“My Employer” tops the Edelman Trust Barometer

Trust has changed profoundly in the past year – people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.

Globally, 75 percent of people trust “My Employer” to do what is right, this is significantly more than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent) and media (47 percent).

We are seeing a further reordering of trust to more local sources. Why is “My Employer” emerging as the most trusted entity? Because the relationships that are closest to us feel more controllable.

But are they really?

Employees are ready and willing to trust their employers, but the trust must be earned through more than “business as usual.”

This insight is according to The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, which has just been released. Regular readers of my blog will know I highlight this global study every year as it’s always packed with insights to help underpin strategic internal communication and trust in organisations.

Over the last 19 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has detected and documented some of the largest opinion shifts shaping the world. They’ve observed that the state and dynamic of trust in institutions was in many ways predictive of larger societal, economic and political changes to come.

It’s an online survey with in 27 markets, with 33,000 respondents, the field work was conducted between October and November 2018 and it’s hot off the press. This year’s survey found 55 percent of global general population are full-time or part-time employees (but not self-employed) and the oversample of employees of multinational companies was 500 respondents per market.

This year’s results are the most relevant I’ve seen for Internal Comms pros to be mindful of. I’m particularly interested in the notion of building resilient trust through meeting employee expectations. Expect more blog posts on this in future once I’ve analysed it further.

It’s a notable shift from the Barometer findings I wrote about in 2016: One in three employees don’t trust their employers.

Here are some of the findings…

This is leading to a new employee-employer contract, with recommended steps to focus on trust at work. I’ve highlighted them at the end of this article.

“In a full employment economy, an employee has more freedom to choose the kind of workplace they are now coming to expect, one where values and the power to make change are a given” – Richard Edelman.

Pessimism is widespread. Only one-in-five of mass population respondents believe that the system is working for them; in developed markets, only one-in-three of that cohort believes his or her family will be better off in five years’ time. Fears of job loss among the general population remain high, whether caused by a lack of retraining and skills (59 percent) or automation and innovation (55 percent). More than twice as many of these respondents say the pace of innovation is too fast (54 percent) versus those who say it is too slow (21 percent).

Trust is also divided along gender lines, with women more skeptical about institutions than men. The gender trust gap is in the double digits in several developed markets; this is mostly driven by women’s lower trust in business (US, 15-point gap; Germany, 14-point gap)

Back in 2014, the Barometer uncovered peer-to-peer, or “people like me” were the most trusted and many IC pros used this insight to help their organisations think about collaborative communication for the first time. I’m interested in see the shift to My Employer as the new barometer of trust.

Further reading on the All Things IC blogThe importance of trust in organisations – 2014.

Despite a high lack of faith in the system, there is one relationship that remains strong: “my employer.” Fifty-eight percent of general population employees say they look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about contentious societal issues.

Employees’ expectation that prospective employers 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).

The rewards of meeting these expectations and building trust are great. Employees who have trust in their employer are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf—they will advocate for the organisation (a 39-point trust advantage), are more engaged (33 points), and remain far more loyal (38 points) and committed (31 points) than their more skeptical counterparts.

In addition, 71 percent of employees believe it’s critically important for “my CEO” to respond to challenging times. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of the general population concur—they say they want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for government to impose it.

“Nearly six in 10 look to their employer as a trustworthy source of information on contentious social problems and on important topics like the economy (72 percent) and technology (58 percent)” says Richard Edelman, President and CEO of Edelman.

“This significant shift in employee expectations opens up an enormous opportunity for employers to help rebuild societal trust, as the general population sees business as being able to make money and improve society (73 percent).”

What’s the reality in your organisation?

Trust inequality

There is a 16-point gap between the more trusting informed public and the far-more-skeptical mass population, marking a return to record highs of trust inequality. The phenomenon fueling this divide was a pronounced rise in trust among the informed public. Markets such as the US, UK, Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong saw trust gains of 12 points or more among the informed public. In 18 markets, there is now a double-digit trust gap between the informed public and the mass population.

An urgent desire for change

Despite the divergence in trust between the informed public and mass population the world is united on one front—all share an urgent desire for change. Only one in five feels that the system is working for them, with nearly half of the mass population believing that the system is failing them.

In conjunction with pessimism and worry, there is a growing move toward engagement and action. In 2019, engagement with the news surged by 22 points; 40 percent not only consume news once a week or more, but they also routinely amplify it. But people are encountering roadblocks in their quest for facts, with 73 percent worried about fake news being used as a weapon.

How to focus on trust at work

According to Edelman CEO Richard Edelman, organisations need to take the following actions as a result of a new employee-employer contract – Trust at Work.

He says it’s predicated on taking these actions:

Lead Change
Establish an audacious goal that attracts socially-minded employees and make it a core business objective (for example, the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan to double revenue without increasing the company’s use of natural resources). To realise this full-scale commitment to societal change, companies must first address employees’ very real fears about the threat of automation to their livelihoods and provide them with retraining.

Empower Employees
Go direct to employees with fact-based information about the issues of the day, supplementing the mainstream media, which has been winnowed by a difficult business model. Give employees a voice on your channels; trust in company-owned media rose by seven points this past year.

Start Locally
Care for the communities where you operate, especially if you are a multinational. Be part of the solution on education, inequality and infrastructure. Enable your employees to volunteer and give back locally.

CEO Leadership
CEOs must speak up directly on social issues, such as immigration, diversity and inclusion. But they must do more than talk; they must demonstrate their personal commitment, inside and outside the company. Seventy-six percent of people expect CEOs to take a stand on challenging issues.

“Trust at Work is a fundamental rebalancing of the employee- employer relationship, shifting from top-down control to one that emphasises employee empowerment. In a full employment economy, an employee has more freedom to choose the kind of workplace they are now coming to expect, one where values and the power to make change are a given. This is the path that business must follow to help restore trust, the greatest moral challenge of our era. The critical work of building a better future for all begins in the workplace” says Edelman.

There are four dimensions of trust:

  • Ability: The perception that the organisation is good at what it does
  • Integrity: The conviction that it is honest
  • Dependability: The expectation that it will keep its promises
  • Purpose: The sentiment that it is trying hard to have a positive impact on society

What do you think? I’m fascinated by these findings, I have about four blog post ideas bubbling as a result of these findings.

Read more about the Barometer
Twitter @EdelmanPR and #TrustBarometer.

Further reading about Trust on the All Things IC blog:

As ever, I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

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Thank you for stopping by


Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 22 January 2019.









  1. Claire says:

    I’m fascinated by this too! Studying for my CIPR diploma in internal comms focusing on employee voice and this insight is invaluable and very thought-provoking. Would be happy to chat more about it and share the work I’m doing on voice once it’s finished. Thanks for summarising your thoughts here, looking forward to the follow up blogs too.

  2. Thank you Claire, best of luck with your studies, Rachel.

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