increase employee engagement.
1. Share your story
Every good story has a protagonist to identify with and relate to. Sharing your personal story—your passions, motivations, humble beginnings—allows others to create an emotional connection. Bridging these details to your role in the company is a natural progression, but now is not the time to outline the company vision or objectives. The goal here is to allow employees access to you on a human level—standard practice in an environment of trust.
2. Be transparent
Decide how—not whether—to disclose sensitive information to employees. The amount of detail and the extent to which you educate is up to your discretion, but treat front-line employees the way you would treat top management when it comes to their right to know.
3. Aim for equity
Transparency establishes a sense of equity; relational value maintains it. Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price made headlines in 2015 for raising the minimum salary of all his employees to $70,000, reducing his own $1 million paycheck to the same. To boost morale, increase employee engagement and establish trust, close the value gap. Weigh your human capital equally. Lead by making personal sacrifices if you expect your employees to do the same.
4. Acknowledge tension
A surefire way to lose trust is to create a false sense of security. On the flipside, tension provides opportunity for greater security. Whether it’s conflict in the workplace or competition in the industry, appreciating how and why your employees feel threatened will help you understand how to offer solutions or, in the very least, a zone of safety—a solution in and of itself.
5. Nurture their growth
Employees are eager to acquire and improve technical and soft skills. Identify their goals, career-related and otherwise, and create a plan. Believe and communicate that their personal growth is just as important as the bottom line. Offer yourself and your company resources as important characters in the development of their personal story.
External gimmicks can’t compare to the internal drive employees exhibit when they’ve bought into your organization. Be authentic, treat your people equitably, create places of safety and advocate for their personal growth; you’re likely to see increased earnings per share, sure—but only first when you’ve earned their trust.
NOTE: This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.