How much do you trust your co-workers? Can you truly rely on your team?
At Customer.io, we create opportunities for our team members to build a high level of trust in one another. When our fellow Amis (teammates) are happy and collaborative, they’re enabled to do their best work! Research supports this — workers at companies with high trust report 74 percent lower stress levels and 76 percent greater engagement.
As a remote-first company since 2013, we recognized early the unique challenges of creating a culture of trust. Over the years, we developed systems and activities that tear down these boundaries and support authentic connections. To help establish trust within our teams, we use a concept called a trust battery.
A trust battery is not a term we coined. It was originally created by Tobi Lutke, the CEO of Shopify. Simply put, a trust battery is a metaphor that helps someone visualize trust levels. With every single person we meet, we intuitively trust them to varying degrees – and a trust battery enables you to picture this concept.
For example, when someone new joins our team, their trust battery starts at 50 percent. Every time an interaction occurs, whether positive or negative, that percentage goes up or down.
When trust batteries are high, there is high trust and people are empowered to do their best work. People assume others are well-intentioned and give them the benefit of the doubt. Having a charged trust battery allows people to be relaxed and vulnerable and opens up the opportunity for mistakes to be made without fear of criticism and condemnation.
When trust batteries are low, negative reactions create a negative spiral, removing trust from the system. People don’t feel safe voicing their opinions. They doubt their teammates and wonder “if they know what they are doing.” Or, they grow frustrated and feel as if their team “just can’t get anything done.”
Maintaining high trust batteries is the goal. There are many ways we work to incorporate this value into the fabric of our company culture.
Trust leads to more trust. We don’t ask team members to clock in and out; instead, we trust our Amis to set their own flexible working hours and to be accountable for their own time. People go freely for doctors’ and personal appointments without formal approval. We also aim to build trust from the beginning of our new hire’s journey with Customer.io. Our onboarding process is built to help new Amis feel valued and welcomed from their very first day.
“One of the ways I feel my trust battery has been built up is through transparency from the top down. On a recent all-hands call, our CEO was asked a hard question. Instead of using corporate speak, he gave an honest answer. This built up my trust battery because I feel that leadership shares their honest thoughts on situations, even when it’s difficult.” – Cody Stover, Sr. Manager of Market Development
We provide multiple ways for team members to interact both virtually and IRL. Donut is one way we encourage our team to build connections virtually through Slack. From biweekly virtual coffee chats to monthly meet and greets, this time can be used to talk about anything they want, but it’s always encouraged to converse about things other than work!
Virtual events such as Sip ’N Sees, an opportunity to learn something new with your favorite drink in hand, and Play Time, where the company breaks into groups to play virtual games, encourage moments where people can connect and get to know each other. We do everything from shared meals to meditating together to virtual reality poker tournaments.
Our employees are spread across the world. As such, we provide opportunities for yearly in-person meetups. These company trips are full of fun activities (with some work thrown in). They enable us to make face-to-face connections with those we regularly connect with on Slack. So far, we’ve been fortunate to host meetups in locations like Budapest, Iceland, Romania, and, most recently, Athens.
“Opportunities to connect with the team at in-person events is one way my trust battery is recharged at super speed! Participating in a team activity and sharing meals together creates a special bonding experience. These in-person experiences allow me to build greater trust in my team and have fun while doing it.” – Alyssa Welch, People and Culture Manager
Relationships thrive inside and outside the office when people feel like they can rely on each other. While building trust in the workplace doesn’t mean that your co-workers need to be your BFFs, it does mean that you can depend on your teammates! Trust enables everyone to put forth their best effort, support others, and be supported.