Imitation government websites. Phishing emails. Data breaches. Fake news.

We can feel a sense of distrust in many parts of our life. This distrust is forcing us to play it safe and making it difficult for us to move forward and grow.

For businesses, these exceptional times of a pandemic, volatile markets and uncertainty also makes organizational growth slow — if it happens at all. These external challenges, combined with internal ones (within both the organization and the people who work there) make growth just a “nice idea.” You may even be thinking, “Growth? I am just trying to survive. If we can just ride this out, we will be OK.”

But if you have ever seen a person on an automated bucking bull, you know that the “ride it out” strategy will not last. It is a Band-Aid solution. For an organization to be successful, it must grow. It must change, evolve and adapt in sales, revenue, customer segments or products. Shareholders want returns on their investments, while employees want promotions or raises. Regardless of the environment, organizations must find ways to grow. And in these tough times, strategic growth practices must be cost-effective.

So, where must organizations start if they want to grow? It’s simple: with trust. Many of us know trust is a critical part of organizational growth, but there are numerous examples that organizations are not building trust, from business scandals to broken promises at various levels of government. As many of us have transitioned into a remote workplace, trust has been the main ingredient. Some have embraced the challenge, while many have tried but have failed to be consistent. Trust is hard work — especially when times are tough and stress is high.

For organizations to grow, they must return to one of universal practices of business: Take care of your customers. In the case of organizational growth, the customer is the employee. Organization must spend the same amount of time (and more) building trust at every level as they spend crafting marketing plans and preparing for sales presentations.

There are three fundamental steps to drive organizational growth through trust: context, content and contract.

1. Context: Align on Values

Organizations must create conversations at every level about what is important — to everyone. In a 2019 Glassdoor survey, values and culture were at the top of the list of employee satisfaction factors. The challenge is that when it comes to values and culture, change management is often delegated to one department. But this approach rarely works, because everyone needs to be involved in the conversation.

Located in Rochester, New York, Paychex provides human resource (HR), payroll and benefits services. Jody Stolt, director of Paycheck’s learning and development (L&D) center, and Laurie O’Mara, an HR project manager, have seen firsthand how aligning on values builds trust: “From the start, employers must engage with employees and earn mutual trust through experience and agreement on core values,” . “Employees who trust in the company they work for and are engaged will stay longer, strive to do better, and say great things about their company. Peer trust is also key to successful outcomes for employees, which leads to meeting business results.”

2. Content: Identity Roadblocks and Bridges

Once the organization has identified its critical values, leaders must create the processes that ensure the organization is aware of the “dos and don’ts” of organizational trust. In particular, they should focus on the things that happen when no one is looking. These roadblocks include microaggressions, unconscious bias and “don’t be so sensitive” comments.

Then, everyone must have a hand in building or strengthening the bridges to trust: keeping people in the loop, recognizing employees (publicly or privately), and providing learning opportunities and impactful coaching sessions.

Identify the roadblocks and bridges, and the trust meter will quickly start moving in the right direction.

3. Contract: Adapt and Act

This third step is the hardest part but the most important to growth. It involves making sure that everyone  stays committed to building organizational trust. In project management, this process is called “monitor and control”; here, it is called “adapt and act.”

Where necessary, adapt practices to ensure all teams are reviewing what is working and not working in relation to organizational growth and trust. Then, empower everyone to take the needed actions to build on what’s working, stop or change what is not working, and (if necessary) add to what is missing. It is also important to track and document new trust strategies that support growth, as tactics will differ from role to role and department to department.

Trust grows relationship and partnerships, breaks down silos, and is necessary for the sharing and maximizing of information and knowledge. As organizations strive to maintain or create a competitive edge, trust-building thinking and tactics will become even more critical to organizational success. We may have the best technology, the most cost-effective processes or deep financial resources — but none of it will produce the desired results unless we have trust.

Want to learn more on this topic? Sign up for the virtual Training Industry Conference & Expo, and attend Corey’s live session.