Employees lead the way on business trust


The latest annual Edelman Trust Barometer finds global trust inequality is growing. It reveals worrying trends, with the largest ever drop in trust across governments, businesses, media and NGO's.

This annual survey, The Edelman TRUST BAROMETERâ„¢, is now in its 17th year and is an established and authoritative indicator of organisational trust and credibility. Produced by the global communications marketing firm, Edelman, more than 33,000 people were surveyed representing 15% of the population, across 28 countries.

2017 survey findings

Key 2017 survey findings show a wide gap between informed publics (defined as university-educated and high earners with a declared interest in politics and news) and the mass population. In his Executive Summary - An Implosion of Trust President and CEO, Richard Edelman, refers to a 'deep disillusion' felt by the general population with current income, future income and prospect differences cited as concerns.

The global survey details further findings:

  • There needs to be a shift in CEO focus: away from short-term results and lobbying to job creation and positive long-term impact.
  • The credibility of CEOs continues to fall (by 12 points this year to 37%). People want business leaders to be more visible in discussions concerning income inequality and public policy.
  • family-owned companies remain most trusted, trailed by public and state-owned businesses.
  • Companies headquartered in developed markets are still more trusted than those based in developing markets, with Canada, Sweden and Switzerland being the most trusted.
  • Trust in online-only media increases by 5% to 51% (since 2012) but falls in traditional media by 5% to 57%.
  • Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed increasingly put their trust in search engines.

A 'person like yourself'

Of particular interest, though, is a key finding that 60% of respondents trusted a "person like yourself" (as remarked by Matthew Harrington, global chief operating officer of Edelman writing in the Harvard Business Review). This shows that peers are now just as credible a source of information about a company as a technical or academic expert and far more credible than a CEO and government official.

To conclude...

This is further evidence of the increasing influence employees play in an organisation's performance, stakeholder relationships and corporate reputation. Companies can no longer 'operate with a top-down approach'. They need to nurture positive relationships with their employees through greater listening, updating on developments and acting on insights if they are to retain a high degree of trust among their key audiences. Increasingly this approach will be a key factor in determining an organisation's future success or failure.


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