These are just a handful of headlines from the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, indicating that now, more than ever, employees look to their employers for truth and critical information. From developing a vaccine in record time, to finding new ways to work during a crippling pandemic, to safeguarding information quality through historic divisiveness, business has emerged as the most trusted institution, surpassing government and NGOs.
- 68% of respondents believe CEOs should step in where the government does not take action.
- 66% of respondents believe CEOs should take initiative without waiting for the government to impose change.
- 65% of respondents believe CEOs should hold themselves accountable to the public and not just to shareholders or investors. And 62% believe employees have the power to force corporations to change.
In a crisis of leadership, exacerbated by isolation and disengagement, we see people turning inwards — towards their communities and those close to them. With unemployment at record highs, 84% of respondents are afraid for their jobs and seeking reskilling opportunities to remain competitive in a bleak market. As we have read too many times this year, we are living in unprecedented times. And people are turning to their CEOs for answers, for guidance, and — frankly — for comfort.
At first blush, this does not feel very businesslike. But what is business, if not a group of highly engaged individuals, working towards a common goal? And as more and more companies look to build out their digital workplace, CEOs who take this as a rallying cry to foster connection and community amongst their entire employee-base will have a unique edge. Because at the very core, as people, we are most engaged — most dedicated — when we have a sense of connection and belonging.
So now, more than ever, it is the task of executive leadership to ensure there is a platform where employees can receive critical information, no matter if they are knowledge workers or frontline workers. For example, companies need to be thinking through which tools they will use to quickly disseminate important Covid 19 safety or vaccination information. Or how they keep employees updated on company initiatives around career growth as we emerge from this time and begin to reshape our organizations.
It is also the task of leaders to be thinking about technologies and strategies that can help them address a growing sense of isolation in a more dispersed workforce. How can they create a sense of belonging in an often virtual space where employees can not only receive and access truthful information, but also have a place where they can engage with each other, their managers, or their brand. It is time to rethink the intranet and move beyond an email strategy that no longer works for everyone. Organizations need to shift their thinking from simply disseminating information to initiating meaningful conversations, moving an informed workforce into action.
Four steps are listed in the closing slide of the Edelman Trust Barometer for emerging from information bankruptcy:
- Business: embrace expanded mandate.
- Lead with facts, act with empathy.
- Provide trustworthy content.
- Don’t do it alone.
In the age of misinformation, business leaders must continue to dedicate themselves fully to information access, knowing it is a launchpad for cultivating trust, connection, and belonging.
For more on how to build genuine engagement, read the Gartner report, “Eight Steps for Modernizing Employee Communication In The Digital Workplace”.