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Measuring Trust

We have already established that trust is a fundamental foundation required in order to embark on change. Arguably, it is ‘bad business’ to introduce disturbance and risk into a business without a level of trust

A key step in setting up organisational change for success is to put systems in place to encourage the behaviour that is required in order to achieve your goals. Remember, if it is measured, it happens.  When measuring or tracking change, establish and monitor the following two sets of measures:

Lag measures – is the change on track and delivering what it said it would? (e.g. milestones, workplans, goals, outcomes) 

Lead measures – are the teams, leaders and people able to keep the change on track? ie: sustain the change to all goals achieved.  Trust indicators would be included in this set.  Resilience, coping, engagement may be other indicators included in the lead measures.


How do you measure trust?

Trust, similar to employee engagement, is a psychological construct.  It needs to be made demonstrable in order for it to be measured.  In other words, what will be the tangible evidence that trust exists and how will this be captured?  This is where the uniqueness of your organisation and teams comes into play.  The evidence for your team may be quite different from another team. 

Here is an example of an approach you may take: 

Identify the types of things that are associated with trust.  Put these on a continuum where you see trust identifiers at one end and the opposite at the other.  An example is below: 

Curiosity ……………………………………..Defensiveness 

Active open listening………………………..Poor listening & monologues 

Direct communications …………………..Indirect communication 

Transparency & Clarity……………………..Hidden & Distortion 

Receptive to Change………………………..Doubting of Change


Assign a rating scale between the continuums.  Define observable behaviours related to each end of the continuum, as relevant to your team.  For example: 

‘Curiosity’ behaviours could be:

Asking questions before giving an answer

Asking follow-up questions to gather further information


The measure could be the number of questions asked in each change team meeting.  Whether a followup question is asked, before information is given.  Or the number of unsolicited emails requesting information on the organisational change. 

Make sure it is a simple yet effective indicator that can be tracked over time. 

For high quality change management practice, ensure that each leader has a dashboard of key metrics for his/her team, to gauge how they are travelling in the change journey.  The trust measures would form part of this. The closer the score to the right, the more effort required in order to increase trust.  The common theme of the characteristics on the right hand side of the above continuum is a fear of loss, e.g. losing power, losing ‘face’, losing comfort.  Change has been described as the ‘distribution of loss’.  In many ways, measuring trust is an indicator of the degree of some of this loss.  By looking at the measures, a leader can focus on how they need to act in order to foster trust and deal with perceived loss. 

Related Research

Amanda Hay (2002) examined trust and organisational change.  She found two interesting outcomes:

Trust within a team changed little over time, however, the trust between teams and trust in management were dynamic and fragile and were more vulnerable to impacts from organisational changes.

When viewing trust, many times it is more visible by its absence and the demonstrable consequences of mistrust, such as conflict, tension and secrecy.

Both findings are worth considering when planning for and measuring change.

This article is authored by workplace high performance expert Lyndal Hughes, Associate Director at Third Horizon.

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