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Five ways to build a trusted workplace culture

By Julia Hickey
Human Resources

Trust is complex, and core to how we work at CIRA. Here are five ways we’ve built trust into our culture.

I’m the Human Resources Generalist at CIRA and nothing gets me more hyped than conversations around building trusted, inclusive workplace cultures. Since we’ve been working remotely, we’ve been bringing our strong corporate culture with us. Trust is a complex matter at an individual and organizational level, and core to how we work as a team at CIRA.

How important is the trust factor in a team?

If you are a basketball fan like I am, let us revisit the’97 Chicago Bulls semifinals game six.  The less obvious choice, guard Steve Kerr was trusted over Michael Jordan to launch the winning shot in the final seconds of the game, moving them forward to the NBA championship. 

Statistically, Jordan would be favoured to make that shot over Kerr, but the team trusted that he could get it done! Everyone on a team has a key role to play, despite however small. An effective team dynamic should mimic the culture of mutual trust demonstrated by the ’97 Chicago Bulls.

No this blog is not about sports, and yes this relates to CIRA.

CIRA has a goal of building a trusted internet for Canadians.

Through all of the work we do, trust is a key driver of success and something I work on building in my role in HR, through engagement, collaboration and strong corporate culture. Here are five ways the CIRA team has created and embraced a foundation of organizational trust:

1. Developing an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) program

In 2018, we introduced a new Employee Value Proposition. This came from focus groups with almost everyone at CIRA, and it was important everyone felt heard in this process. This program outlines three pillars that employees live and work by:

  • Working with purpose,
  • Building connections, and
  • Thriving together with candour and accountability.

Six leaders from various departments were chosen to be EVP Ambassadors. They are responsible for embodying, promoting and supporting our EVP program. Acting as a trusted outlet for their peers who want to voice their concerns, the Ambassadors respond by raising and addressing these concerns with the group and senior leadership.  

2. Flexible work schedules

With the launch of the new work from home era, we have trusted our employees to complete their work in whichever hours work for them. Adjusting schedules for a more flexible work environment enhances a better work-life balance especially during times of uncertainty. We trust teams to use their judgement and to step up, be resilient and get their work done.

3. Talking about failure and vulnerability (scary stuff)

Beers, Tears and Cheers is a quarterly event where we get together and discuss our stories of failure. This shared experience serves to break down barriers and invites teammates to show initiative without the fear of failure. We want individuals to bring new ideas and try new things at CIRA, and we recognize that failure is part of experimenting and innovation. This vulnerability builds trusted relationships across teams.

4. Being transparent

Leadership and accountability are backboned by transparency. What does that look like in practice?

We have a weekly Ask Me Anything (AMA) with our senior leadership team, where anyone can submit questions anonymously or directly at the meeting. The answers are not scripted. To be candid, this program opens up some good discussions around why certain business decisions were made, strategic planning and risk appetite.

To get an understanding of where the business is going and results, we host Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) and hear from each department. If you trust what your leaders are telling you is accurate, you can better align your work to the company purpose. It is even more important to be authentic to employees even when you are not doing well. We don’t need a perfect slide deck or scripted key messages. If people sense you are not being authentic, you will not get employee buy-in or focus. Do not sugar coat it.

5. Focusing on diversity and inclusion

Organizations cannot embody trust without an inclusive and diverse workplace. We want to ensure we’re creating a culture where everyone feels valued for their diverse skills and background they bring to work everyday.

Last year, we created a Diversity and Inclusion (Dive-In) team. The idea behind the name was that they “dive into” difficult, sometimes uncomfortable discussions like racism. This team discusses how we can foster an inclusive environment at CIRA through training, supporting charities and social events.

If you build it, they will trust

The foundation and hard work from people leaders and teammates at CIRA are what allow us to move forward with these trusted programs. It’s important that everyone feels trusted and part of a culture that trusts them too. With the recent changes in the business environment and the uncertain future of work, it is important to have solid programs in place and to focus on trusting your employees now more than ever.

Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

Intersted in joining the CIRA team? See our current career opportunities

About the author
Julia Hickey

Julia Hickey works on the Human Resources team at CIRA. She has experience in the technology world, with a background in cybersecurity and policy compliance. Her interests include strengthening company culture and strategic planning.