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Trust in the Workplace in 2022

Now, I was tempted to just write the words “is everything” here and take the morning off. I wouldn’t have been wrong. And I could have traded some statistics and word-smithery for Daytime TV’s finest distractions.

But, despite the lure of such extreme succinctness on a Wednesday, I want to share the findings of this year’s Edelman’s Trust Barometer report with you, dear reader, as I did last year. And besides, the other Gurus would have shouted at me.

So, a quick “who” and “what”…

This is Edelman’s 22nd annual trust and credibility survey, compiled from 30-minute online interviews conducted in November 2021 and including over 36,000 respondents from 28 countries. The survey delves into trust for all organisations, including business, government, and the media. And it makes for pretty grim reading.

The tagline of this year’s report is “The Cycle of Distrust”, and their biggest, angriest, and most alarming headline is this:

“Failure of leadership makes distrust the default.”

Rather tellingly, the report then headlines that we live in “a world ensnared in a vicious cycle of distrust, fuelled by a growing lack of faith in media and government”. Almost half of those surveyed view their government and media as divisive forces. Scary stuff! But what of business?

Well, on a more positive note, business is more trusted around the world than the much-maligned government and media. As was the case (and report headline) last year. In fact, it’s a non-mover with a 61% trust score. (Government and media both lost a point to 52% and 50% respectively. Even better, “my CEO” scored 66% and “my co-workers” scored 74% versus government leaders’ 42% and journalists’ 46%. (Scientists topped this poll with 75%.)

But now the bad news: Business in the UK (along with Germany and the US) fell into distrust with a trust score now under 50%. Yep, we have joined Japan, South Korea and Russia as one of only six countries with trust in business at under 50%.

"Trust in Business" percentages from Edelman's Trust Barometer Report 2022

Slightly more reassuringly, on a more local level, the UK comes mid-league in the “trust in my employer” stakes, with a score of 76%. The world average is 77%, with Indonesia and India topping the league with 90%+ and South Korea and Japan last with 53% and 60% respectively.

"My Employer Trusted" percentages from Edelman's Trust Barometer Report 2022

Also worth noting is that, worldwide, this year saw a record “trust gap” grow between high- and low-income earners. The UK has the third biggest gap of the 28 countries that participated. This is even more cause for concern for UK businesses and further reason to look closely at the way we communicate with our people at every level of the organisation.

In fact, all of this shows us just how important the relationship between employer and employee is. I’m back to my opening words again: trust is everything. And, as this report shows, it’s as fragile as it is crucial. I won’t get political, but it is easy to see, with recent events both home and away, why trust in political organisations is crumbling (and this report was compiled before Russia’s shocking and devastating invasion of Ukraine). It is essential that we do everything we can, as managers, leaders and communicators, not to let this happen within our organisations. We must make sure we have robust and current comms strategies in place. If we are not 100% sure that they are fit for purpose, particularly in light of all that has changed in the past two years, we should health check them and employ any remedies required.

Turning back to the report for some guidance and advice…

Information quality is now the most powerful trust builder across business. The next two highest climbers are “holding others accountable” and “communication and transparency” – both increasing in importance to our people more than “getting results”!

This isn’t rocket science, but it should offer us pause for thought. Are we dedicating enough time and resource to ensure the information we share is of a high enough quality to build and maintain that all-important trust from our people?

The report helpfully lists the following four points for restoring the cycle of trust:

  • People want more business leadership, not less.

  • Demonstrate tangible progress

  • Focus on long-term thinking over short-term gain

  • Provide credible information

These are pointers that can relatively easily be worked into our communications with our people. And they absolutely should be. The price we will pay for not doing this is just too great to consider.

Because I don’t want to end on an alarmist tone (there is enough of that in the world right now), I’m going to close with some advisory words from two wise men…

“Your words and deeds must match if you expect employees to trust in your leadership.”

- Kevin Kruse

“The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the key professional and personal competency of our time.”

- Stephen Covey


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