How To

5 Ways to Build Trust with Deskless Workers

Traditional office environments put colleagues in close proximity to each other, allowing relationships and bonds of trust to form.‍ But that environment has never been the norm for countless workers across industries like retail, logistics, and supply chain management.
Lawrence Barker
4 minutes
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The classic office environment—desks, chairs, water cooler, and so on—has a nostalgic feel for many people. Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute might be part of the reason why, but there’s more to it than pop culture. Traditional office environments put colleagues in close proximity to each other, allowing relationships and bonds of trust to form.

But that environment has never been the norm for countless workers across industries like retail, logistics, and supply chain management. These deskless workers do their vital jobs in a completely different environment with unique challenges.

Barriers to Developing Trust

Deskless workers are often spread out across large environments or territories. In a factory, things like machine noise, language barriers, and the overall pace of work can make communication hard. If you’re a delivery driver for UPS or FedEx, you spend most of your day on your own, separated from your coworkers.

It’s often especially hard for deskless workers to develop trust with management, who may not even be in the same physical location or do similar tasks. 

While deskless environments can make developing trust difficult, it’s not impossible. There are plenty of steps you can take to overcome these barriers and build trust with your deskless workers:

  1. Be intentional about connecting face-to-face
  2. Communicate in their preferred language
  3. Find simple ways to gather feedback
  4. Don’t micromanage
  5. Communicate your appreciation

Be Intentional About Connecting Face-to-Face

According to a recent report, face-to-face connection is one of the highest priorities for deskless workers. This makes sense for employees who spend the majority of their time working alone on a forklift, in a truck, or on a supply line. 

There are many things managers can do to create face-to-face connections with busy deskless workers. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Jump on the line and work next to someone for 15 minutes. Show them you care and you understand something of what their day-to-day is like. If you don’t know how to do the job, this is a great opportunity to show humility and position yourself as a curious learner.
  • Know the routes of your drivers and be there when they’re loading or unloading. Take a few minutes to get to know them. Ask questions about their experience on the road. Seek out ways you can help make their roles even better. 
  • Hop in a forklift and help someone complete a task faster than they could alone. Use the time saved to have a cup of coffee and build trust and connection. 

It’s not always easy and it might require getting your hands dirty, but when you get creative it’s easy (and fun) finding ways to connect with your deskless workers.

Communicate in Their Preferred Language

You probably don’t have time to learn the preferred languages of all your deskless workers. 

Thankfully, with Anthill you don’t have to! Our two-way text message communication platform offers automatic translation into over a hundred languages. It helps every person in your workforce communicate with confidence. 

While using Anthill’s platform to text someone who’s sitting across from you probably isn’t the best idea, tools like Anthill can work wonders for creating connection and trust:

  • Remember those surveys you thought would give you great insights into the health of your workplace? You’ll get more responses if they arrive in the preferred language of your workers. 
  • Struggling with benefit adoption or employee retention? It might be because at least a third of your team didn’t understand them (or even more in a really diverse workplace).

Language proficiency isn’t the same as language preference. Using Anthill to communicate in the preferred language of a deskless worker communicates value and can help build lasting trust. 

Find Simple Ways to Gather Feedback and Input

Workplace surveys are often dreaded by employees. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

There are a lot of things you can do to maximize the usefulness of the standard employee engagement survey so that it’s useful to you and not a burden on your team. 

Here are a few tips on how to gather feedback to build trust: 

  • Keep it simple. Don’t make surveys too long or complicated. A few short questions that can be answered in five minutes or less is ideal, especially for deskless workers. It’s better to ask a few questions more frequently than send one long survey that’s hard to get through.
  • Ask meaningful questions. Consider pulling in a few team members to provide input when you’re drafting your survey. They’ll know what’s being talked about and what needs your attention! 
  • Gather feedback in person. As mentioned above, face-to-face connection is really valuable to deskless workers. Don’t over-rely on surveys to gather data on how your team is feeling. Take your survey to the streets by meeting a team member wherever they’re at and asking for their input. Try starting with one really good question. 

Don’t Micromanage

You can’t build trust if you don’t show trust. 

Micromanaging gets in the way of building trust because—regardless of your intention—it makes your employees feel like you don’t trust them to get the job done. It strips them of autonomy and ownership. 

Micromanagement is a leading killer of workplace trust. 

Instead of micromanaging, try acting like a good coach. Ask good questions. Don’t just tell an employee how to do something—explain the “why” behind it. Give consistent and ongoing feedback to help your team improve and grow.

Sometimes a task takes a little longer if you let someone else do it, but empowering your workers is the only way to foster growth and engagement for the long haul.

Communicate Your Appreciation and Trust 

Trust is a two-way street, but it often takes the initiative of one party to get both lanes moving freely. By intentionally communicating your trust and appreciation to your team, you can kickstart building trust in both directions. 

The Harvard Business Review reports numerous benefits for people who work at high-trust companies. They suggest several steps managers can take to create trust with employees:

  • Recognize excellence
  • Give people discretion
  • Intentionally invest in relationships 

Recognize excellence

“Neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust when it occurs immediately after a goal has been met, when it comes from peers, and when it’s tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.”

Affirming and celebrating the accomplishments of your deskless workforce will build trust that continues even when your team is dispersed. Recognizing good work encourages more of the same in the future.

Give people discretion 

“Once employees have been trained, allow them, whenever possible, to manage people and execute projects in their own way. Being trusted to figure things out is a big motivator.” 

Such a big motivator, in fact, that nearly half of employees would pass on a raise to have more control over their work! It’s hard to overstate how much value there is in showing your team you trust them to get the job done. 

Intentionally invest in relationships 

“A Google study found that managers who ‘express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being” outperform others in the quality and quantity of their work.’”

If you’re a manager, investing in and caring about your team is table stakes. Showing that you care can be the catalyst for increased trust and performance in the workplace—for both you and your direct reports.

Start Building Trust Today

A deskless workforce built on mutual trust might sound like a dream, but it’s totally achievable for your team. Put these five ideas into practice and watch your trust levels begin to climb!

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