People around the world have generally become more fearful, stressed and insecure since the COVID pandemic arrived to haunt them. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey for 2021 found that the pandemic has added to persistent personal and societal fears globally. This includes reduced trust in organizations. The pandemic is not the only cause for concern. In the United States alone, the nation is facing civil unrest, lack of faith in government and the ongoing controversial response to the Presidential election results from 2020. This has produced an overwhelming lack of trust in society’s institutions. Here are some thoughts on how to counter loss of organizational trust during the pandemic.
The survey showed that the pandemic has affected all of us and has reduced trust in various aspects of major societal institutions. As part of this, trust in all the main sources of information for people dropped to record low levels. The results for search engines, traditional media, owned media and social media all sank in this worldwide survey of 33,000 online respondents in 28 countries.This article identifies causes as well as ways to counter loss of organizational trust during the pandemic.
Search engines retained their ranking as the most trusted source of information with a rating of 53% trust. The worst ranking was social media at 35% trust.
The survey question asked them, “When looking for general news and information, how much would you trust each type of source for general news and information?”
As a result of communities’ lack of confidence caused by the pandemic, they tended to retreat their trust levels to institutions closer at hand to their life experience. In this case, their employer was the institution they trusted most. As shown in the image below, people’s trust in their employer was stable or higher in 18 of 27 countries around the world. This figure was well ahead of general trust in business, at 61%, NGOs at 57%, government at 53% and media generally at 51%.
Consistent with greater trust in their employer, people also rated their employer media as the most believable, at 61%, compared with other types of media, including advertising at 46% and their social media accounts at 39%.
Consistent with people’s concern about their future during the pandemic, the most important form of information they relied on was employer’s communication, which proved to be the most believable to them compared with media from further afield. In this case, their employer’s media rated 61% while six other media sources reduced progressively from there to low trust in their social media circles.
At the same time, people tended to rate the credibility of spokespersons lower than previously, except for government officials, who presumably were rated more highly because they were talking to the public about COVID measures. The image below shows the details.
The Edelman 2021 survey found the reasons whereby business would gain the most trust compared with the other societal institutions of business, NGOs, government and media. Respondents were asked, “Below is a list of institutions. For each one, please indicate how much you trust that institution to do what is right.”
The conclusion to draw from this is for employers to continue providing trustworthy information to their employees – to be honest and transparent. This will help employers contend with the trend of many employees resigning from organizations.
A Gallup report in 2018 on workplace trust advocated “three essential elements of a high-trust culture.” Clearly these elements would lead to a positive external culture as well. The three elements of a high-trust culture, according to Gallup, are:
In a 2021 O’Dwyer’s article, “The power of trust in times of crisis,” Donovan Roche wrote about “key key pillars for building trust during a crisis.” He said if you incorporate these into your go-forward communications strategy, you will be poised to increase confidence in your constituents while safeguarding your brand’s reputation:
Roche observed that:
So much goes into building trust: exuding credibility and consistency, being transparent and truthful, showing vulnerability and accountability, expressing empathy and compassion, and much more. But, as [recent events] made clear, when trust breaks down in any one of these areas, connections fall apart. Never underestimate the power of trust—and how it can impact your brand if gained or lost, particularly in times of crisis.
You may be interested to read further about this topic in my article, “Why trust is really important to your organization.”
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