Want to build a strong team at work? Hire your kid’s soccer coach or head of the parents’ association, according to a new study from the UBC Sauder School of Business. Researchers found people who are most active in their communities are the most trusting in their workplaces.

Ilan Vertinsky“Hiring managers often dismiss volunteer work or sports commitments as being irrelevant to a resumé or even a potential distraction, but really, people with busy evening and weekend schedules are exactly who should be getting hired,” said Professor Ilan Vertinsky, the Vinod Sood Professor in International Business at UBC Sauder.

Having employees who trust each other is beneficial, said Vertinsky, noting that trust in the workplace has been linked to improved performance, enhanced innovation, fewer conflicts and is a source of competitive advantage for a firm.

The authors found the most trusting colleagues are those with the most diverse community involvements. For example, dividing time between coaching soccer, taking art lessons and volunteering at a food bank has a bigger impact on workplace trust than logging hours with just one group.

“You learn the most by getting out of your comfort zone and having different experiences, rather than doing the same thing again and again,” said Vertinsky.

People build trust through community involvement, the researchers suggest, by learning to be vulnerable and trust people from completely different backgrounds, and by acquiring social skills that are valuable to interactions in the office.

The researchers surveyed 347 people at 80 organizations in Canada and China, and asked them how many associations they were involved in outside of work and how many ties they developed in each association. They then compared these results with their reported level of social trust in the workplace.

The study, “Trust in the Workplace: The Role of Social Interaction Diversity in the Community and in the Workplace,” by Victor Cui, Vertinsky, UBC Sauder Professor Sandra Robinson and Oana Branzei, is forthcoming in Business & Society. Both Cui and Branzei completed their PhDs at UBC Sauder.

Top image source: Bryce Johnson on Flickr.