I cover Edelman's Trust Barometer every year.
This year's results came out last week and they did surprise me. Positively.
Trust has changed profoundly in the past year. People have been losing faith in traditional authority figures and institutions to help them navigate a turbulent world and more recently, they are losing confidence in the social platforms that fostered peer-to-peer trust because of fake news or false information being used as a weapon.
We have shifted our trust to the relationships within our control and most notably our employers.
People are now bringing their call for change to the workplace where they have a trusted relationship.
Employees are ready and willing to trust their employers, but the trust must be earned through more than “business as usual" and not simply operational excellence or decisions that would impact jobs. An organisation’s contributions to society, its values and its vision for the future all outweigh operational decisions in terms of earning trust.
I found this deepening of the employee-employer relationship fascinating and I want to focus this post on the research findings related to it (there's a lot more in the report that I highly recommend checking out).
Let's take a look at what's happening between employee and employer.
Globally, 75% of people trust “my employer” to do what is right which is significantly more than NGOs (57%), business (56%) and media (47%).
"Business as usual" is not enough to build trust
But trust in the employer is not easy to earn. Employees have high expectations:
- 67% would refuse to work for, or expect higher pay from, an organisation that did not share their values or provide the opportunity to address societal problems.
- 67% expect that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues which is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74%) and job opportunity (80%).
- 58% of general population employees say they look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about contentious societal issues and on important topics like the economy (72%) and technology (58%).
- 76% say they want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for government to impose it.
- 73% believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.
But if employers meet those expectations, they face tremendous rewards as well. Employees who have trust in their employer are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf - they will advocate for the organisation (a 39-point trust advantage), are more engaged (33 points), and remain far more loyal (38 points) and committed (31 points) than their more skeptical counterparts.
Societal action by employers creates trust, which fosters a more deeply engaged and productive workforce.
The relationship between employee and employer has evolved tremendously.
Whereas once you used to just go get your job done and head home, now the workplace has become the place where you expect to be fulfiled and make a difference alongside your employer. You want to be heard, you want your employer to share your values and help you improve the world globally and locally when it comes to education, sustainability and more.
Edelman believes there's a very different contract nowadays between employee and employer that builds trust at work:
I must say all of this sounds very logical to me and makes sense.
Our employers have become powerful institutions over the last few decades and it's where we spend most of our time as professionals.
We expect to be rewarded for that time investment beyond just our pay and we want to feel proud of where we work with regards to the impact our employer is making on larger societal issues and future-looking trends.
I wrote a whole dissertation on sustainability years ago and I'm glad to see that we're starting to hold companies accountable to making a difference beyond just profits because that can not only drive growth when it comes to products but also through employees.
We've killed the funnel and welcomed the flywheel because customers have become the biggest driver of growth but I'd say we're coming to an era where employees are becoming a growth driver just as customers. If a company doesn't treat it's employees well or can't deserve their trust, customers won't be willing to buy either.
A company can't exist without customers and it cant't exist without employees either.
Do you trust your employer?