A Look Into Trust in the Australian & New Zealand Construction Industry  

trust in australia and new zealand construction

We can’t emphasise the importance of trust within the construction industry enough. But while there has always been an assumption that trust plays a large part in construction, it’s difficult to measure just how critical the value correlates to project success. That is, until recently. This month, Autodesk and FMI published a report on the impact of trust in the construction industry in a new study, Trust Matters: The High Cost of Low Trust.” 

The report noted trust and collaboration patterns across the construction industry, including Australia and New Zealand. While a large percentage of respondents report above-average levels of trust, far less report “very high trust” levels, but higher levels of trust could provide millions of dollars in benefits for firms. This includes lower turnover rates, fewer missed schedules, and more repeat business. 

In countries like Australia and New Zealand, where communities are especially tight-knit, the impact of trust expands beyond personal relationships and into daily business life. Not surprisingly, construction companies in both Australia and New Zealand are out-performing their global peers when it comes to high levels of trust. In fact, 38% of Australian and 40% of New Zealand firms reported very high levels of trust compared to 37% global average.  

Nevertheless, maintaining and even increasing these trust levels will be essential for the lifeblood of the industry in the coming years. In Australia, construction is one of the fastest-growing industries, and it represents 9% of the GDP. In New Zealand, the industry has grown exorbitantly in the last few years, and it’s projected to grow by another 20% in the next few years. To keep up with the high demands of the future, firms will need to continue to build trust and collaboration internally, with partners, and with clients.

So, what are the key insights construction professionals can learn from the report, Trust Matters: The High Cost of Low Trust?” Here are the top takeaways about trust in the Australian and New Zealand construction industries.

Takeaway 1: Autonomy Supports Trust

Micromanagement is often seen as a negative in the construction industry, but it’s viewed as especially detrimental to work in Australia and New Zealand. In these countries, the best way to encourage a loyal and innovative team is by supporting individual workers’ professional growth and allowing them the freedom to make key decisions for their position. In a basic sense, management hires skilled workers and trains them as needed but also trusts them to know and complete their job requirements to the high level of quality they desire.

This dynamic allows workers to feel supported by their employers while still contributing in meaningful ways to the project based on their expertise. According to the Australian respondents, this is an essential aspect of building trust among their employees, which means higher quality and work, which also translates to more satisfactory job completion. Because the management style is such that it encourages growth in the workers, there is a higher job satisfaction rate and better employee retention.

The general feeling among New Zealand construction professionals runs concurrent with those in Australia. Micromanagement of staff leads to less job satisfaction and curtails workers’ ability to bring innovation and excitement to the job. However, trusting workers to know their job and add their own independent solutions to a project increased excitement, job satisfaction, and overall productivity.

Creating this level of trust between leadership and staff helps to diminish the need or want to micromanage, which also frees the executive staff time for more worthwhile processes. It’s a better use of time overall. Hire great staff. Trust them to know their job. Train them for more responsibilities. Let them work up to their potential. Productivity in these scenarios soars because there’s no need for management to work on the same tasks as their staff and projects can be addressed in a more proactive way.

Another benefit of autonomy was that it encouraged workers to become more invested in their company and position. For instance, the New Zealand respondents indicated that they were more likely to have employees almost always go above and beyond to help others. Their data showed a positive rate of 35%, compared to a 30% average. This documented average clearly correlates job satisfaction and autonomy to more productive contributions to the project.

Takeaway 2: Relationship Building Pays Off

In both the Australian and New Zealand construction industry, there is a correlation between relationship building and profits. Internal trust is especially important in Australia. The feeling is that managers and executives should get to know their teams well to build a sense of relationship and trust, which leads to more productivity. These internal, personal relationships allow the crew to feel heard and respected by their managers, and each member of the team feels comfortable contributing ideas and highlighting issues. This also improves the line of communication, meaning that errors will be caught faster, and schedules are more likely to be kept.

When workers feel that they are a major part of the process, they take on responsibility naturally and are more apt to help other workers thrive. They develop relationships with each other that extend beyond the worksite, so they’re invested in each others’ success, as well as the company’s.

In New Zealand, one major factor is the close relationships that companies have with each other. These are smaller communities, and the professionals here often work with people they’ve known for the majority of their lives. This fosters a level of trust that can be hard to duplicate in other settings, and it’s simply a natural benefit to this geographic location. Workers here don’t need to spend a great deal of time learning about their partners and coworkers because they’ve known them for a long time.

This works in practice because there is such a natural camaraderie that collaboration is far more easily reached in many cases. This collaboration exists between coworkers, but it’s also exceptionally high between clients and companies, which allows for more interactive input from clients on projects. In other geographic locations, there may be limited creative input simply because the relationship and knowledge base isn’t there. 

Collaboration is the most remarked-upon benefits of this dynamic. In New Zealand, the report indicates that 30% of firms have high levels of collaboration. The average across all countries was only 24%.

Some collaboration effectiveness was brought about by the simple fact that the different people involved in projects have long-standing relationships. But many respondents also felt that the use of technology, such as cloud-based applications, helped all parties to stay informed in real-time. This is a benefit to contractors in any geographic location.

While these areas do benefit from close-knit communities and pre-existing relationships with other professionals, they still need to work to maintain these relationships to produce high levels of collaboration on every project.

Takeaway 3: Clarity and Transparency Are Critical

Clarity and transparency are also essential when fostering trust in construction. You can’t expect staff to reach autonomy if the management level isn’t clear about what they expect or transparent in the process. There is also difficulty in maintaining a solid reputation among clients without transparency and honesty.

In the report, participants indicate that it’s vital to make instructions and requests clear, as well as clearly define job roles and expectations. Australian respondents report that they clearly define expectations and empower individuals to succeed. 

In Australia, 42% of respondents strongly agree that individual roles and responsibilities are well-defined. When comparing the global average, only 32% answered the same way. Furthermore, a higher percentage of participants from New Zealand (34%) indicated that most people in their organisation were explicit about requests, compared to the global average (22%). 

Learn More About Trust in Australia and New Zealand Construction

For more information about how trust and collaboration influence the construction industry in New Zealand, Australia, as well as other countries, download our report today.


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