Employee trust has declined since 2022, study finds

69% of employees said that employers will do the right thing for society, down from 78%

Trust that employers will do the right thing for employees has declined from 80% in 2022 to 69%, Mercer's latest research has revealed.

Analysts also found that 45% of HR leaders rated their organisational culture as low trust. These findings were included within the 2024 Global Talent Trends report launched yesterday (6 March) by Mercer, a financial consultancy firm. 

The report revealed that employees pointed to employers breaking promises on promotions, raises and career opportunities as the main reason for the decline in trust.

The second driving factor for low trust was frequent organisational change. Unfair or unequal treatment was the third.

Mercer's study also highlighted that, for employees in the UK, a sense of belonging was the number one thing that made them thrive at work. This was followed by working for an organisation with a purpose that they are proud of, and feeling valued for their contributions.

More than two thirds (69%) of employees indicated that they believe their employers will do the right thing for society, down from 78% during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Simon White, chief people officer for the employee engagement app business Blink, said: “Employee trust is integral to a company’s success because mistrust is simply a distraction. 

Read more: Breaching the policy paradox: rebuilding trust in HR

“If employees are spending their lives wondering what their employer is really doing or thinking, it’s hugely demotivating and limits their capacity to do great work.”

White added that HR could build employees’ trust by training managers to include them in company decisions.

He continued: “HR’s key role in building trust is showing good judgement and enabling managers to foster positive work cultures. 

“Good judgement means treating employees like adults and sharing as much important company information with them as possible, so they feel included and valued by the business.

“Of course, there are always going to be exceptions to this. But focusing on what you can share versus what you can’t helps them feel like an important part of the team, rather than someone to be excluded.”

Speaking to HR magazine, Pete Cooper, director of people partners and DEI at Personio, said: “Trust in an organisation doesn’t just increase through being transparent on compensation and rewards, or by giving top-down updates on strategy.

“Conducting employee surveys to understand pain points and pressures are also vital in growing trust among the workforce, with half of employees agreeing that transparency on employee surveys would improve their impression of their company.”

Read more: Majority of UK companies plan increased pay transparency

Kate Bravery, Mercer’s global leader in talent advisory and insight, told HR magazine that employers attempting to rebuild organisational trust could ensure equity to help employers feel more valued.

She said: “Cut off inequity at the source. Tackle the root causes of pay, health and career inequities, and put in place guardrails to ensure that AI doesn’t perpetuate them. 

“Adapt HR practices to meet employees’ standards of fairness and design for longer term health and wealth outcomes.”

Bravery added that creating an environment where employers could be themselves would improve trust in their organisation.

She said: “Foster a sense of belonging by creating an environment in which people feel comfortable bringing their authentic self to work.

“Enable managers to encourage diversity in all forms and encourage everyone to solve business problems and openly flag concerns. 

“Take a hard look at how fairness is perceived by workers at all levels.”

Mercer consulted 12,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders, employees and investors globally.