Technological advancements, changing work dynamics and evolving societal values mark the new-age workforce. The traditional employer-employee relationship, which once relied on loyalty and job security, has shifted dramatically. The trust divide between employers and employees is becoming increasingly pronounced.
One of the foremost reasons for the widening trust gap is the decline of job security. In the past, employees could expect long-term employment with a single company, often retiring after decades of service. Today, job security is rare, with employees changing jobs frequently and uncertainty prevailing due to automation and outsourcing. This lack of stability erodes trust in employers, leading employees to question their commitment to their well-being.
Shaleen Manik, CHRO, Transsion India, shares, “In the past, many IT companies offered a remote or hybrid work setup, but now the majority are shifting towards a hybrid-centric model.”
“In the past, many IT companies offered a remote or hybrid work setup, but now the majority are shifting towards a hybrid-centric model”
Shaleen Manik, CHRO, Transsion India
He adds that the shift to remote work has introduced a range of challenges, including trust issues between employees and employers, cost considerations and management of resources from different locations.
Manik observes, “There are instances of employees taking on side projects or moonlighting, which has strained the trust between employers and their workforce.”
While technological advancements have brought numerous benefits to the workplace, they have also introduced new challenges. The use of data analytics, monitoring software and algorithms has raised concerns about privacy and surveillance. Employees worry about being constantly watched and evaluated, which can undermine trust in their employers’ intentions.
P Dwarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK, explains, “This change has resulted from shifts in organisations’ operation and leadership style. While speed and efficiency are important, they should not come at the expense of losing connection with people. We often hear about the importance of empathetic, compassionate and authentic leadership, but in practice, trust is eroding due to a lack of follow-through. The tone set at the top has changed from what it used to be.”
Another reason he mentions is that of many employees now working on a project-by-project basis or as freelancers, often without traditional employee benefits. Such workers often feel disconnected from their employers and may perceive a lack of investment in their career development and well-being.
Growing wage disparities between CEOs and rank-and-file employees have fuelled mistrust. When employees witness soaring executive salaries while their own wages stagnate, they tend to feel undervalued and demotivated. This can lead to the perception that employers prioritise profits over their workforce’s well-being.
Another important aspect, according to Manik, is transparency. “Some organisations are not as forthcoming with their employees as they should be. Gen Z employees, in particular, value openness and transparency. They expect regular, honest communication from their employers, whether the news is good or bad.”
Employers often fail to keep employees informed about company changes, leading to rumours and uncertainty. When employees are not included in decision-making processes or are kept in the dark with regard to the company’s long-term strategies, trust erodes further.
Work-related stress and burnout have become increasingly common, particularly with the blurring of lines between work and personal life in the digital age. Employers’ failure to address these issues can lead employees to feel undervalued and unsupported.
“We often hear about the importance of empathetic, compassionate and authentic leadership, but in practice, trust is eroding due to a lack of follow-through. The tone set at the top has changed from what it used to be”
P Dwarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK
Bridging the trust gap
The trust gap between employers and employees is widening due to a complex interplay of factors, but it is not impossible to bridge it.
Transparent communication: Employers should establish clear and open lines of communication. Regularly sharing company updates, goals and strategies can help build trust.
Employee well-being: Prioritising the well-being of their employees by offering mental health support, work-life balance initiatives and professional development opportunities is a must for employers.
Fair compensation: Addressing wage disparities and ensuring fair and competitive compensation for all employees can help reduce feelings of inequity.
Flexibility and autonomy: Giving employees more autonomy and flexibility in their work, empowering them to make decisions and manage their schedules can improve trust.
Reskilling and upskilling: Employers are increasingly realising the advantages of investing in employees’ growth by providing opportunities for reskilling and upskilling. This not only benefits employees but also demonstrates a commitment to their future.
Inclusivity: It is essential for employers to foster a diverse and inclusive work environment where all voices are heard and valued.
Dwarakanath further asserts that it’s not just about managing a multi-generational workforce; it’s also about the overall culture, leadership approach and a diminishing sense of empathy and compassion.
Trust is a two-way street, and rebuilding it requires effort, understanding, and commitment from all parties involved. In the evolving world of work, this invaluable currency called trust can lead to greater productivity, job satisfaction and overall success for both employers and employees.