How SMEs can improve trust in their employees

Trust word written on wooden block. Building trust business concept.

As many employees around Australia continue to work remotely, trust between SME business owners and their employees has begun to erode, particularly around finance and expenses. A recent study by DiviPay found that 30 per cent of Australian business owners don’t trust their employees with a corporate credit card or expense allowances.

Without face-to-face time as a team, the company processes, rules and good practices start to slip. Here are some tips on how SMEs can improve trust in their employees, particularly when working remotely.

1. Communicate openly and frequently

Without frequent communication, employees may be more likely to be disengaged from their work, cut corners or make oversights in company expenses. Businesses may need to develop new expense rules for the work-from-home environment – some expenses may not be necessary (such as travel), while new types of expenses will (such as phone calls and subscriptions). Organisations could also consider updating their policies while working remotely, including adjusting how employees receive approvals from managers before making a purchase. Guide employees through any new rules, allow them to ask questions, and ensure they are diligent with their record keeping.

2. Reward and recognise employees for their hard work

Remote working, particularly during the current conditions, can be tough and it is easy for employees to become unmotivated. Organisations could consider continuing the recognition programs that were in place prior to lockdown. This could include employee of the month initiatives or rewards or bonuses for those who have gone above and beyond. A simple “thank you” or a small gesture, such as a flower delivery, can also go a long way to keeping employees motivated and their hard work acknowledged.

3. Ensure employees have what they need to work productively

It is important for businesses to ensure employees have an ergonomic work-from-home set-up. This can include making sure they have a dedicated space for work that offers a clearer separation between work and home life. Employers should also ensure they have adequate internet access, can access company files and databases remotely and are using appropriate devices. Some companies may need to provide a desktop computer or laptop to employees during the remote working period. When employees have access to the tools and information they require to work effectively, employers will have more peace of mind and trust in them, and vice versa.

4. Provide emotional support

While it is important for business leaders to ensure employees are working productively and effectively, remote working can be isolating and some may find it challenging to cope with. A key to establishing trust is ensuring that employees feel supported and that their emotional needs are a priority. Scheduling check-ins is a simple way for leaders to show they’re accessible to employees and ready to provide support and advice when needed. It is important for employers to acknowledge any difficulties and challenges that may be impacting their employees and find ways to address them.

5. Adopt a system that provides visibility and transparency over finances

Having a good expense management system in place that gives employers control and visibility over spending, can go a long way to improving trust. It also ensures expenses aren’t mismanaged and employees will be more likely to report expenses honestly. Organisations could consider using an automated expense software where they can supply individual cards to employees, while also setting budget limits on spending.