Time for business leaders to step into the void

Jenni Field

Trust at work – something we can take for granted and something that needs to be the core focus for organisations according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer – a global online survey with over 33,000 respondents.

The study started in 2000 when NGO’s were the most trusted in the world – and this has remained fairly constant. In 2006/2007 a person like you became a credible authority figure (and we saw the rise in peer to peer communication) which shows lower confidence in government and CEOs. In 2008 we saw the destruction of trust in the business sector, and a rise of trust in government and then in 2011/12 government trust dropped (linked to economic challenges, scandals in developing markets and more). Throughout all this time, the trust in media was slowly declining and last year (2018) this reached crisis point with the battle for truth and the rise of fake news.

In 2019 trust has become local. Partly due to the fake news and the challenges we have in the battle for truth, but also because it has shifted into an area we can control – our employer.

In 2018, fears about the future were spoken about as fear of immigration and today, the fear that matters most is automation. Two thirds of workers fear they are being replaced by machines.  It is not an immigrant I fear, it is a robot.

There is a desperate search for control, to take back power. As the decline in media happened slowly over nine years, this year, for the first time, there has been an incredible rise in engagement with the media – from 50% to 72% in one year. We are deeply involved in the process of news and discussion.

During 2018 we witnessed more and more employees taking a stance against employers. We saw headlines of leaked memos, employees walking out to take a stance against culture or strategy. Employees made their voices heard and used technology to help amplify the message. They believe they have the ability to influence what is happening at work. And for me, they should absolutely believe this.

For our CEO’s this is the most important report for 2019. 75% expect CEO’s to act while governments are paralysed. Employees want retraining (due to the fear of the robot) and they want equal pay (and more) and they want the CEO to have a voice in this conversation and stand up for what is right. There has never been a more important time to empower people to take part in the discussion. If you empower the people they will be loyal, they will engage and they will advocate for the organisation.

According to Richard Edelman (and I can’t agree more), these are the four things organisations need to do:
• Have a big idea – an organisation has to have a mission and a purpose
• Inform your employees first not last – they should be ahead of your customers and shareholders
• Focus on your home market – multinationals have got to make community work
• CEO’s need to stand up and speak out

Internal communicators are the people to help organisations do this. We understand the importance of leadership, purpose, employee engagement and community. We need to engage employees and reignite the trust inside organisations, not just through words, but through actions and behaviours at work.
Watch Richard Edelman sharing the report findings at Davos here

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