The Strategic Advantage of Trust



“The biggest problems companies will face in the next 10 years will be about people not technology.”



Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report*:

74% less stress

106% more energy at work

50% higher productivity

13% fewer sick days

76% more engagement

29% more satisfaction with their lives

40% less burnout



Sherif Mansour, principal product manager at Atlassian, said his business will continue to break technical barriers, but the underlying problems will be staff-related and most of these were about building trust.

He told the recent AFR Leadership Summit that Atlassian had found “lack of trust” consistently ranked as the biggest issue among employees.

This was backed up in a separate study from Google, which found “psychological safety” was the attribute ranked most important by its staff, when asked what was holding the business back.

Charles Duhig wrote in the New York Times that: “ As commerce becomes increasingly global and complex, the bulk of modern work is more and more team-based.

One study, published in The Harvard Business Review last month, noted: ‘‘The time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more over the last two decades and that, at many companies, more than three-quarters of an employee’s day is spent communicating with colleagues.”

In Silicon Valley, software engineers are encouraged to work together, in part because studies show that groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems. Studies also show that people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction.


In a 2015 study, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more.

Within companies and conglomerates, as well as in government agencies and schools, teams are now the fundamental unit of organisation. If a company wants to outstrip its competitors, it needs to influence not only how people work but also how they work together.

The Google Study concluded that “Within psychology, researchers sometimes colloquially refer to traits like ‘‘conversational turn-taking’’ and ‘‘average social sensitivity’’ as aspects of what’s known as psychological safety—a group culture that the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’

Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ Edmondson wrote in a study published in 1999. ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’


How Trust Creates Joy

Experiments show that having a sense of higher purpose stimulates oxytocin production, as does trust. Trust and purpose then mutually reinforce each other, providing a mechanism for extended oxytocin release, which produces happiness.

So, joy on the job comes from doing purpose-driven work with a trusted team. In the nationally representative data set described in the main article, the correlation between (1) trust reinforced by purpose and (2) joy is very high: 0.77. It means that joy can be considered a “sufficient statistic” that reveals how effectively your company’s culture engages employees. To measure this, simply ask, “How much do you enjoy your job on a typical day?”

In her article for The Harvard Business Review Deepa Prahalad discusses why trust matters more than ever for brands.

“Brand leaders like Apple, Nike and P&G are design leaders. Advertising and marketing can amplify the success of a great design, but they can rarely compensate for a poor one. Here, trust is a function of the brand messaging lining up with the consumer’s actual interaction with the product or service.”

“Tech brands like IBM, Google and Intel are brands in and of themselves and have been forging the same kind of deep emotional connections with consumers that we used to see in other categories such as personal care and automobiles. This is not altogether surprising, because the amount and sensitivity of personal data that is entrusted to technology companies today is unprecedented.

“The most profound effect of the increasing share of intangible value, and the role of design and technology is that some of the metaphors of brand meaning have changed. It is no longer just about exclusivity and status. It’s also about networks, connections and communities.

“Finally, the issues that companies have set their sights on today require an unprecedented degree of collaboration. Delivering great consumer experiences today means combining the capabilities of many companies.”

We are all networking and collaborating more than ever meaning that trust is more important than ever before, and it can be an important source of strategic advantage.




 Alistair Ebeli

Senior Content Strategist