How to build trust in your workplace using the Jacobs Model


Find out why trust is essential in the workplace, and how to build it in yours using the eight drivers of the Jacobs Model.

Trust in any personal relationship is important, but it is also vital when it comes to the workplace.

When professional trust is strong between departments, team members and senior and junior personnel, the workplace begins to enjoy increased employee engagement and productivity, better customer service and a fall in employee absenteeism.

How to build workplace trust using the Jacobs Model

A culture of cohesion and teamwork has to be established in order for trust to develop – without that culture, developed by organisation leaders to empower teams and promote almost interchangeable leadership, trust cannot thrive and benefit the company.

One way in which this can be achieved is by studying the Jacobs Model, which was devised by employee motivation specialist Susanne Jacobs. In simplified terms, it cites eight drivers that are linked and can lead to either a path of positive performance or a path of negative performance, depending on whether they are satisfied or not.

The eight drivers of the Jacobs Model

  1. Belong and connect – employees need to feel connected and included within the team, rather than excluded and out on their own.
  1. Voice and recognition – employees should feel encouraged enough to put their thoughts and ideas across within the workplace as a whole, rather than feeling as though they will be shot down.
  1. Significance and position – employees should feel that they are a valued member of the team and that the work they are doing matters to the organisation in addition to their department, rather than feeling as though they are easily dispensable.
  1. Fairness – employees should always feel as though they are treated fairly and consistently in accordance with everyone else, rather than being singled out unfairly.
  1. Learn and challenge – employees should always feel that they are being encouraged to learn, develop and challenge themselves rather than sitting back and becoming less productive.
  1. Choice and autonomy – employees should be given a certain amount of choice and autonomy when it comes to balancing their professional and personal lives, rather than being held to rigid organisational structures.
  1. Security and certainty – employees should feel secure in their positions, rather than worrying about whether they might lose their jobs on any given day.
  1. Purpose – employees should always have a clear sense of purpose and be aware of how their work helps the company as a whole, rather than feeling isolated and confused about their roles.

How to meet all eight criteria of the Jacobs Model

So how can you meet all eight criteria of the Jacobs Model? There are five things you can do to help build trust in general, and the eight drivers should fall into line as you progress through them.

1) Prize integrity

Integrity and trust go hand-in-hand. One cannot realistically exist without the other, so a business needs to create a strong foundation of integrity to breed trust.

Management should set their own example so it spreads from the top down – for example, they should always keep promises and tell the truth. This helps employees feel as though they are being treated fairly (driver four) and generally engages them with the business to an even greater degree.

2) Establish and communicate vision and values

The vision and values of a company dictate how it conducts itself and how it expects employees to conduct themselves, in addition to defining where the company is going and how it’s going to get there.

This gives employees clarity and purpose (driver eight) about their work and increases their sense of connection (driver one) to the business.

3) Promote equality

The onus for promoting equality throughout the organisation is on the management, which needs to be visible and present on a daily basis.

Their interactions and discussions with everyone from interns to old-timers will help to breed a sense of togetherness and respect – when all employees feel equally important and that their opinions are being heard and considered, trust occurs naturally, and this in turn helps them feel recognised (driver two), significant (driver three) and secure (driver seven) in their positions.

4) Focus on shared goals

Trust has to occur when everyone is pulling together to achieve a common goal for the company – working as part of a team forces everyone to trust each other. That’s the essence of teamwork and a team that doesn’t trust each other won’t work effectively together.

Companies should also recognise that, while personal goals shouldn’t be the focus of employees, they can help the business as a whole – learning and development initiatives (driver five), therefore, should be encouraged.

5) Do the right thing

The concept of right and wrong can be debated, but realistically we all know what’s ‘right’ in a given situation. Always doing what’s right gains respect, which breeds trust. For example, allowing an employee to take time off to attend to family matters if they choose to (driver six) is the right thing to do, and trust will follow.

Start building trust in your workplace today

By establishing these five values in a business, you can clearly see how they impact positively on the eight drivers of the Jacobs Model, and in turn how those eight drivers will help to build trust throughout the workplace.

You may not meet all eight of the drivers, but the more you can, the more you should be able to improve your business.

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