Building a culture of trust can be a powerful way to improve performance. Neuroscientific research shows that trust reduces social frictions and promotes cooperative behavior among colleagues — and that managers can create high-trust, high-performance teams.
Our culture influences people’s behavior and interactions with colleagues at work, which in turn influences how efficiently they go about creating value for your organization. It is not static; culture can be measured and improved like any other business process. If, that is, one can figure out what to measure and where to make changes.
Organizational trust is a key part of culture that directly influences how willing our employees are to go above and beyond in their roles. Frictions naturally occur when humans congregate, but at the same time, our brains are built to work in teams so there is a tension between wanting to be a team member and seeking to avoid conflicts with others by avoiding other humans. Research on the neuroscience of trust has shown that trust acts as a social lubricant, reducing social frictions so working with others is easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. And when people work more effectively together, productivity and innovation levels rise.
Here’s the good news: trust can be measured. When we are trusted by others, our brains release a chemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin activates a brain network that says, “Let’s work together to get this done.” But, measuring oxytocin directly involves blood draws — not something most businesses want to subject their employees to.
Organizations need an easier way to quantify trust, and after measuring activity of the brain’s cooperation network multiple ways and conducting field experiments a google resercher developed a survey that measures the eight components of organizational trust that cause colleagues’ brains to produce oxytocin. Conveniently, these eight building blocks of organizational trust can be remembered using the acronym OXYTOCIN:
Not surprisingly, employees in high-trust companies are 56% more satisfied with their jobs. When one enjoys being at work (high trust colleagues experience 60% more joy at work than those in low trust companies), satisfaction with one’s life outside of work is also higher — 29% higher for those who have the good fortune of working in high trust companies. Trust improves performance no matter how you measure it.
Companies can improve trust in their organization by focusing on one or more of the trust factors at a time. Start by measuring organizational trust and planning interventions around your lowest-scoring OXYTOCIN factor — that’s where the biggest performance gains are to be had.
Here’s the key takeaway: Trust is a dimension of your business just begging to be improved. The science shows that actively measuring and managing a company’s culture for high trust is a powerful lever to improve performance. Trust improves the triple bottom line: it is good for colleagues, improves KPIs, and strengthens communities.