Trust is a Must for STEM Employees

As a new employee at CrowdStrike, I have had the opportunity to juxtapose my experience with my new employer against that of my former employers. The most interesting observation that I have made is that, in my opinion, the key element missing from some former employers is trust. I believe that when there is a lack of trust, and the autonomy that comes with it, individuals in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields will seek employment elsewhere.

In my view, when organizations become hyper-hierarchical, their environment is no longer favorable to innovation. This is often due to the need to receive “stakeholder buy-in” at many levels. This type of system creates organizational friction, thus reducing agility, effectiveness, and morale. Obtaining buy-in from so many stakeholders reduces the organization’s ability to deal with uncertainty, and is a direct byproduct of the absence of trust. Technology changes and advances at such a rapid pace, that an organization dependent on technology must be agile and built on trust in order to adapt to the constant uncertainty that the challenges and opportunities of technology brings with it.

As more and more organizations deal with an influx of technology-savvy millennials, it is becoming increasingly important to view how an organization operates from the point of view of brain functioning. For leaders interested in ensuring their organizations are people-centered--which I believe will have a byproduct of trust, effectiveness, and organizational sustainability, while reducing organizational friction--it is important to work with, and not against the brain. For starters, I suggest a book by David Rock, called Your Brain at Work. Rock explains how the brain region called the basal ganglia take on routine tasks and foundational knowledge. If you think of an organization functioning like the brain, certain basic questions must be answered in such a way that they become imbedded into the basil ganglia, thus becoming a part of the organization’s passive identity. This passive identity is made up of answers to questions about the why and what of an organization.

In addition to the why and what, the how of an organization's identity must also be answered. The how of an organization's identity requires more frequent visitation. Given the dynamism of technology, how things get done is likely something that is going to remain top of mind for front-line employees, and preoccupy their higher-order thought process in the prefrontal cortex. It therefore stands to reason that enabling individuals throughout the organization to have a grater say in the how space will reduce organizational friction, increase effectiveness, and improve morale by allowing people to have a stake in how things get done.

I've observed many a manager craft beautiful Visio workflows of how process X or Y is supposed to be executed, only to have the workflow moot the very next day. Sometimes processes can remain static for years. However, when technology is the centerpiece of a process, chances are the process is going to remain somewhat fluid. Enter trust. The how space is where stakeholders have a chance to allow things to develop organically, and this requires personal and interpersonal trust. Without this trust, the individuals who execute the how will remain perpetually disconnected from the process, resulting in the telltale signs of organizational dysfunction: cynicism, high attrition, and low morale. All the while, the organization will constantly be playing catch-up, while losing their best talent to organizations that genuinely value people first as manifest by way of trust in the how space.

As a student of organizational development and brain science, I believe it behooves organizational leaders to pay close attention to the immutable brain functioning that drives human and organizational behavior, in order to adopt practices that will ensure people thrive at every level of an organization. It should come as no surprise that when people thrive, so do the organizations they work for.

So what is trust? Stay tuned for my following article where I'll explore trust in greater depth.