The State of Trust in Business

Political unrest and advances in automation are threatening the status quo of organizations worldwide. People are increasingly looking to trusted business leaders to address societal advancement. 

Edelman's Chief Client Strategy Officer, Ben Boyd, covers how trust has changed profoundly in the past year and the role executive search and leadership consultants can play in preparing both clients and candidates for the future.

Ben Boyd

In today’s business climate, consumers value trust, honesty and authenticity in companies. What is the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer? What does it reveal about today’s business climate?

The Edelman Trust Barometer is the largest global survey and foremost authority of trust in business, government, media and NGOs. Now in its 19th year, the Trust Barometer surveys more than 33,000 people in 27 countries.

This year’s study reveals an ongoing global challenge in the state of trust and takes an in-depth look at the employee-employer relationship, examining how well employers are addressing employees’ concerns about the changing world of work and preparing workforces—and society—for the future. Finally, this year’s study looks at needed actions that build trust inside and outside their organizations.

What are the expectations of trust for an employer? How has this changed in the past year, and what might we expect for the future? 

This year’s findings mark a return to the largest-ever inequality of trust (16 points) between the informed public (65%) and mass population (49%). This is driven in part by divergent views of the future between the mass population (49% of whom believe that they will be better off in five years) and informed public (63% of whom believe that they will be better off in five years).

Edelman Trust Barometer

Courtesy of Edelman

The growing feeling of pessimism about the future and the lack of confidence in social institutions have resulted in changing expectations for businesses, leaders and employers. People are now turning to their employer to help them navigate this uncertain world: 

  • CEOs are expected to lead the fight for change. More than three-quarters (76%) of individuals surveyed say they want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for the government to impose it. 

  • Employees expect prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67%).

  • The majority of employees (71%) say it is critically important for their employer to respond to and talk about challenging times and sensitive subjects (e.g. political events, industry issues, national crisis, etc.).

In this new environment, employers need to lean into and get comfortable with expectations that they increasingly behave as change agents. 

How can executive search professionals be a beacon for trustworthiness and transparency for C-Suite leaders?

Today, trust at work is fundamental to a company’s corporate strategy. People feel invested in the employer-employee relationship because it is one of the most tangible trust-points in their lives.  Top talent, regardless of their level of seniority, are navigating an increasingly complex world in which they have more opportunity than ever before and they long to be part of an enterprise that is bigger than its bottom line.  

Increasingly, the most successful search professionals will help their clients articulate a larger societal vision for the hiring enterprise, convey clarity around the efforts of that enterprise to improve societal and local market conditions where they operate and offer assurances around a commitment to empowering employees to engage and contribute.  Equally, search professionals should ensure candidates are qualified subject matter experts who are also committed to societal contributions as a leader within the organization.  Efforts must be undertaken to ensure explicit enterprise and candidate value alignment in a world that increasingly prioritizes values.  

You will be speaking at AESC’s Global Conference in New York on April 10. What can attendees expect to discover from your session?

Through the lens of the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer findings, I will discuss:

  • The changing employee expectations and the new employer-employee contract 

  • The “trust divide” along demographic lines

  • The responsibility of business leaders to address the void left by government, media and other social institutions 

  • The specific steps leaders can take to build trust and become a medium for positive social change

Discover what C-Suite executives need to know to anticipate the major drivers of tomorrow's global business at AESC's APAC Conference in Sydney on August 20. Join Francesca Boase, Managing Director at Edelman, business leaders and more for the premier event for the executive search and leadership consulting profession.