Trust me! How to Generate Trust Right Now

Key take outs

  • Australians trust business leaders over government to lead change
  • 80 per cent of Australian employees are worried about losing their job
  • Hospitality and healthcare are the most highly trusted industry
  • Financial services are the least trusted industry
  • 62 per cent of employees trust their employers to respond effectively to the Corona virus situation
  • Business leaders agree that putting people first, communicate clearly and stick to core business now matter most

The wide–reaching impacts on everyone’s lives caused by the Corona virus has meant trust has never been more important than now, both in Governments and business. The public needs to trust its leaders to deliver timely and accurate information during a time of fear and confusion over the virus, and trust their employers to look after them by providing compassionate, astute and strong leadership.
To establish a sharp focused snapshot of how people are feeling when it comes to trust in Government and business, Edelman conducted a special survey in February 2020 to gain insights into employee’s levels of trust.
Managing Director, Edelman Australia, Susan Redden Makatoa delivered an in-depth and informative presentation to outline the findings of this special survey that initiated a fascinating panel discussion covering three key areas of trust.

Presentation: 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Covid19 compressed Australia


One of the most insightful findings of this online survey of 34,000 respondents, found that 78 per cent of Australian employees said ‘CEO’s should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for Government to impose it.’
A big responsibility for leaders of companies to bear, but a strong indication of the trust employees place in their bosses in these uncertain and rapidly changing times.
This increased expectation being placed on Australian business leaders was accompanied by the encouraging finding that 70 per cent of employees believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve conditions in the community in which it operates.
Probably the most concerning finding was that 80 per cent of Australian employees are worried about losing their job. The main reason being the growth of the gig economy and casualisation of the workforce, followed closely by the fear of a looming recession and their lack of training and skills.
Interestingly, Susan says that the industry sectors most highly trusted were hospitality and healthcare, while financial services were the least trusted. Not surprising given the recent Royal Commission into the sector and its damning report on many in the sector including the big four banks.
Generating and regaining trust does pose a challenge, however, Susan explained, providing clear, concise and regular communication to all staff and stakeholders is critical. Businesses need to read the room, including targeting audiences accurately and this is important because already 62 per cent of employees trust their employers to respond effectively to the Corona virus situation.  And 78 per cent believe their company will protect them from the virus. This is an important basis of trust to build on and continue to develop post Covid-19.
Communication must also be relevant, adaptable, drawing on experts’ advice (especially scientists) and stick to the targeted audience. Delivering beneficial information in direct response to the needs of their customers and employees, while avoiding self-interest messaging at all cost.
Businesses need to be agile and alert to what’s happening in traditional and social media, tracking trends, evaluating the use of various channels and reading their audience. Be clear and easily comprehensible in all communications.
When it comes to trust in government, both State and Federal, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, Founder of the newDenmocracy Foundation, believes both levels of Government have been working impressively collaboratively and competently during the crisis. This has been good for building trust.
Luca stresses that we expect governments to put people first and it’s encouraging to see how the Feds are working well with Premiers from both sides of politics and how oppositions are keeping the politics out of it. This is vital in building current and longer-term trust in Governments at times like this and beyond.

As for business, he feels many believe businesses generally look after their employees and are competent in crises - but they’re not always ethical. It’s not surprising that nurses and doctors are at the top of the list in trust and unfortunately politicians still languish near the bottom of the list as people see politicians as being there to look after their own jobs more than their constituents’ welfare. However, they are rebuilding their image and regaining trust through ethical and concerned behaviour in this crisis.

Most critically, Luca stresses that trust increases when business and government collaborate and work together, along with unions and business organisations.

Connie Sokaris, Executive General Manager, Corporate Finance at National Australia Bank is hoping that the co-operation between banks in recent months, and the goodwill they’ve been providing for both business and home loan customers, will begin rebuilding the trust they’ve lost.

Focussing on positive actions to help their customers, rather than merely relying on feel-good advertising, is proving valuable and very effective in regaining trust and goodwill.
Ensuring they have adequate staff in branches and answering phone enquiries has been an important component of their response. NAB fielded more calls in one week than they would normally take in an entire year, with more than 200,000 customers looking for assistance. Connie says providing access to low rate loans for small businesses and to customers with mortgage relief is key to rebuilding relationships and more generally trust in the banking sector to support the community when it matters most.
Trust has been the cornerstone of the whole online trading/selling phenomenon that built e-Bay into the successful international business it is. It’s built on a trust platform right from the beginning.
As Tim MacKinnon, Managing Director, eBay Australia & New Zealand says, trust was vital from its beginning 25 years ago as people were parting with their money trusting that the seller would deliver the goods.
He says this level of trust has been critical to maintain for the company throughout its growth and that during the corona virus they’ve had to be even more diligent in monitoring sellers, denying access to those trying to exploit the Corona situation by offering items including toilet paper and sanitiser at grossly inflated prices.
However, conversely it’s been heart warming to see other sellers providing these items at reasonable cost enabling people who were unable to head out and scour the shops to find the basics of life.
Tim said they decided in the interest of their employee’s safety to have them work from home three weeks ago and staff have appreciated that level of concern in their well-being and the trust shown in them to do their jobs without visual presence and on-site management.
One of the best ways eBay has employed to build trust from their sellers, is by deferring payment to retailers who are facing tough times to help them stay in business. They’ve also waived many fees to businesses who currently can’t trade in their shops and are switching to online to stay open.
Tim firmly believes in always providing absolute clarity in all their messaging to staff and customers alike to build trust and goodwill, two complementary elements of any business’ ongoing success, especially during times of extraordinary difficulties.
Finally, Tim advises all companies to stick very tightly to their core business and make quick and good decisions, to keep pace with the daily evolving conditions we’re now experiencing.
We hope you’ve enjoyed and benefited hearing these valuable insights from leaders in very different sectors, but with similar thoughts on how to build and maintain trust, something no business can fully prosper without.

Topics: uncertainty, generate trust, COVID-19 impact, people first, clear communication, core business.


Media contact: David Peters 0413 872 491

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David Peters

Public Affairs Manager, Sydney Business Chamber