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Global trust in 'my employer' surging

Hardy Graupner
January 23, 2019

There's no doubt the level of trust that people have in institutions and firms has a direct impact on how successful the latter are. A fresh survey reveals a lot about the sensitivities of people across the globe.

Female CEO with her team
Image: Fotolia

                "The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them." (Ernest Hemingway)

People's trust in governments, institutions and companies seems hard to gauge, but it's exactly what US-based marketing consultancy Edelman has been doing for almost two decades.

Over the past 19 years, the communications firm has studied and documented some vital opinion shifts in its annual Trust Barometer.

The 2019 edition of the global survey emphasizes once more that trust is a critical asset for any organization. And it has a strong message for the business world. "We're observing fascinating parallels between the level of trust a company enjoys and its long-term performance in the marketplace and on the stock market."

Lessons to learn

Here are some major takeaways from the 2019 poll. Perhaps the most astonishing result of the survey is that people hold more trust in their own employers than in any single institution around them.

A staggering 75 percent of respondents globally have expressed confidence in their respective employers — that's 19 points more than trust in business in general and a whopping 27 points more than trust in governments compared with last year's results.

Daimler assembly line in Germany
As industrial robots are on the rise, workers need to be retrained for new jobsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Weißbrod

Much in the same vein, 76 percent of those polled are of the opinion that CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for governments to step into action where change is needed, marking an 11-point increase from a year earlier.

CEOs stepping up to the plate?

People are particularly confident that top executives can push pay equality, fight discrimination and organize on-the-job training to make employees fit for the jobs of tomorrow.

"In the face of heightened expectations on CEOs to step into the trust vacuum left by government, the pressure is on them to do more and quickly," concludes Edelman's Stephen Kehoe, global chair, Reputation.

What the study also bears out is that workers, who have trust in their employers, are far more likely to advocate on behalf of their companies and remain far more loyal and committed than their more skeptical counterparts.

According to the survey, employees' expectations that their bosses will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80 percent).

French 'yellow vests' protesters in action
French protesters wearing yellow vests are making their voices heard in Paris as anger over President Emmanuel Marcron's reforms risesImage: Reuters/C. Platiau

Growing disenchantment

While the survey acknowledges that there's a significant divergence in trust between the informed public and mass populations, it states that the world is united on one front — all respondents share an urgent desire for economic and political change no matter where they live.

Only one in five feels the current system is working for them, with nearly half of "mass population" respondents saying the system around them is failing them.

While not everyone is taking to the streets, the data shows why protests like the Gilet Jaunes (yellow vests) in France, the women's marches in India and walkouts by employees at some major tech companies could become more mainstream," says Kehoe.

Gender gap (trap)

In the perception of respondents, companies' pursuit of maximum profits does not have to mean they're bad for society. Some 73 percent agree that a firm can take specific actions that both increase earnings and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates — a 9 percent increase from 2018.

Let's not suppress another major takeaway from the barometer: Trust is divided along gender lines. Women trust a lot less in institutions and companies than men overall, with a 5-point gap globally and double-digit gender gaps in Germany (12 points), the United States (11 points) and the United Arab Emirates (10 points).