Is the CEO of your company a giant sleazebag?
Well I certainly hope not, and if they are, then you should stop reading this and go apply for jobs pretty much anywhere because life is too short for sleazy executives.
I certainly hope that you do not consider your CEO to be a sleazebag, but guess who does? About a third of the people who work for your company.
According to Edelman, only 64% of Canadian employees trust the company they work for. Well that’s fun. That means a little over a third of the people you work with are running around loose in the world not recommending it as a workplace, or a vendor or an investment.
When those folks come to work each day they are part of the 70% of Canadian workers who say they’re not engaged. They might even be that subset (about 14%) who are actively disengaged and focusing their talents on sabotaging the trust of the 64% who are hanging on to a shred of trust.
Those of you who follow trust studies like Edelman’s will correctly point out that while trust in business is pretty shabby, it’s not nearly as bad as the declining trust in media, government and other institutions. Here’s why the employer distrust number, in my view, is the most tragic of them all: it’s based on real experience with the brand versus perception.
Most of us don’t have a lot of regular experience with government. Other than filing taxes and renewing the odd bits of paper, our direct experience with government is pretty infrequent, and our attitudes are based more on generally held beliefs about what government is for and whether your favourite flavour of politician is currently in power or not.
Most of us consume lots of media, but our experience with it, for the most part, is as an end user. And since editors are replaced these days by algorithms, the chunky soup of stories we need to pick through each day to make sense of things increasingly tends only to reinforce our worldview, making oppositional ideas look even more ridiculous, which proves the media simply can’t be trusted if they are allowing that crap to get out there. You get the picture.
Even institutions such as churches and universities are not necessarily things we hang around with every day, and we are thus entitled to our dismal, if uninformed opinions.
Coming back to that 36% of people who don’t trust their own employer. Consider that of all the brands (for our purposes here, government, media and NGOs are brands) we interact with, none is a bigger part of our lives than our employer. Not one. Brands are the perceptions we form at the intersection of expectation and experience, which says an awful lot about what must be going on in our workplaces.
A few weeks ago we looked at the three areas where employers can create friction in the workplace (policy, productivity and people), and this distrust is the net effect of not dealing with things like lousy onboarding, terrible change communications or crummy processes.
It gets worse: 60% of us now consider our peers to be just as trustworthy as academic or technical experts when it comes to speaking about an issue. Next in line, in terms of credibility, are employees (48%). That would be those 36% of people who don’t trust their employer, along with the 70% who aren’t engaged at work. Forgive me, but they don’t exactly stack up as great spokespeople. Struggling along well back are CEOs, whose credibility dropped 12 points from last year to this, and now sit at a very wobbly 37%, just ahead of the board of directors.
Let’s see if we have this right: The people considered most credible on things to do with your brand (or any brand, for that matter) are the very same people who don’t trust that brand and are not inclined to make any discretionary effort while they’re working for it.
Which brings me to the CEO. Now, most CEOs don’t directly cause disengagement or distrust; that’s created over months and years of unresolved points of friction. And many employees may think the world of their CEO and still not trust their company. I suggest, however, the CEO is a big part of the solution here, and if they don’t take that role seriously, they risk getting a I’m a Giant Sleezebag t-shirt in the Secret Santa for no better reason than standing around while things got ugly.
I would say now is a great time to be building the business case for actually fixing engagement and working on your employer brand. If we begin by enlisting the CEO to address the trust deficit, the rest should follow nicely.
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BizMarketer is written by Elizabeth Williams
I help companies have better conversations
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org