Not a Member?  Become One Today!

HR Can Help 'CURB' Mistrust

By Charity Hughes, SPHR  3/9/2009


Q: How do I influence the C-suite to support my suggestions for improving organizational trust?

A: With today’s economic pandemonium, employee trust is a priceless commodity that organizations vitally need. But few leaders understand the social investment required to create a culture of trust. The C-suite cannot create trust by simply talking about trust or adopting trust as a core value or organizational tenant. Trust must be earned.

The C-suite has historically looked to human resources to create and foster employee trust. HR professionals are charged with balancing the interest of the organization against the needs of employees, and this can be a tough and stressful balancing act. While human resources can offer recommendations for improving organizational trust, a real culture shift must be driven and supported by the C-suite for the change to be effective—and for the change to last.

There are certain things that HR professionals can and should do to get C-suite support and commitment for improving organizational trust. HR professionals must drive the trust issue to the “CURB”—ensuring Credibility, Urgency, Relevance and Brevity—if they want success and increased employee engagement.


Leaders want to be sure that the information they receive and the person delivering that information are credible. If you want the C-suite audience to support suggestions, HR has to provide them with irrefutable data linked to organizational trust—survey statistics, engagement reports, turnover rates or any empirical data that build the case. In addition, HR professionals’ personal reputation and performance track record will be evaluated. Suggestions might fall on deaf ears if they have failed to produce results in the past.


HR departments must be able to create a sense of urgency about improving organizational trust. Be prepared to explain why improving trust is so important—and why it’s important right now. Urgency requires HR to offer a compelling argument with a call for immediate action. Help C-suite leaders understand all the potential consequences of not addressing the concern as a strategic priority.


All ideas, no matter how ingenious, must be relevant and appropriate to the style of C-suite leaders, the organization’s culture and the needs of its customers. Be astute enough to link suggestions to organizational goals and strategic initiatives. Developing a clear line of sight for the C-suite will help them see the relevance of the suggestions and ensure their support for improving the culture.


C-suite leaders have a daily struggle with meeting the demands of their tight schedules. Board meetings, client presentations and speaking engagements rise to the top of their “to do” lists, leaving little to no time left for reading lengthy e-mails or interpreting extensive reports. Provide the C-suite audience with an abridged version of suggestions. Being brief while satisfying the other “CURB” components will help ensure the organization’s leaders will want to hear more about suggestions for improving organizational trust.

Creating a culture of organizational trust takes time. Trust is strengthened when leadership behavior and organizational communication is aligned. C-suite leaders are not immune to making mistakes while attempting to improve organizational trust. Human resource professionals should support their leaders and help them understand that organizational improvements should be measured against short-term wins and long-term goals.

Charity Hughes, SPHR, is an organizational change manager for global consumer goods and paper company SCA. Her professional experience includes executive coaching and change management, and she has worked with CareerBuilder as a resume consultant. She holds an M.S. in training and organizational development from Saint Joseph’s University, and she teaches human capital development and transformational leadership for the University of Phoenix Online. Hughes is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s Organizational Development Special Expertise Panel.

Related Articles:

How the Best Leaders Build Trust, SHRM Online Organizational and Employee Development Discipline, Feb. 2, 2009

Lack of Accountability, Capability Are Key Talent Management Challenges, SHRM Online Organizational and Employee Development Discipline, Nov. 4, 2008

Quick Links

SHRM Online’s Organizational and Employee Development home page


Sign up for your free subscription to SHRM's Organizational and Employee Development e-newsletter.

Copyright Image Obtain reuse/copying permission