Trust shifts in 2019: Employers lead NGOs, business, media and government

The Edelman Trust Barometer spotlights the need for leadership and employee engagement to build trust in organisations.

By Stephen Waddington

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reports modest rises in trust across all areas of society, coupled with widespread disenfranchisement.

It’s a contradiction that Edelman suggests is contributing to a rise in activism among business leaders, employees and the public.

Only 1 in 5 people believe that the system is working for them, with high levels of injustice, desire for change and lack of confidence.

Fears of jobs losses, lack of skills, the rise of automation and international trade are all contributing to pessimistic about the future.

Edelman cites the Gilet Jaunes protests in France, India’s Women’s Wall for equality, and various employee protests as examples of the public taking issues into its own hands.

Trust inequality gap

Edelman segments the public into two groups worldwide within its annual Trust Barometer.

The Informed Public makes up 16% of the population. It is aged 25 to 64, college educated, in the top 25% income per age group and reports significant media consumption. The Mass Population makes up the remaining 84%.

The data spotlights a growing 16% trust inequality gap between the Informed Public and Mass Population. The separation is driven by record spikes in developed markets such as the UK (24 points), Canada (20 points), France (18 points) and US (13 points).

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Among the Informed Public trust in NGOs (69%), Business (68%), Government (58%) and Media (58%) rose 4% across the board year-on-year. This figure for the Mass Population was similarly consistent at 3% with NGOs (56%), Business (56%), Government (47%) and Media (47%).

The Media and Government are consistently the least trusted institutions globally however data for Media is nuanced. Traditional media (65%) and search (65%) are the trusted forms of media, whereas social media (43%) is least trusted.

Public looks to business and employers to lead 

There’s a growing expectation by three-quarters of the public for business leaders to take a lead on change, rather than waiting for action by governments. Equal pay, discrimination, training, the environment and data privacy are all cited as areas where CEOs can make positive change.

Herein lies the lesson from Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer. The employer has emerged as the most trusted institution globally. Edelman suggests that a new contract has emerged between employer and employee.

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“This contract is predicated on companies taking four specific actions: lead on change, empower employees, start locally, and leadership,” said Edelman CEO Richard Edelman.

  • Lead on Change - establish an audacious goal that attracts socially-minded employees and make it a core business objective;

  • Empower Employees - keep employees directly informed on the issues of the day and give them a voice on your channels;

  • Start Locally - make a positive impact in the communities in which you operate; and

  • CEO Leadership - CEOs must speak up directly on issues of the day.

You can download a full copy of the Edelman Trust Barometer from the Edelman website.