Trust in CEOs is gone. Listen to employees instead.
Recently, Edleman revealed its annual trust barometer — a survey conducted for the past 20 years that gauges the public’s confidence with the media, government, businesses and NGOs. Across all four areas measured, the general public’s trust is at an all time low. The data speaks for itself: from 2016 to 2017, trust in NGOs declined from 55% to 53%, in the media from 48% to 43%, in government from 42% to 41%, and in business from 53% to 52%.
Especially troublesome is the wide gap between what the report calls “the modest trust of institutions of business and of government and a pitifully low level of confidence in their leaders.” Globally, trust in CEOs dropped 12 percentage points from 49% to 37%, a decline of nearly 25% in just a year. Of the 28 countries studies , only 18% indicated that CEOs were extremely or very credible. Following suit, Boards of directors also showed a sharp drop in trust from 45% to 35%.
According to Richard Edelman, “We have moved beyond the point of trust being simply a key factor in product purchase or selection of employment opportunity; it is now the deciding factor in whether a society can function.” He continues, “To rebuild trust and restore faith in the system, institutions must step outside of their traditional roles and work toward a new, more integrated operating model that puts people — and the addressing of their fears — at the center of everything they do.”
With faith in our business leaders’ credibility not only waning — but at an all time low — how can companies garner trust in their institutions? As with most organizational challenges, first start with culture.
The founder of the Virgin family of corporations, Sir Richard Branson has been quoted as saying, “The best way to take care of your customers is to take care of the employees who take care of your customers.” Sadly, most employees in today’s workplace do not feel taken care of. In fact, upwards of 60% feel disengaged with their jobs. And that disengagement fuels the growing distrust amongst the general public and the institutions they work for.
How, then, can companies both re-build trust with the general public and improve engagement in the workplace? Start with a desire to listen. Then, create a Voice of the Employee Program.
How to design a Voice of the Employee Program
A well designed Voice of the Employee (VoE) program is a system designed to not only gather information about the issues that matter to your employees, but to also gauge and interpret that information on a deeper level. When properly implemented a VoE system will give you the ability to look behind the curtain of what your employees say and see what really matters to them at their core. This view that is often difficult to see from the lofty heights of the top floor office suites.
1. Start at the Top
Like most important decisions, starting a VoE program needs to be supported from the top. Not only does it send a signal of importance to the entire company, but without the CEOs participation and leadership, a VOE program will not accomplish its end goal: re-establishing trust. the
2. Audit and Update Existing Programs
Most companies have some form of existing employee feedback system in place, some as simple as a suggestion corner in the lunchroom. The problem with most of these programs is not so much the lack of participation, but the lack of implementation. See my recent blog on how exit interviews can save billions.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Numerous studies have found that survey results can be skewed by how the questions are asked and, at times, even by the order that they are asked. The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Gallup has conducted extensive research on the best questions to ask employees to determine their level of engagement, and by consequence, their levels of trust with the organizations they work for. More on these questions can be found in my blog here. A variation on those questions can be found below:
1. Do you understand the strategic goals of the broader organization?
2. Do you know what you should do to help the company meet its goals and objectives?
3. Can you see a clear link between your work and the company’s goals and objectives?
4. Are you proud to be a member of your team?
5. Does your team inspire you to do your best work?
6. Does your team help you to complete your work?
7. Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?
8. Do you have a good understanding of informal structures and processes at the organization?
9. When something unexpected comes up in your work, do you usually know who to ask for help?
4. Listen, Integrate and Implement
A business, like the body, is not made up of independent parts. Instead, it It is made up of interdependent parts. By paying attention to the information gathered from one system about the function of the whole, greater insights can be gained.
For example, if customers provide feedback about a particular product or service, then you may want to look at the VoE information in those departments affecting it. What you believed was a sales or shipping issue might actually be a challenge in production or marketing.