The trust and employee engagement statistics are in, and both are discouraging. Each report is a leadership jolt, yet many leaders still seem asleep at their desks. Trust and employee engagement continue to falter.


From the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer:

  • The United States faced the strongest decline in trust, a 37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions – government, non-governmental organizations, business, and media
  • Trust in journalism rose 5 points while trust declined for social platforms
  • On the business front:
    • 72 percent say the they trust their employer to do what is right
    • 7 in 10 say that building trust is the number one job for CEOs
    • 64 percent say they want CEOs take on policy changes without waiting for the government
    • Trust in U.S. headquartered companies fell 5 points in the past year and 11 points since 2014

Employee Engagement

Moving to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, the following statistics stand out:

  • Worldwide, only 15 percent of adults who work for an employer are “highly involved and enthusiastic about their work and workplace”
  • Businesses that are in the top quartile of employee engagement are 21 percent more profitable than those in the bottom quartile
  • The U.S. fares better with 33 percent engaged at work
  • Western Europeans do worse with only 10 percent engaged at work
  • The best-managed companies (top quartile) have as many as 70 percent engaged at work

The Trust and Engagement Mix

An interesting divergence appears in the business statistics. While trust declines across the board, individuals want business leaders to step up to address policy issues and also make building trust their number one objective. While there is trust in business leaders, trust in U.S. headquartered businesses fell.

The other divergence is employees placing faith in CEOs to do the right thing yet engagement within many companies is subpar.

Pairing trust to employee engagement is necessary to raise the standards of both.

Platform Trust

While trust in journalism rises, trust in social platforms fall. Even with these facts, two-thirds of people say they get their news from the platforms. The truth gets fuzzy, with nearly 60 percent saying that they do not know where the truth lies. The boisterous voices about “fake news” do not help and exhibit poor leadership. With negative leadership voices, it makes sense that journalism rises to the challenge of delivering more trustworthy news.

The platform challenge continues, and platforms, like Facebook, know it is an important. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, George Soros was very vocal about the social platforms, stating:

“Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment.”

He goes on to make his point:

“The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called ‘the freedom of mind’. There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences.”

If business leaders want to make trust their number one mission and also step up to lead with trusted policies, then Facebook and Google in particular need to take on this challenge more aggressively and transparently. Other platforms, like Twitter, need to do the same, especially in light of the number of fake accounts.

With social platforms, we are at a crossroads. The reality: Some mix of governmental and business policy is necessary, yet the strength of character for either to step up fully to this responsibility is unlikely. We have a growing leadership gap within government and an abundant one with leaders and companies.

Four Areas to Reboot to Raise Trust and Engagement

In another survey conducted by NBC News/GenForward, 63 percent of Millennials feel our country is on the wrong track with only 18 percent believing that we are generally headed in right direction. Disapproval of President Trump is high, as it is for Congress. Millennials believe that organizations and community groups are more effective at producing real change. Overall, 59 percent of Millennials are optimistic and believe they can make a difference, even in politics. A positive outlook and actions are needed to improve trust and engagement.

Millennials vote, and they are in leadership positions. Their presence will continue to grow, as it does with any new generation. However, we cannot afford to wait. Each generation needs to step up. We need to begin now.

trust and engagementMindset: Problem Solving Replaces Solution Avoidance

In Congress, avoiding solutions is an art. The list of problems to be solved is long:

  • Eroding public infrastructure (e.g., bridges)
  • Rising federal debt
  • Increasing health care costs and a growing aging population
  • Challenging Social Security metrics along with an escalating aging population
  • Mounting privacy concerns in an increasingly connected world and Smart City technologies

Avoiding solutions does not rest with Congress alone. Too many business leaders kick the can down the road. What happens is:

  • Less innovation and greater catchup
  • More competitive barriers arise
  • Stalled product and service development
  • Shrinking profitability and market share
  • Fixed mindsets displace growth ones, and most initiatives (and people) get stuck

We need to stop avoiding solutions and start solving real problems with real solutions. Trust and engagement will grow when we act in good faith.

Solutions: Policy Replaces Politics

No matter if government or business, playing politics is taking over the process and culture. We need to stop certain individuals and groups from positioning and start having conversations on policy. Here’s a starting point:

  • Define the situation
  • Analyze the facts
  • Argue, deliberate, give, take, and do so with integrity
  • Synthesize the findings and formulate new policies
  • Move forward

Removing politics adds trust. Focusing on policy enhances engagement.

Actions: Collaborate Diversely Replaces Inciting an Identity

Maybe it is similar to politics, but it is worse. You can feel a tightening within our culture. By culture, it expands to our communities, companies, organizations, states, and nation. We have a culture in each, and it is becoming narrow. Whether through greater data analysis or demographic divisiveness, we align more to those who are alike. We need to mix it up and reject the identy alignment to a diverse one.

Within our diversity, we gain broader perspectives and creative options. Diversity and collaboration are peanut butter and jelly, mixing well together for delectable results. In collaboration, we gain trust. In collaboration, we engage.

Purpose: Greater All Replaces Reduced Few

Just as identity focus narrows our thinking so does focus on a few. In companies, discussions and solutions can become selfish and self-centered. In government, segments gain preference over a broader population. Woven in each is a shrinkage of purpose. Small purpose creates a paper cut affect – the pain grows.

We need to think deeper and bigger. We need to push purpose up to the top of our solution-crafting and policy-creating. When we don’t ask what the greater purpose is frequently, we lose focus and slip into fixed mindsets and problem stalemates.

Purpose-focus engages more people in more places. Purpose-focus re-kindles trust at many levels.

Wake-up Leaders: Lead with Trust to Engage with Greater Purpose

We cannot afford to let trust and engagement slip further. I realize the political times are tough, but we need to remain focused on what we can do. We are citizens. We have a responsibility to do our part. We also are business leaders. We need to lessen the slack left by government inaction and force more reasonable and inclusive policy discussions and results. We need to build companies with a conscious.

We cannot wait. We must do our part to restore trust and engagement.


Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
Trust and engagement are declining. We need a leadership jolt and reboot our practices to raise trust and engagement to better levels.