Why 2016 is the year CEOs need to trust employees

Employees are credible spokespeople, CEOs must communicate more openly and directly with employees and empower them to become company advocates.

This is common sense to anyone who is a professional communicator. However, research released this week by Edelman has underlined this thinking with the launch of their 2016 Trust Barometer. It reveals a growing inequality of trust and why now is the time to take this issue seriously.

It’s a long read, but worth it.

I’ve blogged about the barometer annually, and this week’s findings reveal trust in all four institutions (NGOs, Government, Business and Media), has reached its highest level since the Great Recession. Business has received the largest increase in trust among both the informed public and the larger general population.

There is a growing trust disparity that has put business in a new situation of strength, a unique position that translates into an opportunity to help mend the trust divide.

The Barometer reveals that respondents are increasingly reliant on a “person like yourself”, who, along with a regular employee, are significantly more trusted than a CEO or government official.

On social networking and content-sharing sites, respondents are far more trusting of family and friends (78 per cent) than a CEO (49 per cent).

Employee trust

I’m not surprised by the results, the power of peer-to-peer influence is enormous and these findings cement why it’s time to get serious about trust.

What can you do?
Consider who you quote internally. Do you always rely on CEOs to announce initiatives and outline the way your company is working?

Why not get employees involved in the announcement – we know people trust their peers, why not work with your workforce to have ambassadors in the truest sense? This means you can move to a state where your employees are the ones getting top billing in sharing news and views about your company, which is reinforced by your CEO.

See the difference? I know which one would resonate with me.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.44.18
Trust 2016
Trust 2016

Trust is not a meaningless word. It is the lifeblood of organisations and an essential way of operating. Without trust you cannot form quality relationships with employees. Tweet this

Beyond the grand illusion
“We must get beyond ‘The Grand Illusion’ that the mass will continue to follow the elites,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. “This ‘Illusion’ was predicated on the belief that the informed publics have access to superior information, their interests are interconnected and that becoming ‘an elite’ was open to all who work hard.

“But the democratisation of information, high-profile revelations of greed and misbehavior, coupled with rising income inequality, have squashed those beliefs. The trust of the mass population can no longer be taken for granted.”

CEO trust
The public is also responding positively to CEOs trying to realise the dual mandate of profit and societal benefit, as CEO trust has risen substantially in the past five years to 48 per cent.

But they will need the help of their employees, whose trust levels (52 per cent) are on the rise. Respondents are more likely to trust an employee compared to a CEO for information on treatment of employees (48 per cent versus 19 per cent) and information on business practices and crises (30 per cent versus 27 per cent).

“Business can be a big part of the solution because it is apolitical, fast, and tracks its progress,” said Kathryn Beiser, global practice chair of Edelman’s Corporate practice. “Now is the time to lead from the front with the support of their employees and passionate customers. No longer can business leaders focus on short-term goals. The new model CEOs are taking action by addressing the issues of our time, and taking a personal interest in the success of society. Stakeholders expect business to have a solid and steady focus on financial returns, but also on actions around key issues such as education, healthcare and the environment.”

This is what you need:


The inversion of influence

One of the most exciting parts of the findings for me is the inversion of influence. The traditional, hierarchical model of influence (and communication flow) has been inverted.

As a result of the increase of peer-to-peer trust, we have a new pyramid of influence. The broader population has more influence than those with authority, creating a real challenge for those in positions of power and authority who need to find new ways of engaging and influencing opinions.

Edelman state: “This inversion of influence — and the related gap between those in authority and those with influence — requires a new model of leadership to bridge the divide. The old “talk-at” approach no longer works.

“Successful leadership means embracing this new, inverted pyramid of influence. It means behaving in ways that show your interests are aligned with those of society as a whole. It requires a sincere and authentic set of values, and a broad, inclusive approach to engaging with stakeholders.

Those leaders who adopt effectively will find that they have far a new and far more powerful level of influence than they had before.”


Other findings from the report

  • Respondents want to see a shift in CEO focus from short-term results and lobbying to job creation (49 per cent) and positive long-term impact (57 per cent). They want business leaders more visible in discussions of income inequality and public policy (80 per cent).
  • Despite an increase of one point to 42 per cent globally, government remains the least trusted institution for the fifth year running.
  • Trust in NGOs went up in 81 per cent of the countries surveyed with the most dramatic jumps occurring in China (17 points) and Mexico (11 points).
  • Among the informed public, media made an impressive turnaround as trust increased in 20 of the 28 countries surveyed. The biggest gains were in the U.S. (16 points), Canada (14 points), UK (14 points) and Hong Kong (12 points).
  • Globally, family-owned companies (66 per cent) remain most trusted, trailed by public (52 per cent) and state-owned (46 per cent) businesses.
  • Companies headquartered in developed markets are still more trusted than those based in developing markets. Canada, Sweden and Switzerland, all 66 per cent, are most trusted, followed by Germany (64 per cent).
  • For the fifth consecutive year, search engines (63 per cent) and traditional media (58 per cent) remain the two most trusted sources for general news and information. Online media jumped 8 points to 53 per cent and is now the third most trusted source, followed by owned media, which is up 3 points to 46 per cent and social media (44 per cent).

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 16th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey consisted of 20-minute online interviews with more than 33,000 respondents across 28 countries. For more information, visit http://edl.mn/trust2016

You can see the full results online and below:

The state of trust:

What do you think of the findings?
You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC,
Post author: Rachel Miller
First published on the All Things IC blog 19 January 2016.

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we help?

All Things IC helps practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways we can support you including trainingconsultancy and 1-2-1 support to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit the shop to see everything we offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with All Things IC leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

We’re proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work with All Things IC? Do get in touch below. Please note we only accept guest post ideas from in-house IC pros who have read the blogging guidelines.

Asking for advertising, back links or pitching services? We do not offer these and will not reply. Thank you.