Have you ever tried to learn from someone you didn’t fully trust? You may have found yourself spending more time questioning the material instead of thinking about how to apply it to day-to-day work. That’s because trust is essential for learning.

The Trust Factor in Training

Trust is foundational to any meaningful relationship and is critical for frictionless learning. However, Deloitte research shows that employers overestimate their employees’ level of trust by almost 40%. This disconnect may incur real costs, such as reduced productivity and increased turnover — not to mention the loss of the training investment in employees who leave. Our research also found that less than one-half of all workers surveyed (47%) trust their employer. Given that trust drives retention and other favorable behaviors, leaders should see low workforce trust as a call to action.

Moreover, today’s learning leaders face new and significant challenges in building trust. The pandemic disrupted work and life for many people. Many workers — especially women — left the workforce because balancing work and caregiving or other obligations proved difficult or impossible. The so-called “Great Resignation” has left many teams understaffed and navigating new challenges as they adapt to remote or hybrid workplaces. In short, employees have been through a tough time, so it’s not surprising that they may be a bit jaded and skeptical. And even when trust is built, it can be easily lost. Leaders and organizations lose trust when words and actions don’t match or when the organization or individual acts in a manner inconsistent with what is expected.

At the same time, learning professionals face unprecedented demands. They are tasked with not only convincing employees to devote the time necessary for training, but to help them feel engaged and motivated to learn. Failure to do so may affect the metrics by which these professionals are measured. For example, research shows that adults retain just 5% from a lecture. But when they’re motivated in a highly engaged teaching encounter where they ultimately practice what they learned that retention rate jumps to 75%. Trust, which we know drives employee motivation, is an essential component of that engagement.

Trust Makes Organizations Stronger

Nearly 80% of employees who have high levels of trust in their employers feel motivated to work, versus less than 30% of those who do not trust their employers. Deloitte research also shows that workers who trust their employers are 50% less likely to look for other jobs. In addition, Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, published research in Harvard Business Review that found that employees in high-trust organizations exhibit greater productivity and collaboration with colleagues. When employees trust their employers, they’re more motivated and their actions double customer satisfaction, on average. (See Fig. 1). And companies with high trust outperform their peers by up to 400%!

Fig. 1: Trust makes organizations stronger.


The good news is that it’s possible to build trust. At its core, trust is built when organizations make good promises, and when they deliver on those promises. We call these, respectively, intent and competence. Employers demonstrate intent through being transparent and human. Employers demonstrate competence by being capable and reliable.

The Four Factors of Trust™ make it possible for organizations to measure trust and to elevate the human experience (HX) by building trust. We call this measure the HX TrustID™, pronounced HX “trust-ed” (Get it? Are you trusted?)

These are the Four Factors of Trust™ that make up the HX TrustID:

  • Humanity: Employers demonstrate empathy and kindness toward employees.
  • Transparency: Employers communicate in a straightforward manner, using clear and plain language.
  • Capability: Employers create strong cultures where employees are supported, valued and given the tools they need to do their jobs well.
  • Reliability: Employers consistently and dependably deliver on commitments made to employees.

These four factors not only describe nearly all of the variation in stated trust scores, but they also describe meaningful differences in behavior. For example, when an employee views their organization as highly reliable, they are 150% more likely to recommend their employer to a friend, family member, or colleague.  Employees are also 50% less likely to look for another job when they believe their employer is highly capable. When an employee views their organization as having high humanity, they are 150% more likely to defend their employer after someone’s criticism.  And perceptions of high transparency means employees are 180% more likely to positively review their employer on a public website.

Building Trust

Building trust may seem like a daunting task, but you can take these key steps to help strengthen trust within your organization:

  • Start where you are. To make meaningful progress in building trust, you first must understand the state of trust within your organization. Measure the Four Factors of Trust through surveys or discussion to get an understanding of how your co-workers feel.
  • Build a trust culture. Issues like fairness, equity, flexibility and autonomy have an impact on employee trust. If the feedback collected shows that employees have concerns in these areas, address them. Whenever possible, adopt a “people first” approach to how the organization operates and how work gets done.
  • Give it to get it. When workers are trusted, they are more likely to trust their employer in turn. Organizations can foster trust by extending it first. This can be done by being transparent and clear in communication, and by reliably following through on the organization’s promises.
  • Look to leaders. A critical element of building trust is behavior modeled by leadership. When leaders show that they’re serious about building trust and exhibit trustworthy behavior, employees notice.
  • Create a “trust-building loop.” As your organization makes progress, check in with your team periodically to get feedback, then adapt as needed.

Trust is essential within every organization, and particularly important for learning professionals. Understanding the elements of trust and working towards building it within your organization pays off in ways that range from improved employee performance and engagement to greater customer loyalty — not to mention your own performance and how it’s measured.