The TRUE Model: A Starting Point for Building a Trauma Informed Organizational Workplace Culture
From LaFreda Ceasar, MSW, Vice President of Equity and Culture Talent, New Narrative
Many organizations and corporations are considering returning their employees to the workplace post-pandemic. Some have decided to keep their employees remote indefinitely. Either way, people in the workforce are navigating the workplace under very different circumstances; whether your employees are working remotely or onsite, workplace climate and culture is essential to the employee experience.
I write this blog not as an expert but as an organizational leader navigating the very different workplace environment we are all now navigating. I write this to bring in my own experience and perspective. I invite you to read with an open mind and from a place of curiosity about what climate and culture can look like for you and the people you work with every single day.
One can define organizational culture by what is allowed. What is permitted sets the stage for an environment and how it feels to work in an organization.
As an HR professional, a part of my role is setting strategies to bring talent into the organization. Some of how I do this is through initiatives focused on being a destination workplace. Total rewards, recruitment strategies, opportunities for growth and advancement – and let’s not forget competitive wages.
I believe in setting strategic goals and aligning organizational investments to attract and hire. I also believe that it’s what happens after the people enter our workforce that impacts climate and culture. As I’ve stated, you can typically define any organizational culture by what is allowed. To retain employees, the organization’s investments in the culture need to be just as intentional as the offer, onboarding, and training.
Introducing the TRUE Model
At New Narrative, I am working toward building the TRUE model, a guide to building organizational culture through Trust, Relationships, Ultimate Feedback, and Equity. As we work toward becoming an utterly trauma-informed workplace, the TRUE model inherently embodies the tenets of trauma-informed care. The TRUE model is fluid; Trust builds relationships, as does feedback and commitment to Equity. Therefore, you can’t create, in my experience, a positive organizational culture without all these key components. Let’s walk through them.
Trust: Building a trust climate also builds employees’ sense of safety. Trust requires thinking about building relationships with your employees over time. Opportunities to build trust start at recruitment and extend through onboarding, training, feedback, and other employee engagement opportunities. Most importantly, Trust gets built when things don’t go so well. Organizational leaders do this by admitting when they are wrong, honoring commitments, being honest, and effectively communicating.
Relationships: This part of building organizational culture requires vulnerability. Relationships get built over time and include opportunities for reciprocity, showing the employee that you care. Relationships get built through opportunities for collaboration and building professional peer communities, affinity groups, and sufficient equity and inclusion committees and programs.
Ultimate feedback: Feedback, in general, is a great thing, and maximum feedback means the best of the best. It means getting feedback early, living out the commitment to inclusion, and responding to feedback to promote employee empowerment. In addition, cultivating a feedback culture increases the transparency about what is happening within the organization.
Equity: Organizational equity programming, commitments, and initiatives are avenues for a company or leader to show their receipts. A receipt is proof of cultural humility and organizational responsiveness to issues and concerns for marginalized communities. In my experience, organizations that lead with equity foster diversity within their workplace culture. Diversity in any company is a leading factor in productivity and workplace satisfaction.
Again, I am not an expert. I’m trying to figure this out, but I’ve learned from experience that the TRUE model can get incorporated into any organization or company by simply making a genuine commitment and seeing that commitment through over time. You can tell the organization’s culture by what is allowed. At any moment, leaders can choose not to let the lack of Trust, Relationships, (Ultimate) feedback, or Equity prevent them from building the culture they want to see. We are all one choice away; making a choice every day is up to us.