A Business Case for Engendering Trust in Your Company

Building and maintaining organizational 
and market trust can yield great 
dividends for companies
In the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual trust and credibility study, the world’s largest public relations firm found that people’s trust levels in business fell in 16 of the 27 countries surveyed. The findings revealed that the people’s trust in business declined in two-thirds of the markets and now sits below 50 percent in the majority of countries – the worst showing since 2008.

Although the once-impenetrable technology industry remains the most trusted of all industry sectors (at 78 percent), declines across all tech-based industries were visible in the latest findings.

Needless to say, this widespread disintegration of trust is troubling for business.

Today, trust can be considered an economic driver. When trust goes up, so too does the ability to engage, to reduce costs, to partner, to innovate, to attract and to retain talent.

The ability to establish, grow, extend and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, investors and coworkers – is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy,” Stephen M. R. Covey,  co-founder and CEO of CoveyLink, states in his bestselling book The Speed of Trust.

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The Speed of Trust delves into how trust can yield great dividends within organizations. In the book, Covey’s “Five Waves of Trust” model serves as the structure for understanding trust and making it actionable – to create trust, to inspire trust, to extend trust and to be trusted. This model establishes a “ripple effect” that highlights how trust flows from the inside out. It defines the five contexts in which we establish trust, beginning with self-trust and extending to our relationships with others and on into our organizations. From there, it expands into markets and into our communities and society as a whole.

Recently, I led a seminar and discussion with the MasterControl leadership team on many of the principles found in Covey’s book. Establishing and maintaining a high-trust environment is essential to our business and to our customers. Our leadership training focused heavily on organizational and market trust.

Organizational trust has to do with aligning an organization’s structures and systems to decrease “trust taxes” and increase “trust dividends.”
  • Low-trust organizational taxes are redundancy, bureaucracy, office politics, staff disengagement, employee turnover, churn and fraud.
  • High-trust dividends are increased value, accelerated growth, enhanced innovation, improved collaboration, stronger partnering, better execution and heightened loyalty.
If people within the organization don’t feel trusted by their leaders or peers, all kinds of problems can occur and become “taxes” on the organization’s performance. Yet when leaders increase trust within the organization, all sorts of benefits can occur and become “dividends” for the organization. I don’t know of any organization that would not desire such benefits. Successful organizations engender trust as a key element of their core beliefs and values.

Market trust is all about an organization’s reputation or brand, the value of which is typically based on the amount of trust it has in the marketplace. People in the marketplace are more likely to buy more from reputable companies they trust, stay with them longer and even refer business to them. It is not surprising that the most successful companies are quickly associated with earning high trust marks with their partners and customers.

Societal trust is based on the principle of meaningful contributions to those around us or to society in general. When organizations try to make a profit at any cost, trust is lost. In Edelman’s 2015 trust findings, 81 percent of respondents agreed that a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates. When company leaders understand their business can deliver both economic and societal benefits, they are better positioned to build public trust and benefit from high-trust dividends.

Building trust is essential to successfully bringing new products and services to market, and building trust in new business innovations requires that companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, behave with integrity and engage with customers and stakeholders throughout the process,” Edelman stated.

The ability to establish and maintain trust is crucial to business success today. It isn’t easy, but our best efforts in building and extending trust can bring extraordinary results in many ways.

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Kevin Ash is senior vice president of services for MasterControl and has more than 25 years of experience in software implementation, professional consulting, technical services and business management. Over that time, Ash has managed all aspects of the delivery of MasterControl's services, including professional and validation services, project management, technical support and education services. Prior to joining MasterControl in 2005, Ash served as senior services product manager at Symantec Corp. and held executive-level positions at several technology companies. He may be reached at kash@mastercontrol.com.

1) “2015 Edelman Trust Barometer,” Edelman, January 2015. http://www.edelman.com/insights/intellectual-property/2015-edelman-trust-barometer/

2) “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything,” Stephen M. R. Covey, 2008 (Reprint). http://www.amazon.com/The-SPEED-Trust-Changes-Everything-ebook/dp/B000MGATWG