In a world where employees may be remote, self-employment may be the norm, cross time zone working is more commonplace and flexibility is the key objective of both businesses and individuals, the matter of trust becomes of utmost importance.

Employers need to trust individuals to complete tasks without supervision. And individuals need to trust companies that they will deliver against promises, and payment, without the security of a formal employment contract.

In the past week this issue has arisen twice in my day to day activities. Last Tuesday I sat on a round table for Insider Media on the subject of the workforce of the future. Where expectations are high, flexibility is expected, and the notion of the working day becomes a piece of history.

And then this article on the Guardian which quotes Reid Hoffman, Linkedin founder as saying, “Employees don’t trust their employers and have more and more options for achieving their career goals either through other companies or by being their own boss.

“The most entrepreneurial employees want to establish ‘personal brands’ that stand apart from their employers’. It’s a rational, necessary response to the end of lifetime employment.”

Trust is a key issue for the future workforce

At the Insider Media roundtable I debated with other company Directors from different industries, the need to be flexible with a workforce and how this related to trust.

In the service industry I operate in I have always struggled with the notion of flexibility of location and time of work. Purely for the reasons that our clients and team members require us to be available when they need us, not when we decide we are.

Others on the roundtable (from other industries) talked of their business not conforming to a traditional working day in terms of demand, so new working practices needed to evolve.

But how do you implement such change without trust? Trust that the employee will take ownership of delivery whatever it takes, not abuse the flexibility and maximise it for their own benefit.

And what about the trust from the other side as pointed out in The Guardian article? Trust that the business will act in the best interest of its workforce, either PAYE or otherwise, and also that it will build a sustainable company and not disappear at short notice leaving you out of pocket.

Trust exists between people

For my part I think trust is a personal thing between humans which is built up over time. I trust individuals not necessarily organisations or groups en mass. So whilst I trust one person I couldn’t blanket trust a whole group under the same terms. And whilst I may trust an individual at a company, that cannot be applied to the whole company and the individual I trust may not always be in control.

So for my part it would require wholesale change of working practice, systems and processes to install an infrastructure to facilitate the management of more flexible working and so it isn’t all dependant on trust. But one thing is for sure; trust is going to be a big issue in the workforce of the future.