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Business ranked more trustworthy than government

Business has outstripped NGOs, government and the media as the only trusted institution on the annual Edelman Trust Barometer.

Trust in government and media declined globally from 2021 to 2022 to a ‘neutral’ yet business maintained a trust level of 61%.

In the UK, 76% of employees also said they trusted their employer, a rise of five percentage points on 2021.

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Speaking to HR magazine, CEO of culture consultancy The TCM Group David Liddle, said this rise was encouraging.

Referencing recent scandals like Downing Street parties for their erosion of government trust, he said: “There were no real surprises in how low the levels of trust are in our public institutions.

“But high trust between employers and employees is really reassuring.”

The reason behind employees’ higher trust in organisations, Liddle added is that there is a direct correlation between high trust environments and “happier, healthier, more harmonious but critically higher performing organisations.”

Reinforced trust in organisations however results in heightened expectations.

Business was ranked as capable as NGOs at taking the lead on solving societal problems (both 55%), and the majority of respondents (65%) said they felt business was able to execute successful plans that yield results.

Yet most people said business has failed in their climate change solutions and pandemic response (69% and 57% respectively).

Megan Reitz, professor of leadership and dialogue at Hult International Business School, told HR magazine: “Leaders have grown up assuming leadership involves knowing the answer, in a narrow range of business focused issues and compelling employees to deliver.

“They are bewildered at the pace with which employee expectations now require them to engage with a wide range of problems (some of which the leaders know little about), which defy a right answer and require shared decision-making.”

Listening to employees and acting on any issues raised, Reitz added, is how employers can continue to reinforce trust.

She said: “Silencing them, attempting to ignore the issues employees care about or continuing to sit on the fence will cost dearly and may lead to a decline in the trust enjoyed in business that the Edelman Barometer measures.”

For HR leaders looking to leverage this reinforced trust to improve company culture, Liddle said that the profession may need a transformation.

“When the HR function is wedded to retributive systems, viewed with suspicion, and as reactive rather than proactive, it’s a potential existential threat to the role that HR plays in the modern workplace.

“If HR were to transform into a truly independent people and culture function, and policy, procedures were people centred, aligned more with protecting relationships, rather than risk managing, then the people function could become singly the most strategically important function in the firm.”