CEOs and Employees: A Matter of Trust
By David Kiger
Few things are as important in business as trust. In ideal scenarios, clients should be able to trust that the product or service is of high quality, and employees would trust the CEO for the vision and direction of the company.
A recent study shows that trust in CEOs is lacking. Lucy Handley reports on this for CNBC, examining the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer. The survey included 33,000 people in 28 countries, and just 37 percent said that CEOs are “credible or very credible as spokespeople,” Handley writes. That’s a 12 percent decrease from the previous year, and the lowest since 2001, when the survey began.
“There is a crisis of public trust in business, institutions, government and non-governmental organizations, according to a global report by public relations agency Edelman,” Handley writes.
Trust is of course earned, and not automatically given. Here are several ways for CEOs to earn trust within their companies.
This is an essential part of earning trust, the ability to openly communicate with employees, including stating clear goals and active listening. Peer-to-peer communication has taken a greater importance as well, Handley writes, in regards to the Edelman trust survey:
“Employees should be more of a focus in business, the report also suggests. General staff are now seen by the public as the most trusted spokespeople to communicate industry views, innovation efforts and business practices, ahead of the CEO, senior executives and others, according to the report. Thirty-eight percent trust employees to communicate financial earnings and operational performance, versus 20 percent who trust the CEO, for example.”
As Edelman CEO Richard Edelman notes in the story: “Companies talk to their employees last, and that is a mistake, that’s crazy. If you look at the data, the CEO is half as credible on all subjects as the employees.”
Connect with employees
Here’s an easier-said-than-done concept, but an important one. There is significant effort required in truly connecting with employees, and it can’t be done in just occasional meetings or memos from the top. Chris Oberbeck, CEO of Saratoga Investment Corp., explores this in a story for Entrepreneur.
“Most times, connecting with your employees may require that you disconnect,” he writes. “Get away from emails and technology, and use face-to-face interactions to help build trust. Nothing builds confidence as much as shaking someone’s hand or looking them in the eye. As a CEO, making real connections may be as simple as demystifying yourself to your employees, many of whom may never have met you. Company-wide events like team-building retreats and company parties are great for morale. Get to know your team as much as possible and, most importantly, let them get to know you.”
We’ve noted the importance of transparency, and it certainly applies in building trust with employees. By maintaining an open and highly communicative approach, a CEO allows staff members to better understand the company vision and direction. In a Fox Business story about Glassdoor’s highest-rated CEOs, Rami Rahim of Juniper Networks discusses the benefits of transparency.
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