Trust builds the best workplaces

Posted on January 22nd, 2021 by Gil Sawford

The old master-servant style is being replaced

Each year in Tasmania, there are around forty thousand workplace transitions.  This includes people moving from secondary and tertiary education into employment, people changing jobs and people coming back into the workforce after an absence. 

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are beginning to see a changed workplace which is calling for a new approach to recruiting staff, built on relationships, trust and empathy.  We are also seeing the primary workplace needs moving towards creativity and innovation.  This points to a reshaping of the employer/employee contract from master/servant to partner/collaborator.  These partnerships and collaborations begin with a relationship-driven recruitment process, which ensures that the right person is in the right job at the right time.

The three major qualities that contribute to the decisions that employers make in the recruitment process are the Attitude, Skills and Knowledge (ASK) that applicants present when they apply for a job.

ASK is the currency of the labour market

The most successful employers recruit for attitude.  Recently most employers have focused on skills and knowledge, supported by the introduction of recruitment algorithms.  Despite the introduction of algorithms, in recent years we have seen that “over 80%” of employers can’t find suitable recruits, “up to 85%” of employees are disengaged, and that “over 60%” of employees are actively looking for another job.

These outcomes are not driven by processes that are trusting, empathic, relational, and human, but rather by those that are distant, mechanistic, and transactional and we as a State could benefit from paying attention to this.

Tasmanians are natural connectors and innovators, and it is these qualities that are key to successful recruitment and productive post-COVID workplaces.

This Tasmanian connectedness, across the whole State, as well as in our local communities is ready made for employers looking for the right staff who will make a significant contribution to their business over the long term.

This connectedness is the perfect vehicle for the benefits that come from the strength of weak ties, which is based on research on how employers find good staff, conducted in the early 1970s by Mark Granovetter.

Granovetter found that the best recruits were not found through formal means such as receiving a resume in response to a listing, but rather through personal contacts, who told the applicant about the position or recommended him or her to someone inside the organization.

Weak ties are those people who are one or two steps removed from our regular work or social group – the people who know the people we know.  Research has shown that in the labour market, where employers are looking for new staff, weak ties are the most powerful source of the highest quality new employees.

Every existing staff member can build access to a multitude of weak ties through their personal and employment connections and it is these connections that can provide your future employees.

This is not nepotism – when a staff member introduces a potential recruit, their reputation is linked to the merit and future contribution of their protégé, for which they will be held accountable.  This means that the ability and the effort to make a difference is linked to the recruit’s ASK – they will not let their sponsor down.

We do not hold algorithms accountable for the results that we get, but we will hold our staff and colleagues accountable for the quality of the people they recommend as potential recruits.

The right people are your most important asset and finding the right people is everyone’s responsibility.  This responsible approach is a process of Rightplacement – the right person in the right role at the right time, which is the antithesis of the often-used processes of outplacement and redundancy.

Organisations that do not make people redundant have better results, and even the threat of redundancy reduces productivity.  Similarly, outsourced workers have limited, if any loyalty, whilst contracted workers own the skills and knowledge they have gained and will sell it to the highest bidder.

What are the right people seeking?

The right people are looking for the dignity that comes from working in a recognised, well regarded business.  They are also looking for meaning – a sense of purpose, belonging, competence and the opportunity to contribute to something beyond themselves.  These factors deliver a sense of community – being an appreciated member of a cohesive team within that esteemed business, all of which leads to building long term employment relationships.

Being human is essentially about supporting one another and is the primary purpose of human work.  Purpose drives the choices we make and when there is an alignment between the purposes of both the employee and the employer, higher productivity and greater wellbeing are the outcomes.

If the right people are your most important asset and they lend their trust and empathy, productivity and staff retention will be enhanced in a reciprocal, relationship centred employer/employee workplace contract.

Our experiences through COVID-19 have reminded us of the strength of relationships across our State.  We have seen how we have cared for the homeless and provided support for those in need in ways not seen in other places.  We know that we can bring this reciprocal connectedness into our workplaces post-COVID, as we recruit the right people into the right jobs, leading to improved creativity, innovation, and productivity.


Gil Sawford

This article was written for, and published in, The Mercury on Saturday 9 January 2021. It is one of a three part series and you can view the other two articles at the below links: 

Posted in News
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Trust builds the best workplaces

time to read: about 4 min