Organizational Trust and the 360 Review

Skeptics“Do I trust you?”

“Do you trust me?”

Every time you interact with someone, these are subconscious questions in which you search for answers. Whether it is your manager, someone you manage, a contractor, customer or other stakeholder – it’s a regular occurrence.

In 2011 the UK-based Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) issued its quarterly employee attitudes survey1.  The lack of trust in senior managers and decreasing level of trust in managers is highlighted as a key demotivation and negative for the culture in “UK public companies.”

This is not the only recent research to highlight such concerns about the levels of trust in the workplace. The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) has followed up 2009 research highlighting significant distrust in managers with their “people@work/2020” white paper2. This focuses on the role of human resources to overcome this distrust.  The Ontario Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) 2011 fall conference3 looked at how culture shift can instill trust as a result of earlier research which identified its absence in the workplace.

A Maritz poll4 conducted in early 2011 showed the level of trust in the American workplace has taken a big downturn. Only 11% of respondents showed a level of trust in managers, 7% senior managers and the same for coworkers - very low results for the US workers and their place of work. So there’s a worldwide trust issue that needs to be addressed. Can a 360 review change the world’s opinion of trust in the workplace? Well perhaps not a single one, but a well-constructed 360 review can certainly assess the employee trust levels within an organization and start the process to repair the world’s lack of trust in organizations.
Part of the process when assessing a potential leader through a 360 review is asking questions about leadership abilities and trust: do they have them or do they not? These questions provide a snapshot within an organization of their potential to be an effective leader and if they hold the same values as the organization. Clearly defined questions around ethics, conduct and honesty can produce solid information on trust.

As with any leadership development assessment, once completed, the purpose of a 360 review is to create an action plan for personal development. This plan provides the opportunity to develop leadership qualities and to try to align those qualities so they can meet the standards expected and required within the organization. Of course those standards will cover a range of attributes including elements of trust, but even other measures like communication skills can influence a perception of trust.
The 360 review should never be a one-off event but something that takes place regularly. This gives the organization an opportunity to see the shift in demonstrated leadership skills by that individual who has been reviewed. It also can show a trend of increasing trust levels. Yes, you have to allow time for the development plan to take effect, but semi- or annual reviews are not unreasonable. In fact, some organizations are now choosing to integrate 360 reviews into their annual performance review process.

Even though asking the simple question “do you trust …?” can be a great benchmark, it’s not just about putting a question on trust into the 360 review.  Using a range of other related questions within the 360 review can effectively measure leadership abilities and trust. Connecting it to the development of an action plan is equally important to building a trusting organization.  In fact some would argue that an organization’s willingness to implement a 360 review is a show of trust to its employees by the organization and in itself, could foster a reciprocal sentiment from employees.

The leadership qualities expected and measured by a 360 review, including trust elements, are an effective tool to develop leaders and to achieve organizational objectives. By communicating the goals of the 360 survey process and connecting the outcomes to a corporate goal or strategic development aim, can in itself promote trust across the organization.



[1] Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey (2011)
[2]Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) people@work/2020" white paper
[3]Ontario Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA) fall conference (2011)
[4] Maritz Poll: Managing in an Era of Mistrust (2011)

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