Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer and Shifted Employee Expectations

With media and governments trust reaching an all-time low, businesses have become the most trusted institutions in the world. Corporations are seen as the only institutions that are both competent and ethical, putting immense pressure upon consumer facing brands to provide stability and guidance for the people that purchase, endorse, and produce their products and services.

Last year, Edelman found that a company’s ethical drivers like integrity, dependability, and purpose were three times more important to earning the population’s trust than competence. 73% of the 2020 Trust Barometer’s respondents believe a company can take action to both increase profits and improve conditions in communities where it operates. Additionally, 87% of the population believed stakeholders, not shareholders, are more important to the long-term success of a corporation.

In reality, employees trust their employer 26.4% more then they even trust nonprofit organizations.

In Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer, the media and its credibility are addressed repeatedly following a difficult year of suspected misinformation and bias. Overall trust in general news and information sources such as search engines, news outlets, owned media, and social media all dropped by at least six points in 2020.

Communications regarding news and media received from an employer are perceived to be most legitimate and most often, automatically assumed to be true, while 59% of people believe most news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology or political position than informing the public.

After a devastating year, 62% of respondents feel that employees and 68% of respondents feel that consumers have the power to force corporations to change, which is a stronger mindset than the previous year of simply believing stakeholders are more important to long-term change.

One consistency upheld throughout the turmoil has been respondents’ expectations of their CEOs. In 2020, 92% of people felt it was important for employers’ CEOs to speak out on one or more issues. Following the pandemic, 86% of the population believes CEOs must lead on one or more societal issues. Additionally, 74% believe CEOs should take the lead on change rather than wait for government to impose changes.

Although just a year apart, the 2020 and 2021 Trust Barometers show a desperate world population in need of leadership. Steadily decreasing trust and a shift of focus from inequality and leadership to misinformation and safety have forced employees to find refuge in an alternative source, their employers and CEOs.

As new physical, social, and environmental difficulties that face our world continue to present themselves, it becomes more evident that corporations provide a much larger benefit to employees than simply a paycheck and vice versa. By matching the expectations of the emerging generations, corporations will continue to foster growth in our unknown future.