While the Trust headlines in the region were always going to belong to the Eurozone (the ‘obvious’ crisis in government and the contagion it spread to business), the more resonant stories lay with the unfolding new patterns of trust in business. The fact that ‘regular employees’ are now as trusted as NGO spokespeople provided a killer statistic and an important entry point to conversations around the rise and increasingly critical nature of employee engagement and organisational (re-)design. In addition, the sense of the shift, over the 12 years of the Barometer’s findings, from Profit, to Profit + Purpose, to Profit + Purpose + Engagement is not only provocative, but drives productive discussions around the role of communications and of course in everyday business.
There could be no escaping the government issue, though. Despite a harsh focus on business in a series of packed-audience conferences and media interviews in Russia, there was a genuine thirst for data on trust in government, literally days after Muscovites had taken to the streets to protest. Impending elections provided a similar backdrop in France, although, as elsewhere, the business message came through loud and clear. In the UAE, interest was sparked by the surrounding Arab Spring, although here there were as many questions on the role of Social Media, as there were of Trust in Governments.
EMEA is not, of course, a homogeneous region. For this year’s data, the UAE and Russia were seen more as outliers to a core Eurozone story – which was, in itself, both coherent and impactful. The fact that the recently (S&P) downgraded countries suffered more than most demonstrated unequivocally the link between trust and economic wellbeing, while the narrower expectation gaps for business (versus government) highlighted not only the opportunity to lead but also the distance still required to travel. While Trust scores in the UK and the Netherlands may have been more stable than their plummeting equivalents in Germany (for business), France, Spain and Italy – there was never a cause for cockiness or over -confidence. This remains a region of distrusters – and, it would seem, with good reason.
Robert Phillips is the president and CEO of Edelman EMEA.