At this point, practically every business leader knows that trust is vital to a company’s long-term success. Research has shown that a company loses 30% of its value when it loses trust, at least in the short term. Despite this, many businesses struggle to build or rebuild trust among their employees and customers. The private sector isn’t the only one dealing with a trust crisis. Recent research from the Edelman Trust Institute and Harvard Business School suggests that business is the most trusted sector. Public institutions, including the government, have lost a lot of public support, both in the U.S. and worldwide, with some experts arguing that the government needs an ethics enforcement overhaul. Historical universities have also lost public trust recently, as they’ve been called out for not doing enough to acknowledge and confront the “uglier” side of their histories.
All of this shows that organizations from every industry need to do more to build trust among the public. Yet, this can be difficult since it is challenging to determine what needs to change to build that trust successfully. According to a recent survey by PWC, which took responses from business executives, consumers, and employees, each group defined their levels of trust in an organization based on different factors. The top four elements of trust agreed upon were:
- Data protection and cybersecurity
- Treating employees well
- Ethical business practices
- Admitting mistakes quickly and honestly
However, different groups had different priorities beyond these four elements. Business leaders tend to have a broader view of trust, including topics like responsible AI and various subjects related to broader social impact. At the same time, employees stress the importance of holding company leadership accountable. As such, an organization needs actionable information on how its customers and employees think to enact meaningful change.
Before enacting a trust-building initiative, you need to know what “trust” means to your specific audience, their priorities, what drives trust for them, and where you stand today. A strong, consistent tone of voice can help you build trust with your audience and make your communication more effective. Your language must be tailored to the channels you’re using while still sounding human and relatable. Also, be sure that you have all of your bases covered. While most businesses understand the need to build trust among their employees and customers, it is also crucial to maintain trust among suppliers and other partners. Poor communication or a lack of cultural fit can drive various issues down the line.
The last few years have been rough on everyone, wearing down trust across all major channels. Now is the right time for leaders to protect, build, and manage trust as carefully as they manage their balance sheets. By taking stock of what consumers, employees, and other key stakeholders care about, businesses can develop a strategy that meets everyone’s unique needs while building trust that generates short-term and long-term gains.