February 1, 2022
For 22 years, global communications company Edelman has followed the topic of trust in global business. There have been a tremendous amount of ebbs and flows, disruptions and changes, but few have matched the upheaval in who people turn to for trusted information than the last two years. Elections. Pandemics. Governmental upheaval. Climate change. Supply chain disruption. I won’t ask “what more?” because I’m afraid it’s just waiting to crawl out from underneath the bed and scare the bejeezus out of all of us. And I’ve had enough of that.
With all this crazy going on, it’s impossible for companies to take a “business as usual” approach. But where does one even start to get grounded? It’s really about going back to the fundamentals: Trust.
The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer shows what dire straits we’ve gotten ourselves into. Having studied trust and credibility since 2000, Edelman has seen this is how organizations build true relationships with those that matter.
“For a business, especially, lasting trust is the strongest insurance against competitive disruption, the antidote to consumer indifference, and the best path to continued growth. Without trust, credibility is lost and reputation can be threatened.”
What did the Edelman team find this year, and how’s it different from 2021?
Top 10 findings
1. Distrust is now society’s default emotion.
Almost 60% of respondents say their default is to distrust something unless they see evidence it’s trustworthy. Another 64% say that we can’t even have constructive and civil debates about what we believe. When distrust is the default, it’s impossible to debate or collaborate.
2. Of the studied institutions, business is once again the most trusted.
It’s not just that people trust businesses more, it’s that they trust their own employer. That puts a lot of weight on today’s employer and employee relationship.
3. Government and media fuel a cycle of distrust.
Nearly 50% of people who responded find both government and the media guilty for the divisive environment we’re in. Interestingly, these two groups are also views as the least trusted leaders in society today.
4. News sources fail to fix their trust problem.
None of the major information sources are trusted as a source of general news and information.
5. Fake news concerns are at an all-time high.
Edelman points out that concerns over fake news or false information being used as a weapon is now at an all-time high of 76%.
6. There is a collapse of trust in democracies.
In many of the democracies studied, institutes are trusted by less than half of their people. Add to that, no developed countries believe their families and self will be better off five years from now.
7. Societal fears on the rise.
Without faith that institution will solve the problems before us, the fears of society are becoming more intense – 85% are worried about job loss and 75% stress about climate change.
8. Business needs to step up on societal issues.
Even though business tops government in trust, the public believes leaders still aren’t doing enough to deal with the problems before us. This includes topics such as climate change, economic inequality, workforce reskilling, and trustworthy information.
9. Societal leadership is now a core function of business.
When candidates think about a potential employer, 60% want the CEO to speak out on controversial issues they care about. Add to that 80% of the general population want CEOs to be personally visible when discussing public policy or work their company has done to benefit society. They’re expected to shape conversations and policy on jobs and the economy, wage inequity, technology and automation, and global warming and climate change.
10. Business must lead in breaking the cycle of distrust.
Across every single issue, and by a huge margin, people want more engagement from business, not less. They role and expectation for business has never been clearer, and business must recognize that its societal role is here to stay.
What’s the impact on innovation?
When people have learned to distrust until they have evidence to believe otherwise, everyone operates under a spotlight so bright no one’s immune to beads of perspiration. Trying to build an external perception of a trust institution can lead to back-stabbing and scape-goating inside. Unless that fundamental element of trust is infused internally first.
The very foundation of innovation is trust. Before a business, much less the government, the media, or NGOs can venture forth to solve the big problems before us, there has to be a focus on building trusted leadership first.
Don’t, however, confuse compliance with trust. Institutions may comply with the law, employees may comply with leadership directives, but that doesn’t mean trust is present.
We need to lead by example to build trust. In order to create an environment of trust, you have to extend trust first and show that you, as a leader, are trustworthy. This is how employees feel safe exploring new opportunities and taking on challenges without fear of repercussions. It’s also how collaboration builds, more ideas get shared by more people, and employee engagement grows – even when we’ve had a crazy work environment for more than two years.
As a leader, you may have your head down taking care of business. But unless you put trust front and center, you won’t have much business to take care of.
Download your copy of the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer here.