Edelman Trust Barometer 2020

11 March 2020 | James Blake


The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 results have been published, and you could be forgiven for feeling a little bit down in the dumps about them.

Each year Communications Agency Edelman releases its Trust Barometer, its survey into the trust and credibility we have in our global organisations and institutions, specifically governments, business, NGOs and the media.

By quizzing 34,000 respondents from across 28 markets over a month, Edelman’s clever analysts create the barometer with fascinating insights into just how much or how little we trust our institutions.

The rather unsettling, headline-grabbing fact is that we don’t trust any of them.

The 2020 results reveal that people are clearly unsure about the future and their role in it. They are worried their jobs are going to be gobbled up by automation, AI, gloomy recessions or the emerging gig and freelance economy.

People are increasingly thinking the system is broken, unfair and unjust with governments squarely taking the blame for just serving the interests of the few and not the majority.

And if trust in our major organisations is at def con one crisis level, you can be assured that people inside the organisation aren’t going to feel great about their place of work either.

As Edelman says, it’s a bit of a wake-up call.

Trust and Ethics

Businesses need to find new ways of rebuilding trust by balancing business and financial competence with ethical behaviours, says the report.

People want to work for and be associated with an ethical business which walks the talk. In fact, according to Edelman, it’s three times as important to them than how competent a business is.

With our governments apparently failing, businesses and leaders are being expected to speak out, to do the leading instead of them and drive change in issues such as the environment and workplace diversity.

So much so, the barometer reveals a huge 92% of employees want to hear more from CEOs on topical issues.

And it’s not just existing staff, 73% of respondents said they expect a prospective employer to offer them the opportunity to shape the future of society positively.

So, it’s very clear we should be talking a lot more about our organisations’ sustainable or ethical programmes and encouraging employees to get involved and feel part of them.

Just being a competent business is not enough these days.

Of course on the plus side, this is all rather useful knowledge for internal communications teams to have.

Building trust through internal comms

Sharing real-life examples of the good you’re doing as an organisation and opening them up to questions and feedback is what people want from their CEO and senior leaders.

Some go further, giving their people the chance to take a trip down the supply chain to visit growers, farmers, producers and suppliers and see for themselves how their business is physically making a difference to them. They’ll use events, vlogs and blogs to hear directly from those who are benefitting.

It must be about stakeholders, your people, suppliers, partners and the communities you serve and work in rather than just keeping shareholders happy.

Honesty is key – trust won’t come if bad news or disappointing results are covered up and not communicated; it can only lead to rumour and people filling in the gaps with incorrect information.

Having easy to understand goals and strategies and believable and liveable values which everyone can buy into can really drive trust and pride back into the workplace too.

Trust in an organisation diminishes as you move down the food chain. The closer people feel they are to a CEO, the more they will feel they know them and can trust them and the business, so getting that buy-in from the top is vital.

Working together to drive engagement

As the Edelman Trust Barometer report states “when it comes to addressing issues and shaping the future, engaging employees in the solution is critical.”

‘Engaging employees’ is the important line here; building trust must be a two-way street.

If you listen to your employees, allow them to share their ideas on what can be improved, stopped, or changed then they are more likely to feel engaged about what they do and the workplace they do it in.

If they can co-create and own the solutions then even better.

Sometimes CEOs and senior leaders might not like what they hear, and it would be heartening to think that the governments and institutions highlighted in the Edelman Trust Barometer are having a few restless nights about how to turn around the results.

Working together and engaging their experts, i.e. their people, about how to win back and then keep their trust would be a great place for them to start.

For more on the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 visit: edelman.com/trustbarometer