Role of Trust in Keeping Talent from Leaving


Organizations bleeding talent is a fixable problem. Before we can look at how to fix the problem, let’s look at some of the causes.

Breaking Trust

The problem has been triggered and exacerbated by recessional workforce reductions in favor of short-term savings. The problem persists and will only worsen as fed-up employees grow confident in finding a different place to work that is “anywhere but here.”

Let’s continue, for a moment, to look at some of the causes of bleeding talent. Those employees fortunate to avoid the axe find themselves grateful to have work but burdened by and resentful of an unrealistic workload. Visual reminders of reductions in force (RIFs) are everywhere as empty cubicles serve as organizational boneyards.


Employees fortunate to avoid the axe are burdened by and resentful of an unrealistic workload.


Add to the dismal workplace cultures an endless stream of executive ethic scandals. We can’t overlook inequities in bonuses awarded to underperforming executives while hard-at-work employees get little to no increases. Trust in upper-management is taking a beating.


Add to the dismal workplace cultures an endless stream of executive ethic scandals


So it’s not surprising that data are emerging showing that employees who kept their jobs are feeling more confidant looking for better employment opportunities. Consequently, voluntary turnover is on the rise. This should be unwelcome news for organizations now that the economy is stabilizing.


Voluntary turnover is on the rise


Executives and middle-managers are facing talent issues that have been brewing before and since the Great Recession. Executives who bury their heads in the sand will find themselves running to catch up to forward thinking companies acting now to keep top talent.

Repairing Trust

To be certain this is a complex issue that doesn’t come with easy solutions. And to be fair, employees who leave their jobs for promised greener-grass is a poor strategy. There is, however, a key to keeping your talent in these post-Great Recession times. That key is trust.

Before I explain why I believe trust is the key, I need to point out the solution is not giving employees more money. Money is a short-lived motivator and satisfier: employees quickly adapt their lifestyle to the increase in pay, negating the motivator.


Money is a short-lived motivator and satisfier


Longterm solutions to motivate staff to stay, to contribute their talents, to trust again and to find job satisfaction are needed to keep talent from seeking other career opportunities.

Repairing trust is part of the solution. It has longevity. Where does a manager begin? Consider these recommendations.

Invest in workforce development

Finding skilled employees to match business needs will grow more difficult for companies. Spend money on employee development. Upskill your employees’ talents.

Modernize your career advancement practices

For many companies career tracks are nonexistent or available only to pipeline employees (succession planning). Not good enough. Pull together a cross-functional team tasked to modernize how opportunities are given to employees that help them grow. Give employees a reason to stay with you.


For many companies career tracks are nonexistent


Make talent retention a visible strategy to employees

The above items are limited and in no way reflect all the solutions to rebuild trust to keep your talent from bolting out the door. Whatever you do, involve employees and match your words and actions. Regaining employees’ trust isn’t impossible. Time consuming and diligent? Yes. Employees want to believe that their employer is interested in making a difference, for them and for customers.

The war for talent looks different than anticipated. The U.S. recession changed the look, urgency, and focus. Businesses may be slow to respond to the shape of the problem, but managers can start addressing it by repairing trust. It doesn’t have to be at the organizational level. Lead local. Start where the greatest influence is: with your immediate team.

How are you rebuilding trust to keep employees with you and not a competitor?

Graphic by  Rhys

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of Switch and Shift. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • Shawn – Those are excellent strategies for building trust. One of the four fundamentals of trust is demonstrating care and concern. When employees see these sorts of actions from company leadership, they understand that their leaders have their best interests at heart and that increase their trust and loyalty to the organization.

    Take care,


  • Great post, Shawn!

    I really appreciate these strategies for building trust. One of the core problems in most organizations is not creating a compelling vision, one that excites everyone, and then showing each person how she is important to making it happen.

  • My suggestion and the one I used to in four successful turnarounds was to replace command and control with what I call autonomy and support.

    Employees are responsible for figuring out what to do, how to do it, and then do it. Management is responsible for providing whatever support employees need in order to excel at their work, including both tangible support like training, coaching, tools and the like and intangible support like competence, confidence, morale, trust, autonomy, and the like.

    Management can only figure out the quality of their support by asking employees who live with it. Management can only improve its support so that it meets the highest standards by satisfying employees.

    Hope this helps, Ben

  • Shawn, You’ve hit the nail on the head regarding the way employees feel today. I hear it all the time. Trust is probably at an all time low and employee morale is in the tank.

    People want to feel appreciated and want to know that the company leadership cares. Trust is built on the foundation of caring and compassion.

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