As the metrics of the World Happiness Report demonstrate, Finnish happiness is ultimately underpinned by values–like social support and freedom–that are created by trust.
Indeed, there is no point in chasing happiness. What really counts is cultivating a culture that supports long-term well-being. And that’s what Finns do particularly well.
Finland is a high-trust society, and Finns trust their institutions and their fellow citizens. That same trust extends to the workplace and is visible in how employees trust their leaders and their colleagues.
At Framery, a global company headquartered in Tampere, Finland, we prioritize trust in everything we do. It’s also why as a 400+-employee firm we’ve had less than 10% global turnover in all the years we’ve been in business–and why we’ve maintained market leadership in our sector. Trust drives results.
However, it’s important to remember that trust must be earned over time, and that it is easily lost. Here are five critical ways we foster trust in our organization–principles that we believe can work at any level, for any team, in any corporation.
Enforce 8-hour days
Many workplaces have exciting policies like unlimited vacation days or four-day work weeks that on the surface seem to promise exceptional employee work-life balance. Yet the reality can often be much less cheerful: employees work even longer hours to make up for that extra free time or are afraid to use the benefits in fear of losing out on a promotion. This all chips away at their trust in each other, and in the company.
At our firm, we have fairly normal vacation policies, but what’s different is that we make sure not to glorify all-nighters. We enforce strict rules around maximum working hours. All overtime hours must be taken as leave, and there is a set annual paid two-week vacation guaranteed for all new hires. The idea is that everyone, regardless of title, gets equal treatment and time to rest.
By staying firm in our enforcement of vacation time and 8-hour working days, we demonstrate to our people that we stand by our policies and that they can trust us to look after their rights and well-being.
Destroy closed doors
In large corporations, there are usually layers upon layers of secrecy. Who gets invited to which meeting determines who’s privy to what information. That can create suspicion, distrust, and even paranoia.
At our company, critical information is shared freely and often, everyone’s calendars are openly accessible to everyone else as a default, and full company financial reports are distributed to every employee once a month.
Not only does this openness form the basis for company-wide trust, but it is also beneficial in guiding employees toward value creation. Our mission and goals make more sense when all our employees have the full picture of where we’re headed. With a free flow of critical information, our people can better self-direct their work toward communally beneficial outcomes.
Remote and hybrid work have brought about a greater variance in ways of working than ever before. The urge for many leaders now is to control and standardize those ways of working. Policies abound on how and where employees should work, demanding staff to, for example, come to the office on designated days of the week.
This kind of micromanagement is unnecessary and detrimental to trust. At our company, we let teams decide how they operate. That can mean fully remote, hybrid, or fully in-person work–whatever working style and method fit best. What matters more than where and how is the overall direction of our efforts.
Management decides where we’re going, but we have a policy of empowerment in letting teams and individuals determine how we get there. Employees know better than the CEO how to structure their work and drive results. Different tasks require different environments and tools, and top-down mandates therefore often do more harm than good.
Stop spying on employees
Remote work has led to an increase in employee surveillance. Employees are finding out about corporate tracking of their work hours, emails, systems use, and more–all of it secret.
This corporate spying destroys trust. If employers are suspicious of their staff, then employees become wary of their employers too. Many workers become more occupied with gaming the tracking system than doing actual work. In fact, research shows that employee-monitoring software actually makes employees more likely to break rules, as the employees subconsciously begin to feel less in control of their own behavior.
We believe employee data should only be used in employees’ favor, not against them. In an organization rooted in real trust, how people perform their work shouldn’t matter at all. We measure our people based not on how much work they put in, but on the results they generate.
That also means our employees don’t have to ask supervisors to approve their hours: Whatever hours have counted as overtime can be freely used to shorten other workdays. We trust our employees to put in the right amount of hours without monitoring their every move.
Maximize job security
No matter what policies and freedoms are in place, trust in organizations is still ultimately fragile. It can be destroyed in an instant with something like surprise layoffs. If people feel replaceable, then they will never trust the company fully, and will always keep an eye out for ways to jump ship.
We believe laying off employees should be avoided at all costs. We made a company-wide commitment at the beginning of the pandemic to not let any of our employees go. Instead, we invested in research and development and new processes–in our people. It wasn’t easy. The losses were deep. But we all committed to finding ways to cut costs together, and it paid off in the end: not only did we return to profitability but we also ultimately protected the foundation of all of the trust in our organization.
When people aren’t afraid of being let go, they can begin to trust their leaders and co-workers in a whole new way. Suddenly everything clicks into place: honest feedback can be more freely given and received, information can flow more openly, and no excessive monitoring or management of ways of working is needed. Employees commit to the work and continuously do their best.
The trust that’s given to employees will be returned tenfold–or even hundredfold. Everyone wins.
Anni Hallila is the head of people and culture at Framery.
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