You can invest in the latest technology, lean out processes, and add as many extra employee incentives as you want. However, if you're going to motivate your workforce and create a high-performing organization, then you'll need a component that can't be bought--trust.

In the workplace, trust stands between an employee's ability and willingness to work with others, share their ideas, and ask for help. Without it, your organization will be hard pressed to maximize its investments in other areas and execute its strategy.

To help organizations better understand and measure trust, Paul J. Zak, author and professor of economic sciences, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University, spent eight years measuring brain activity and oxytocin levels (a powerful hormone that regulates interpersonal feelings tied to trust) while people worked. Not only did his research show that organizational trust is critical to performance, it also pointed out eight ways to build and quantify its existence in the workplace.

Conveniently, Zak defined and fit them into the acronym "OXYTOCIN" to help you remember. 

I've added some personal thoughts to each. 

1. Ovation--Recognize excellence 

While we're on the topic of neuroscience, research shows that rewards trigger the dopamine system in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter tied to discretionary effort and motivation.

In other words, positive reinforcement works. Make sure you are perpetuating high-performance by recognizing and rewarding it.

2. Expectation--Create challenges

Connecting your employees with the big picture is essential. When they feel like they are a part of the mission, and that they have direct influence over the organization's success, employees will be more committed to their goals and accept the challenges and expectations of their managers.

3. Yield--Delegate generously

Yield speaks to an organization's or a manager's ability to delegate authority and decision making. Also, when delegating, it's important to couple it with a psychologically safe environment where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities. 

When you "yield" effectively, employees feel empowered and embrace autonomy.

4. Transfer--Enable job-crafting

Transfer speaks to an organization's ability to relinquish the reigns and allow teams to craft their own definitions of success.

Research from the University of Michigan shows that job-crafting (making your job your own) results in increased levels of engagement and job fulfillment. Engagement leads to higher shareholding returns and decreased turnover rates.

5. Openness--Share information broadly 

Openness and honesty are more important than the type of news you're delivering. Organizations would be surprised how much mental bandwidth employees burn worrying about and questioning their company's intentions.

Put minds at ease and build trust by being clear and sharing information promptly. Even though some things may be unpleasant, employees appreciate the transparency and opportunity to provide input.

6. Caring--Intentionally build relationships 

In his research, Zak came across numerous studies that demonstrated the importance of relationships and friendships on productivity, retention, overall job satisfaction, and health.

Organizations can encourage their employees to intentionally build relationships by rewarding positive outcomes from collaboration and teamwork.

If organizations fail to demonstrate the significance of relationships in the workplace consistently, then employees won't go out of their way to build interdependent networks.

7. Invest--Facilitate whole person growth

No surprise here. Organizations that regularly invest in their employees' development benefit from increased levels of trust and engagement.

When an employee sees that you're willing to put some skin in the game, they'll have an easier time holding up their end of the bargain and committing to the organization.

8. Natural--Be authentic and vulnerable

Zak defines natural as "actively believing in senior leaders as models of integrity, candor, and honesty, as well as expressing transparency, genuineness, and beliefs about creating a culture where employees at all levels can do their best work."

When leaders behave this way, they'll be more relatable, and they'll inspire employees to let down their guards and open up about the areas in which they feel vulnerable. 

Although trust is hard to understand and quantify, it's real--and intentionally fostering it can have a huge impact. Zak found that when compared to those in the lowest quartile, people working in high-trust organizations are 76 percent more engaged, 50 percent more productive, and 50 percent more likely to stay.

Published on: Jul 18, 2018