Research Insight

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Employees Hold the Keys to Business Performance and Reputation Building… But Are Companies Listening?



This year’s 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer gives us a clear and compelling business case for the power of employees as advocates. And while employees have been more credible than CEOs for a number of years, we have new data in 2016 that deepens our understanding of the trust disconnect that occurs within organizations.

Consider a few insights from this year:

  • Globally, only 65 percent of employees trusted their company to do “what is right.” This number was lowest in Japan (40 percent) and highest in Mexico (89 percent). The data suggest a huge trust gap between workforces and their employers.
  • And yet, for those companies in which employees say their company is engaged in societal issues, we see a tremendous increase in employee engagement and business performance. For example, in companies engaged in societal issues, employees said they were more likely to “do the best job to serve the customer” (90 percent vs. 78 percent for companies not engaged in societal issues), “recommend products and services to others” (87 percent vs. 66 percent), “be motivated to perform” (84 percent vs. 62 percent) and “recommend the company as an employer” (82 percent vs. 57 percent). This is an extraordinarily significant finding in this year’s study, and suggests the business value in corporate societal engagement…and making sure that the workforce of an already-engaged company understands how much the company is already doing.
  • Companies can best harness and amplify the employee voice by creating convergence opportunities in which employees can be viewed through multiple lenses. For example, the credibility of information shared by “technical experts,” “a person like yourself” and “an employee” are all up this year, 4 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively. All of these categories are still higher than a CEO, by the way. Imagine the multiplier effect of companies sharing information via employees who are also positioned as technical experts who happen to be people like yourself. It’s no longer enough to think about “employees” as a category in isolation.
  • People want to hear from employees more than any other spokesperson on issues of financial earnings and operating performance, business practices and crisis handlings, and treatment of employees and customers. Indeed of the five topical categories we measured in 2016, employees came out on top in three of them. The widest gap was in the category of “treatment of employees and customers,” in which employees had twice as much credibility as the next closest group, senior executives, by a 48 percent to 24 percent margin.

We’ll share more detailed data and insights focused on employees in soon-to-be-released materials. Watch this space for more or, if you don’t want to miss them, follow us on Twitter @EdelmanEE or email us

Click here to learn more about the Employee Engagement findings from the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Christopher Hannegan is executive vice president and U.S. Practice Chair of Employee Engagement.

  • LT

    Insight for a start-up on how to grow their company right. The data in this article is the type to base company mission statements upon and to design company objectives around. Focus on achieving ‘trust’ from one’s employees appears to pay a ‘dividend’ in genuine marketing and sales outreaches. Very interesting.

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