Internal Communicators, the time is now.
The latest Edelman Trust Barometer was published today, I’ve read through it and summarised what you need to know.
It reveals Business is the only trusted institution.
More than Government. More than the Media. More than NGOs.
Let that sink in for a moment.
If the past year has shown the world anything, it’s that investing time, money and effort in effective internal communication methods is vital.
I’ve been working in Comms for 21 years, including four years as a Journalist and 17 years in internal communication. It finally feels as if people understand the value and need to have credible, accurate, reliable information in place.
It’s been vital during the pandemic to date, with organisations clamouring to create mechanisms to get the right information, to the right people at the right time.
Some even recognise the need for effective two-way channels so they can move from cascades to conversations. (I recommend Katie Macaulay’s book of the same name).
But Comms friends, we’re not there yet, as I’m sure you know. There’s still a long way to go until this is the norm.
A constant conversation
Trust is a constant conversation in our organisations. As Comms professionals, we look for ways to enhance trust, nurture it, demonstrate it and turn the notion of trust into tangible actions.
However, something we can all agree on is this statement from the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer:
“After a year of unprecedented disaster and turbulence – the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis, the global outcry over systemic racism and political instability – the Barometer reveals an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world.”
Despite this rather gloomy line, I see multiple opportunities for organisations to finally invest properly in internal communication, as trust in “my employer” has grown.
How trustworthy is your organisation?
So employers and employer media is most believable.
Really? What does trust look like inside your company?
How trusted are your leaders?
When I’m auditing organisations’ internal communication, I’m often looking for the sources of truth. I want to discover what, or who, employees trust.
As you can see from the diagram above, Business is now the only institution seen as both competent and ethical.
How does that sit with you?
You need to know the answers to these questions. I ask them regularly in my role as a Comms Consultant:
- What do employees trust? Why?
- Who do they trust? Why?
- How has the organisation broken employees’ trust? Why did that happen?
- How has the organisation nurtured employees’ trust? How can you do more of this?
- What’s your most trustworthy channel? How do you know?
- Where is the source of truth in your company? (Sometimes it’s line managers, sometimes it’s the intranet or CEO).
- What’s the biggest barrier to trust in your organisation? What have you done to tackle it?
Further reading: How to communicate with empathy.
Further reading: How to encourage your leaders to be virtually visible.
What is the Barometer?
I’ve been writing about the Edelman Trust Barometer for about eight years, it’s now in its 21st year and is the largest annual study of trust.
This year’s study was conducted via an online survey between October and November 2020. It captures views from 28 countries, with 33,000+ respondents.
The 2013 study has underpinned a lot of decisions I’ve made as a Consultant re: peer-to-peer communication. (Remember the “I trust people like me” descriptor that we all used to support our enterprise social network business cases? See my previous blog post to find out more).
One of the key highlights of the 2021 Barometer:
Not only have the expectations of business to lead been heightened, but we are also seeing new areas of focus that business must address; for example, the top trust-building action for business is now guarding information quality, ensuring that reliable trustworthy information goes out to their employees, and, by extension, the community.
In fact, more than half of respondents (53 percent) believe that when the news media is absent, corporations have a responsibility to fill the information void.
What’s missing for me in that statement is two-way communication. We know the importance of trustworthy information “going out to” employees, but remember the mindset we need.
Regular readers of my blog will recognise this quote, which is from Journalist Sydney. J. Harris from the 1940s.
Information is giving out. Communication is getting through.
Simply focusing on information voids and trustworthy one-way/broadcast information misses a trick.
As professional communicators, our role is to create opportunities for communication to get through. In other words, we need to create credible pathways where communication can happen. You need two-way channels and mechanisms in place where your employees voices can be listened to, taken seriously and acted upon.
But that’s a whole new blog post.
Raging infodemic feeds mistrust
According to the Barometer: “Without a trusted leadership source to look to, people don’t know where or who to get reliable information. The global infodemic has driven trust in all news sources to record lows with social media (35 percent) and owned media (41 percent) the least trusted; traditional media (53 percent) saw the largest drop in trust at eight points globally.”
This rising tide of misinformation and mistrust is threatening Covid-19 recovery, as people are deeply suspicious and hesitant about the Covid-19 vaccine.
In fact, among those who practice poor information hygiene -in that they do not check their sources and/or ensure credible and factual information is shared – there is substantially less willingness to get the vaccine within the year of its first availability (59 percent versus 70 percent for people with good information hygiene).
These pandemic fears are impeding a return to the workplace, with 58 percent of employees choosing to work from home doing so out of fear of becoming infected.
Do you know how your employees are feeling? Have you asked them?
The findings around fears are important to note too:
Further reading: How to communicate with furloughed employees.
High stakes for business
While the world seems to be clouded by mistrust and misinformation, there is a glimmer of hope in business.
This year’s study shows that business is not only the most trusted institution among the four studied, but it is also the only trusted institution with a 61 percent trust level globally, and the only institution seen as both ethical and competent.
When the government is absent, people clearly expect business to step in and fill the void, and the high expectations of business to address and solve today’s challenges has never been more apparent.
The heightened expectations of business bring CEOs new demands to focus on societal engagement with the same rigor, thoughtfulness, and energy used to deliver on profits.
Crisis of leadership
With a growing Trust gap and trust declines worldwide, people are looking for leadership and solutions as they reject talking heads who they deem not credible.
In fact, none of the societal leaders Edelman track – government leaders, CEOs, journalists and even religious leaders – are “trusted to do what is right”, with drops in trust scores for all.
In particular, CEO’s credibility is at all-time lows in several countries, including Japan (18 percent) and France (22 percent), making the challenge for CEO leaders even more acute as they try to address today’s problems.
I’m going to leave you with a final thought and resources to read.
Further reading via the All Things IC blog:
- How to advise hesitant leaders – published 2020
- How to connect your people – published 2020
- How to start a conversation about racism and unconscious bias – published 2020
- How to communicate with compassion – published 2020
- How to communicate with empathy – published 2020
- Putting employees first in a crisis – published 2020
- My Employer tops the Edelman Trust Barometer – published 2019
- What you need to know about trust in 2018
- A BBC Journalist’s view of the Trust Barometer – published 2018
- Barometer reveals trust is essential for innovation – published 2015
- How to be a trusted adviser
- Trust has imploded – here’s what you need to know – published 2017
- One in three employees don’t trust their employers – published 2016.
Learn about internal communication with All Things IC
My range of Online Masterclasses will boost your internal communications skills, knowledge and confidence.
See the dedicated website to access all the latest courses. They are all packed with bespoke text lessons, videos, workbooks and quizzes to help you learn about the wonderful world of IC at your own pace.
- How to be an internal communicator – ideal if you’re new to the world of IC or have up to three years’ experience.
- How to be a Comms Consultant – Exploration – this is for you if you’re thinking about going freelance.
- Introduction to internal communication channels – get up to speed quickly.
- NEW: How to create a 90 day plan – to set you up for success in your new Internal Comms role.
Thank you for stopping by,
Post author: Rachel Miller.
Published on the All Things IC blog 13 January 2021.