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CONNECTIONS

An Edelman perspective on making meaningful employee
connections that deepen engagement, build trust
and accelerate business performance

HOW TO BUILD EMPLOYEE TRUST AND INCREASE
BUSINESS PERFORMANCE
Employee Engagement Insights from the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer

By Christopher Hannegan and Nick Howard, Employee Engagement Co-Leads
The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer is a wake-up call for business leaders who have failed to consider the
importance of employee trust. For the first time ever, we added specific questions to our global survey to collect
data on employees’ trust in companies. And the results were surprising. One in three people don’t trust the
company for which they work. Since employee engagement is critical to building trust among stakeholders,
organizations are at risk of harming their reputations and hindering business performance if they don’t take action
to close the trust gap.
Find out more about the results and the actions you can take to build employee trust.

Inversion of Organizational Influence
In addition, we learned that trust decreases as you go
lower in an organization, with:
• 64% of executives trusting their companies
• 51% of managers trusting their companies
• And 48% of rank and file employees trusting their
companies

Increasing Influence of Experts, Peers,
and Employees
When it comes to forming opinions about companies,
consumers view experts, peers, and employees as the
most trusted sources, even more so than the CEO. In
fact, employees are the most trusted source on how
businesses perform, operate, manage crises, and treat
their people.
So if you’re not already tapping your employees to be
company spokespeople, you should be. Enabling
employees to share your stories externally with
consumers can heighten your organization’s brand
awareness and improve its perception in the market.
However, before you turn your employees into
advocates, you need to ensure they trust your
organization. And currently only 65% of people globally
trust the company for which they work.

So what does it mean to be a leader when there’s a
division of trust, where influence no longer flows from
the top down but the bottom up? It means the old
ways of leadership won’t work. Senior leaders need to
build relationships with employees – the same way they
do with customers, partners, and investors. Similar rules
apply: Be honest. Do what you say you’ll do. Admit
when you’re wrong. Provide context. And listen. It’s far
easier to trust a human being with a face, name, and
values than a title on a business card.

CEO’s Behavior Affects Employee Trust
Building trust is also not just what you say – it’s about
what you do. Employees want their organizations and
the people who lead them to be motivated by more
than just profit and business performance. In fact,
employees said they are more likely to perform better,
recommend the company’s products and services,
and stay with the organization if the CEO is actively
and visibly engaged in societal issues.

© 2016 Edelman

In a world where purpose matters and peer influence
is paramount, your employees are the gateway to
connecting authentically and earning the trust of the
broader population.

Ways to Activate Employee Trust
With that said, here are seven key ways to activate
employee trust to increase business performance.
1.

Start by thinking about your employees and your
customers in the same way. Ensure that the
quality of communications to your people is the
same as your communications to customers,
investors, and other external stakeholders.

2.

Support your leaders by helping them engage
employees to build trust. In particular, and
especially for your CEO, help your leaders
describe to employees the ways in which the
company is a positive force for good in society.

3.

Develop an easy to remember and repeat story
that has a positive force for good at its heart.
Don’t settle for only describing your business
strategy to employees. Show them how this
strategy delivers something truly worthwhile to
the world, beyond corporate profit.

4.

Bring this story to life with real proof points that
are evidence of your good work. Make sure
these proof points recognize your employee
heroes – those whose actions and behaviors
demonstrate the value you bring to the world.

5.

Enable employees to share your story and proof
points with each other and the wider world. Give
them shareable content and a simple platform
that lets them publish content to their own social
networks.

6.

Track employee engagement on an ongoing
basis. Listen continuously to your employees. You
wouldn’t gauge your customer engagement
efforts on a wing and a prayer, so adopt the
same rigor and discipline when it comes to your
employees.

7.

And, finally, make sure your internal
communications team has the capability,
resources and structure to make all this happen.
Recognize that this may be quite a different type
of team than what you needed only a few years
ago.

About Us
Edelman Employee Engagement helps organizations
accelerate business performance, delivered by highly
engaged and trusted employees. For more
information, visit us at ee.edelman.com or follow us on
Twitter at @EdelmanEE.

For more information about the 2016 Edelman Trust
Barometer findings, please contact Nick Howard or
Christopher Hannegan.

© 2016 Edelman