For the past 17 years, the folks at Edelman have been surveying the people of the Earth to find out who they trust, who they don’t trust and why. Governments are often on shaky ground and the media comes and goes, but this year the survey respondents didn’t have any favorites. In fact, they came back with the largest-ever drop in trust across all four of the measured institutions: government, business, media and NGOs (non-profits).
In short, we don’t trust anybody anymore.
Media took the biggest hit with a decline of 5 points. Just slightly over 50% of those surveyed said they trusted businesses and NGO. Government trust only dropped 1 point, but they were already – and still remain – the least trusted institution in half of the countries surveyed.
But it’s not just the institutions themselves that have failed us, people have given up on people, too. Though government leaders are still the least credible people on the planet, CEO credibility dropped 12 points, hitting an all-time low.
It’s shocking, but not really surprising; not with arrest warrants going out to Volkswagen executives.
Who do we trust? 60% of respondents said they’re more likely to trust company information from an average Joe, than a technical or academic expert.
They’re also more willing to listen to an employee than a CEO on topics such as employee/customer relations (53%), financial earnings (38%), crises (37%), innovation (33%), industry issues (32%) or programs addressing societal issues (30%).
That last part is the silver lining for companies battling to protect or save their reputations. Instead of putting your CEO behind a podium, set your employees loose on social media. If this survey is to be believed, they’ll have a much better chance of swaying public opinion that you’ll have with press releases and promises.
Of course, you’ll have to gain your employees’ trust before they’ll speak on your behalf and that could be tricky.
A majority of the global population surveyed worries about losing their jobs due to the impacts of globalization (60%), lack of training or skills (60%), immigrants who work for less (58%), jobs moving to cheaper markets (55%) and automation (54%).
As if that wasn’t bad enough, 53% of those surveyed said “the current overall system has failed them—it is unfair and offers little hope for the future.”
On the upside, survey respondents said that businesses were the only one of the four institutions capable of making a difference in their community.
Kathryn Beiser, global chair of Edelman’s Corporate practice says,
“Business is the last retaining wall for trust. Its leaders must step up on the issues that matter for society. It has done a masterful job of illustrating the benefits of innovation but has done little to discuss the impact those advances will have on people’s jobs.”
Regaining the public’s trust won’t be easy but it starts with honesty, transparency and leadership. Profits are important; it’s what keeps the doors open and the paychecks coming. But it can’t be “profits above all else”.
Time for a little soul searching. If Edelman surveyed your customers, employees and the people in your community, where would your company fall on the old Trust Barometer?