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New Survey: Top 5 Reasons Employees Distrust Employers and Top 5 Why They Do

New research shows employees have a lot of trust in their employer, but here are the top five reasons they distrust them.

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Employee Trust Survey

As trust in institutions continues to erode, employees are starting to express more faith in their employers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers earned goodwill by remaining flexible and prioritizing employee safety and well-being. Now, with a potential recession looming and inflation affecting everyone, the policies employers create will determine whether employees maintain that trust. And the timing couldn’t be more critical. More than ever before, employee trust is a vital ingredient in organizations’ efforts to build, train, and maintain their workforces. 

Visier surveyed 1,000 full-time employees based in the U.S. about the levels of trust they have in their employers and how employers’ actions influence that trust—from corporate reactions to current events, and organizational responses to a potential recession. We learned that employees generally trust their employers, expect them to be transparent, and lean on them to provide information and guidance about current events and issues. 

Nearly all employees trust their employers 

The good news is the vast majority of employees surveyed (90%) say they trust their employers. However, the level of trust varies, with 47% of respondents strongly agreeing they trust their employer and 43% somewhat agreeing. Although overall trust is high, there is still room for employers to gain more trust from their workforce. An employer’s level of truthfulness, transparency, and tolerance can move the needle—or lead to a loss of trust. 

Employee trust is a crucial differentiator for employee outcomes like job satisfaction. Of respondents who trust their employer, almost all (94%) said they are satisfied with their current jobs. In contrast, only 43% of respondents who said they do not trust their employer are satisfied with their roles. Trust even extends to employees’ personal health information. Most employees (79%) said they would share privileged health information with their employer to gain access to additional funding for a medical procedure. 

The relationship between trust and turnover

Additionally, trust appears to impact employee retention and turnover. In fact, approximately half of employees who trust their employers (46%) see themselves in their current roles for five years or longer, compared to only 29% of respondents who distrust their employers. Only 17% of employees who said they trust their employers see themselves leaving their jobs in the next 12 months, while over one-third (35%) of distrustful employees said they believe they will not be in their current roles in a year. 

As employees continue to place their trust in their employers––sometimes more than traditional institutions––employers have a significant opportunity to improve job satisfaction, performance, and retention.

Honesty and transparency increase employee trust

Drilling deeper into the topic of employee trust, we took stock of the factors and actions that lead employees to trust––or distrust––their employers. 

We asked the 90% of respondents who said they trust their employers why they held this belief. The top reasons these employees gave for trusting their employers were: 

  1. They generally tell me the truth: 65%

  2. They’re transparent about company policies and practices: 52%

  3. TIED:They don’t allow toxic behavior and They pay fair market rates: 39%

  4. They encourage employees to speak up: 38%

On the flip side, Visier also asked distrustful employees to list some of the reasons why they do not trust their companies. The top reasons were: 

  1. They allow toxic behavior to go unchecked: 45%

  2. TIED: They don’t tell the truth and They’re not transparent about company policies/practices: 43%

  3. They don’t follow through on employee feedback: 35%

  4. They overwork me and don’t make efforts to correct the situation: 32%

Another major factor influencing employee trust is how a company reacts to an internal scandal or controversy, such as executive misconduct or pay inequity. A quarter of employees reported their organization experienced a controversy in the past year.

While no one wants a scandal, there is a silver lining. The organization’s response has the potential to actually bolster employee trust: 42% of employees whose companies experienced scandal in the past year said, “The way my company reacted improved my trust.” The takeaway: Companies facing adversity should take the opportunity to learn and grow, turning scandal and controversy into a point of reflection that spurs real, institutional change.

Employers engaging with current events and issues increases trust

Our research found that employees now look to their employers to address current events and issues as a pillar of trust amid uncertainty. Of our survey’s respondents, 82% want their employers to acknowledge current events and 82% want that acknowledgment to be followed up with action. We also asked respondents to identify the events and issues they most want their employers to address and take action on.

A recent, prominent example of a current event employees want their employers to acknowledge is the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing federal protection for abortion. In the wake of this ruling, many businesses—such as JP Morgan, Patagonia, and Disney—are offering financial assistance to those employees who may need to travel out of their state for the procedure. Almost half of employees  (45%) indicated they would not work for an employer that is not transparent about its stance on employee access to abortion. 

While there is a demand for employers to acknowledge and take action on certain issues, companies should proceed with caution. We found that 18% of respondents don’t want their employer to acknowledge any events and 19% don’t want them to take any action. Employers need to exercise care to avoid alienating this segment of their workforce while addressing the needs of the majority. 

Bottom line: Know your employees to obtain their trust

Our research shows that employee trust can have wide-reaching impacts on your business. Higher levels of trust positively affect job satisfaction and employee retention. There are many steps organizations can take to improve trust, including being transparent and addressing current events and issues. 

As you develop initiatives to bolster your workforce’s trust, make sure you understand whether your organization’s efforts are hitting their mark and improving satisfaction and retention. This will provide an understanding of the level of trust your employees have for your organization. 

To learn more about using people analytics to address employee trust, get in touch.

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