Putting trust in the spotlight

Every year Edelman publishes its ‘Trust Barometer’, measuring how much trust individuals place in brands and major institutions. In Jan 2020, they announced that despite a strong global economy and near full employment, none of the four societal institutions that the study measures (government, business, NGOs and media) are trusted. The survey showed that “fear was eclipsing hope”, with 83 percent of employees saying that they feared losing their job, attributing it to the gig economy, a looming recession, a lack of skills, cheaper foreign competitors, automation, or jobs being moved to other countries.

However, in the midst of the pandemic, their Spring update (published May 2020) showed some extraordinary changes. Trust in government surged by 11 points to an all-time high, making it the most trusted institution for the first time in the 20-year history of the study. At the same time however, people became much more aware of society’s inequities, with 67% of respondents believing that those with less education, less money and fewer resources are bearing a disproportionate burden of the suffering, risk of illness and need to sacrifice in the pandemic. COVID-19 had hit the reset button in the way people view institutions and business, changing who people trusted and why they trusted them.

How can you build and strengthen trust throughout your organisation?

So, what makes people trust you? The study shows that trust was granted on the basis of two key factors – competence (delivering on promises) and ethical behaviour (doing the right thing and working to improve society).

This means that we now have a unique opportunity as employers to reset the conversations we have with our employees. We must assuage their fears and create a new psychological contract built on trust. We need to demonstrate how we are keeping our promises to our own people and to society in general. But before we do anything, we need to understand where we are starting from – do our people trust us and do they feel trusted? – otherwise any communications will at best be received sceptically or at worst ignored.

As experts in employee comms and employer branding for over 25 years, we’ve built a proprietary methodology for identifying employee sentiment, trust levels and the employer propositions that can help you attract, engage and harness the talent you need to succeed.

If you’d like to talk about how we might help you build trusting relationships with your people, let’s start our conversation over a virtual coffee – so why not get in touch.

Simon McLoughlin