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Trust is a strange and complex thing. Being a slick and professional communicator doesn’t necessarily equate to inspiring trust. This is certainly true in the relationship between a senior leader and their employees whose interpretation will be influenced by what they actually see in the organisation on a day-to-day basis.

In fact, being a bit rough round the edges could actually elicit more trust, particularly if this means the communication is less like ‘spin’. And people are more likely to warm to someone who is saying things that have real meaning for them, and who is seen as consistent in their approach rather than like a chameleon.

Fine-tuning communication skills while remaining authentic and true to yourself is one of the big challenges, as is getting through to your audiences at a time when trust is very much in short supply.

Falling trust levels

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2015 reveals an alarming reduction of trust in relation to all institutions globally, reaching the low of the financial crisis of 2009. Now more than two thirds of the 27 countries surveyed fall into the ‘distruster’ category, including the UK which has shifted from the neutral to the negative zone over the last 12 months.

A number of factors are involved, not least among these being the many recent examples of poor and unethical practices by businesses that have led to significant problems for customers, employees and society as a whole. The Volkswagen emission test scandal is the most recent high-profile case. People cannot fail to be influenced by such stories even if they are not directly affected by them.

The current climate means that organisations have to work much harder to gain employee trust – it is no longer the default position. And so employers will be looking to communicators to help them overcome these barriers and establish strong connections with their people. They will want communications programmes that are as effective as possible in achieving these goals, as well as expert support in inspiring greater trust themselves.

Links between trust and engagement

There is a body of evidence around the links between trust and levels of employee engagement; for example, data from Gallup states that 96% of engaged employees trust their companies, while only 46% of engaged employees do so. And a 2008 Helliwell Huang study suggests that a 10% increase in trust has the equivalent effect on employee satisfaction of a 36% pay rise. In turn, raised employee engagement has all kinds of positive knock-on effects from increased productivity and innovation to reduced staff churn and sick leave, so there is clear business benefit to dealing with trust issues.

Making the investment in trust

No organisation or business leader can get things right 100% of the time, but having clear principles and values that staff can buy into; adhering to these consistently; and being seen to do so help to protect trust in difficult times.

Significant trust problems do not necessarily arise because of some dramatic event. Trust can be eroded gradually over time for a variety of reasons that seem relatively small when taken individually. And communication behaviour is a key part of this.

This year’s Insight seminar

IoIC’s Insight seminar on 12 November in London will help communicators to better understand the dynamics of trust and the part they can play in instilling trust in their organisation.

Through case studies, panel discussion and group exercises, delegate at this afternoon seminar will gain valuable insights into:
  • Implications of the current trust environment for leaders and communicators
  • The key building blocks of trust
  • Links between trust and engagement
  • Developing messages and initiatives that hit the spot
  • Helping leaders to be authentic communicators
  • Dealing with trust issues in difficult times
  • Cultivating behaviours that help to build up the trust reservoir

This will be a unique opportunity to learn from those with an in-depth understanding of how trust works and senior IC practitioners who have handled trust issues successfully across diverse organisations.

Download the programme and email [email protected] to book.
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