Enabling trust in management: lessons from research/La confiance en gestion: lecons tirees des recherches.

Author:Dowden, Craig

Trust is at the heart of every relationship. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to imagine an exchange of goods/services for payment if we do not feel that our trading partner has our best interests in mind (or at least, considers some of our interests).

Previous research has demonstrated the importance of consumer trust for organizational success. For example, the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global survey that focuses on trust and its impacts within business and government institutions, provides compelling data highlighting the importance of maintaining consumer trust. Specifically, research based on this survey highlights that customers are willing to pay a premium for services and products from companies that they trust. Further, and just as important, trusted organizations appear far more likely than their counterparts to attract the interest of investors. It is easy to see how these realties directly impact the financial health and lifespan of organizations.


Consumer trust is not the only contributor to corporate success. An emerging line of research has explored the role of employee trust in overall firm performance and recent survey data has suggested that our trust levels are near or at an all-time low. This may not seem surprising, especially when considering the recent ethical scandals that have plagued organizations of all shapes, sizes, and sectors.

Leadership IQ conducted a survey several years ago and found that employee loyalty was significantly related to the level of trust employees placed in the leadership of the organization. Nearly one-third (32%) of an employee's desire to stay or leave was connected to trust in leadership.

Similarly, a very recent paper entitled Employee trust and workplace performance from the University of Sheffield noted that higher scores on employee trust were associated with higher scores on three measures of workplace performance (financial performance, labour productivity, and productor service quality). Utilizing the 2004 and 2011 Work Place and Employee Relations Surveys (WERS), the authors suggest that this finding is especially meaningful, since it was found both before and after the recession, thereby highlighting its importance, regardless of economic conditions.

Considering the links between employee trust and firm financial performance and retention, what steps can organizations take to leverage the power of trust? The following recommendations flow from the above two studies of employee trust:

  1. Do not restrict access to paid overtime: Although the current economic environment may further increase the desire to cut costs through decreased overtime, the University of Sheffield research...

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