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Trust in business is rising. Here’s what that means for your team.

by Ben Spradling | May 28, 2021 3:14:48 PM

More employees, customers, and communities are placing their trust in businesses. That’s according to the latest edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey measuring institutional trust.

Of the four institutions individuals typically look to for information, including the government, non-profit organizations, and media, businesses were the only group identified as trustworthy. Even further, respondents revealed that they trusted their employers the most. Information on the pandemic and other issues was viewed as more credible if it was communicated by a leader in their workplace. (Skip to 9:30).

“My employer” is most important.

Christi Bishop and Charlotte Bruner of Edelman Southern California joined a recent BBB webinar to detail findings from the 21st edition of the report. What they shared emphasizes both the responsibility and opportunity business leaders now possess.

“It's who's at the top of that organization, who has responsibility for one employee or 10,000 employees, it's that business leader, overall, that's who's trusted,” said Bishop. (Skip to 17:30)

So, if communication passed on to employees by leaders in their workplace is having the most impact on lives, what does that mean for your operation? Long story short, it’s time to take action on tough issues. There’s a growing expectation that businesses use their voices to address important social challenges. (Skip to 23:40)

Expectations have elevated.

“Consumers and employees and communities are no longer letting companies and businesses just stand on the sidelines and not do anything and it has to feel authentic and it can't be performative,” shared Bruner.

Edelman’s survey revealed that 80% of employees expected their employers to act on pertinent topics including vaccine hesitancy, automation, and racism. Avoiding hard conversations is no longer an option.

“You need to really critically think through what are you doing to stand up and take a stand on some of these societal challenges and really show up again for your key audiences, from employees to consumers, to the community.”

Finding and declaring a position on those issues isn’t solely the job of the business owner. It can’t be. Consumers and employees expect to have a seat at the table. They want their voices reflected in the policies and practices of the businesses they support. (Skip to 31:00)

Takeaways for building trust.

Bruner and Bishop shared takeaways from the Edelman Trust Barometer to help businesses use their elevated platforms to build trust with their customers and their workforce. (Skip to 35:00)

  • Beware the pedestal. You’re not being counted on to solve every social challenge that arises. What’s important is to show your stakeholders – employees and customers – that you’re making an effort.
  • Lean into comparative advantage. Determine where it is, exactly, your business can make a difference. If you have expertise in a particular area, let that knowhow direct where you have an impact.
  • Employees are job one. Your workforce is your most important stakeholder, so increase their influence. Establish and maintain a two-way dialogue with employees so that you know what’s truly important to them.
  • Government must lead on foundational changes. Issues such as vaccinations or a return to the workplace are largely shaped by governmental decisions. Sometimes, as a business owner, the best you can is offer is a conversation and a point of view, and that’s okay.

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