Trust and loyalty are difficult to come by in the professional world. While the millennial generation seems happy enough to job-hop their way to the top, more and more employers are looking for ways to increase employee loyalty within their organizations. Finding new and trustworthy employees is difficult and expensive, and even as many people are willing to lie on their resumes to get the job they want, most wouldn’t want their employers betraying their confidence in similar fashion.
But there have been signs that the tides are turning. Employers have started to implement new ways to keep employees around, and the numbers show that more raises and promotions are being handed out to loyal, long-time workers. That means there is at least some sort of divide being bridged between management and labor, in some organizations.
When we dig a little deeper, however, it becomes clear that there’s still a wide gulf when it comes to confidence in our employers. The latest Trust Barometer report from Edelman all but confirms it. The annual report, now in its 16th iteration, took the pulse of tens of thousands of workers, in an effort to see just how much trust (or distrust) is prevalent in the economy.
The findings? A lot of workers are very skeptical of their bosses, and the companies they work for. In concert, that impacts productivity, can lead to a toxic workplace, and hurts the bottom line.
This is a wake-up call for any business leader who underestimates the importance of building trust with employees,” said Nick Howard, executive director of Edelman’s employee engagement business in Europe in an accompanying press release. “Edelman’s special report on Employee Advocacy shows that non-trusting employees are far less likely to say good things about their employer. And worryingly, the bad things they say will be believed by consumers.”
Here are five of the chief reasons Edelman’s Trust Barometer says employees don’t trust their employers. Do you agree with any of them?
Where there’s a lack of engagement and communication, there’s a lack of trust. We see the same dynamic at play in our personal relationships, and that extends to the employee-employer relationship as well. When there are limited lines of communication and engagement, skepticism bubbles up. You start to worry about potential changes that you may be missing. It’s difficult to manage — and employers who keep employees in the dark are feeding distrust and discontent in their ranks.
It also leads people to believe there is something to hide, which obviously leads to distrust.
2. Short-term thinking
“Short-termism” is when a company or leadership team puts short-term profits ahead of an organization’s long-term goals and survival. It’s how you end up with car companies cutting corners like GM or Volkswagen’s recent scandals, or how we end up with huge disasters like Deepwater Horizon. It’s about making the quarterly numbers look good, at the expense of long-term projections. And employees hate it.
“More than two-thirds of people feel that CEOs are too focused on short-term financial results,” said Howard.
3. Belief in the company
Do you believe in your employer? That is, do you believe in the company’s mission and purpose? People want to work for employers who are addressing society’s needs, and positively impacting their communities. That may mean taking measures to protect the environment, or simply taking care of employees so that they can afford life’s necessities without struggling. But there’s an evident gap in Edelman’s numbers that show employers are coming up short. And that breeds distrust and contempt.
4. Product quality
This is a call back to the discussion around “short-termism.” People trust companies that create and sell high-quality, reliable products and services. It’s easy to work for a company that puts pride into its work, and pumps out products people love. Think of companies like Apple, for example. If you can personally stand behind your employer’s products, it’s easy to trust them.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of a Comcast employee. You’re consistently fielding calls from angry customers about being overcharged, and how their service is out. That’s going to take a toll on your pysche, and how much you trust your company.
Most of these other points boil down to this: ethics. While we’re all taught to act ethically, so many headlines fill the newspapers and cable news networks about corporations or individuals taking short cuts, ultimately earning a big pay day at the expense of everyone else. We saw ethics go out the window during the financial crisis, and by decisions made at (again) GM and Volkswagen.
Employees want to work for ethical companies, who aren’t doing shady things, and are cleaning up after themselves. If they don’t, then what kind of example are they setting? It becomes hard to trust your company, and its leadership, when all kinds of unethical behavior is being exhibited.
If your own employees don’t trust you, you can bet that customers won’t trust you either.