In traveling this week, I encountered unexpectedly short lines at security, friendly TSA agents, and very little traffic for a Monday morning. But I did have a few minutes to discuss airport security with those in line, and it finally dawned on me why we can’t effectively handle security without making people crazy.
It’s not about privacy, I think. After all, my privacy is invaded on a regular basis by family, friends and, to a lesser extent, work. No big deal. They can go through my emails, my Internet usage, my wallet. (OK, maybe just family on that last one.) So why is there such a visceral reaction to TSA, who’s job is to keep us safe? Trust.
I trust my family and friends with that information. If we all really trusted our personal information and backscatter images to the government and TSA, and we knew deep down that it wouldn’t be used in an abusive way, would there be as big of an issue? I suspect no. It’s the potential invasion of privacy that is such an issue, but your privacy can’t be invaded if you welcome the visitor.
I think the answer for TSA and like agencies is not about explaining the why of what they do, but in building trust to the point we don’t ask why. We just go along, trusting them to do right by us. There’s a huge chasm to be crossed on that front, no doubt, but that is where I suspect the real traction is to be found.
Don’t tell us about separate rooms for image watchers, or spend time defending the pat downs of those in loose clothing. I’ve seen a lot of travelers, and I don’t imagine it’s a lot of fun for you either. But help people understand the options, the risks, what we can eliminate through these programs, and invest time and effort into some transparency to gain that trust. Yes, there is a risk. The more transparent you are, the more you expose the holes in the system for someone who wants to exploit them. So don’t tell us everything. Just enough to start tearing down walls and building some bridges.
The same applies for HR projects and programs, of course. Every time an incentive program changes, I hear the same thing. “HR doesn’t sit around and find ways to pay us more.” Why do we change them? Maybe cost cutting, but often it is done in the spirit of efficiency, incentivising new behaviors, or even correcting some past mistakes. Why are changes met with skepticism? Trust.
Why do you need to spend so much time explaining the slight increase in health insurance, when the company is turning a profit (which means costs could be lowered if the company really wanted to). Why are people so resistance to wellness programs that are designed to help them with managing their most important asset (their health)? Why do our own HR teams push back when we try to introduce new technology that will make their lives easier? It’s all the same answer.
In The Speed of Trust, Stephen R.M. Covey talks about how to build trust quickly through actions, not just words and the future hope of a good reputation. It’s an excellent read, and one I think we could use in HR to start building a few bridges of our own.