Are Your Employees Bowling Alone?

In a Harvard Business Review article (reprint available here) entitled “Are Your Employees Bowling Alone? How to Build a Trusting Organization,” author Douglas Smith appied Robert Putnam’s (Bowling Alone) concepts of social capital to business. Bowling alone was Putnam’s metaphor for the civic disengagement: in 15 years, the numbers of bowlers grew, but much fewer were bowling in leagues.

The article focuses on TRUST, and how crucial it is to organizational survival. The author details the five ‘identifying hallmarks’ of a trusting organization:

1. A clearly stated core ideology
2. effective communication
3. An environment in which employees like to come to work
4. Cooperation inside, competition outside
5. More than money *

* I continually find evidence that compensation is not one of the prime factors in employee motivation and committment.

Our Division has had a goal to become one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. The primary determining factor is a Trust Index completed by employees. The Great Place to Work Institute which created and administers the Index will not accept a division’s application, so we have been trying to rally the entire ACS…

for “Handy’s Geography of Trust”…


Handy’s Geography of Trust (found in The Hungry Spirit, by Charles Handy)

There is no such thing as blind trust. You tend to trust those whom you know well. On the job, smaller work groups help people get to know each other.
Trust requires boundaries. Knowing the extent and limits of their colleagues’ competence helps reassure employees that their trust is well placed.
Trust calls for constant learning. The ability to learn through growth and change is basic to trust. Fear stifles both learning and trust.
Trust is ruthless. Individuals who “cannot be relied upon to do what is needed” must usually leave because they cause an organization to establish additional systems of support and control.
Trust is not impersonal. It requires bonding among individuals and “buy-in” to the core values of the firm.
Trust and touch go hand in hand. Face-to-face interaction is very important, especially in virtual organizations, which tend to isolate individuals.
Trust is built the old-fashioned way-you have to earn it. Positive experiences strengthen trust, negative ones weaken it.

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