What is employee trust?

Without the knowledge of what is meant by a concept, it will be difficult to improve. Over the years, many scholars have tried to define trust. We choose the following definition will clarify the concept, and then we will dive into employee trust.

The confidence in someone’s or something’s ability and intention to perform an action that leads to value creation, without being able to control or enforce the action or the outcome.

Employee trust focuses particularly on the trust that employees have in their employer.

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Lets deep-dive that trust. Employees go to work for several reasons. The much used ‘employees are our most important assets’ doesn’t work here. Your employee will not view him or herself as an asset. He or she will be a hero on a mission, who, in this economy of opportunity, will go out to try to achieve that mission. That could be having a high-profile career, earn lots of money, become respected or famous, work on exciting things, be part of a group, live in a nice house, be able to spend as much time as possible with their children, retire healthy, or anything else that you can think of.

Individuals are often unconscious about these reasons. Nevertheless, they assess employers on the extent to which their goal can be achieved through work. They trust that their job will bring them (closer) to their goal. That is employee trust.

Employee trust is different

The elements of employee trust differ from the elements of other trust relationships. When someone trusts herself, or is looking for trust in a relationship between two people, other dynamics play a role. Employee trust is largely defined by the power inequality between the individual and the organisation. At the same time, the relationship between the individual and employer creates mutual benefits; the individual wouldn’t thrive without a job, and the organisation wouldn’t thrive without employees.

If an individual trusts an employer, he or she will trust both the people representing it, as well as all the other items related to it. The product, the procedures, even the public image is trusted.

Improving trust generally starts as a daunting task. It becomes manageable when we dissect employee trust into elements that can be improved on their own. This is necessary in order to define a starting point. It enables organisations to measure trust. After all, if we don’t know the level of trust that is present, how would we be able to know if it is improving, or even needs improving?

The elements

Employee trust can be measured by using the TrustXP Measurement Methodology. Based on years of scientific research, we divide employee trust in four-plus-one elements.

The elements of employee trust are:

  • Fairness Impartial and just treatment or behaviour without favouritism or discrimination
  • Competence The ability to do something successfully or efficiently
  • Identification The sense of association or linking with something or someone
  • Reciprocity The exchange of equal or identical advantages or privileges
  • Transparency Operating in a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed

Transparency is closely related to trust, as it is the opposite. Therefore, we regard it as a separate element. If something is transparent, the need for trust is reduced. 

These elements allow us to dive deeper into trust. Now we know that trust is comprised of the four-plus-one elements, we can assess our organisation on these elements. We don’t need to improve trust as a whole, but can select individual elements to work on.

Why should anyone care about employee trust?

When employees are trusting that the organisation provides them with (access to) their goal, both the employee and the company will benefit, because employee trust is the reason for employees to be motivated, productive and happy. What your employees give back makes the decision to focus on employee trust easier for business leaders. Or, as for many organisations who recognise the importance, it makes employee trust a top-priority.

  • High-trust organisations outperform the average annual revenue growth of their competition with 5% (6.72 vs. 11.66%), according to FTSE Russel
  • High-trust organisations are 11 times more likely to innovate, as stated in the HOW report
  • Gallup, pioneers in Employee Engagement, concluded higher profitability (+22%), productivity (+21%), customer ratings (+10%), absenteeism(-37%) and employee turnover (-25% to -65%) to be directly related to engagement, as well as fewer safety incidents (-48%) and quality defects (-41%)



Popular tools that companies are currently using are the employee net promoter score (eNPS) and employee engagement surveys. eNPS will bring the value of employee trust down to one question. It proves as a solid means to quickly capture the overall attitude of the workforce. However, it is often not detailed enough, and provides big fluctuations in the score without explanations. Employee engagement surveys are useful, however the engagement score is a deceiving one. Like with the eNPS, it is difficult to draw conclusions from a score. A few reasons are that employee engagement is a snapshot, cultural differences impact the ratings that are given, and the engagement of employees will change over time. Additionally, when trust is measured in an employee engagement survey, make sure that employee trust is measured. That is the type of trust that makes your employees motivated, productive and happy.

If you want to be able to truly understand and improve the well-being, engagement, motivation, productivity and happiness of your employees, you will need a more detailed survey. Your employees will have to be enabled to speak up, and you will have to measure on a regular basis, so that you can benchmark the results against your earlier numbers in order to discover progress.

Did you enjoy reading this article? You will find this, and much more, in our free trust guide. Test your own trust perception and get all the information you need on employee trust. Start the free test and get the guide here.


Fairness is experienced by everyone in the organisation, and it’s crucial to employee trust.


Employees will assess whether the organisation has the competencies to deliver.

Improving employee trust

Improving and maintaining trust is a continuous process. Here you’ll find out what you need to do.

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