Written by Leon Goren, CA and Miguel Gonsalves
How does it feel to live in Canada, the fourth most trusted country in the world, behind Germany, Sweden and Switzerland? And to live in a country whose products Americans trust, in an export friendly economy with a falling Canadian dollar?
These findings, among many others, were revealed recently at the 14th annual Edelman Trust Barometer conference, held at the Royal Ontario Museum—and around the world. More than 100 people from media, business and academia, government and PEO attended the breakfast session.
PEO member Lisa Kimmel, general manager of Edelman’s Toronto office, presided over the conference, which featured Richard Edelman, global CEO of the #1 PR firm, and her Canadian CEO, John Clinton. In attendance from PEO were Sarah Beech, Pal Benefits president, Miguel Gonsalves, PEO chief development officer, and Richard Rotman, our communications consultant.
The survey is quite rigorous, with 27,000 general population online interviews in 27 countries, with an oversample of 6,000 informed publics ages 25-64. If it’s about trust worldwide, it’s in the Edelman barometer.
If you think about the year in trust, institutions truly fall short. Whether it’s Rob Ford, Mike Duffy, Edward Snowden’s revelations, tragedy at the Boston Marathon, Lac Megantic, clothing factories in Bangladesh, and the Keystone pipeline as issues, it’s not a pretty picture, as the conference pointed out.
The good news is that trust in business has stabilized. As you might imagine, trust in technology companies is at the top, while banks enjoy the lowest level of trust. Global trust in general declined, according to the barometer, because trust in government declined in many countries. Trust in business has recovered from the low 2008 recession-era levels but it isn’t growing.
Government appears to be the problem, when it comes to trust. “Government lacks the long-term thinking and popular support that is cross-border, complex and requiring fundamental rethinking,” said Richard Edelman. Business, however, “has recovered trust from the crisis period because it is seen as having made demonstrable strides in transparency, supply chain and product quality.”
For business today, establishing trust is far more about making good products, though that’s important. It’s about engagement, integrity and relationships at all levels. In fact, the Trust Barometer called for CEO to be redefined as Chief Engagement Officer. As boards and CEOs are less trusted, having employees who can speak about the company truthfully and positively is something that’s more believable than top-down communications. Interestingly, trust, too, is higher for privately held and family-owned businesses than public companies, except in Asia.
PEO members should review the Trust Barometer section on Leadership, an area of key concern for PEO members. “Trust in the person leading the company is inextricably linked with trust in the company itself.” To build trust, the most important actions include “communicating clearly and transparently (82 per cent) telling the truth, regardless of how complex or unpopular it is (81 per cent) and engaging with employees regularly (80 per cent).” Being visible during “challenging times” and “having an active media presence” were also important to respondents.
No wonder the Trust Barometer concluded, “We strongly urge business to take the chance to redefine value as being also about values, to connect with its stakeholders in a deeper manner by explaining the economic, societal and environmental context in which it seeks to operate.”
It is one thing, though, for an enterprising organization to talk about trust. But to fully engage the organization in being transparent and having positive values is another matter, given the nature of competition and the drive for success. It is up to us as leaders, though, to set aside mental energy to consider values as strongly as we are driving toward innovation and growth, some of the other touchstones of our recent Retreat and other conversations. We can really do no less for our own companies. Thanks so much to Lisa Kimmel for involving PEO in the Trust Barometer event.
For more information: http://www.edelman.com/insights/intellectual-property/2014-edelman-trust-barometer/.