How to Build Trust: Are the Best Companies Trustworthy?

The word TRUST carved into a stone wall. 3D render with HDRI lighting and raytraced textures.
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Google is the Best Company to Work For and has held the #1 spot continually since 2012, according to Fortune magazine.  During the 18 years Fortune has partnered with the Great Place to Work organization to produce the annual list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, Google has ranked #1 six times.  Given society’s love of Google and our increasing reliance on electronic gadgets, it comes as no surprise that Technology and Consumer Electronics are also listed as the most trusted industries on the 2015 Trust Barometer produced by Edelman, a leading public relations firm.

How to Regain and Build Trust

But “Trust” in the workplace is a complicated thing.  How to build trust is complicated enough let alone how to maintain and even rebuild it. The top industries on the Best Companies to Work For list are Professional Services, Technology and Financial Services; the least trustworthy industries on the Edelman Trust Barometer are Financial Services, Banking and the Media.   As everyone knows, the reputation of Financial Services and Banking has been in ruins since The Great Recession and financial  scandals have continued into 2015 with billions of dollars in fines levied for manipulation of currency and interest rate benchmarks. Yet three of the top ten Best Companies to Work For are Financial Services firms.

How do we explain this contradiction?   I believe it comes down to three things:  innovation, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and compensation.

A common theme in both the Best Companies to Work For and Trust surveys is Technology.  Online search engines have become the most trusted source for news and information and mobile payments is one of the most trusted of business innovations.   The ability to make deposits and conduct other banking transactions through mobile devices is now a common occurrence and a trusted product of the Financial Services industry.  Regardless of reputation and level of trust, people want to work for companies that are leading technological change in the world.

Likewise, companies exhibiting corporate social responsibility are highly desirable places to work.  I’ve worked in Banking for most of my career and what attracted and retained me through good times and bad is the extent to which Financial Services supports consumers and communities.  While deeply embarrassed by the actions of bankers who brought shame to the industry, I remain proud of an industry that finances lives and businesses and makes life easier for people through innovations such as mobile banking.  Mobile banking is a trusted business innovation; more trusted than personal health trackers and cloud computing.

I also believe there is no better example of CSR than the creation of high-paying jobs.  It may be a coincidence, but Technology and Financial Services are among the highest paying industries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Compensation is, and always has been, an important factor in where people choose to work.  But I don’t see a connection to build or building trust when it comes to compensation.  Some people are drawn to the highest paying jobs.  Period.

The case for Technology seems clear.  It’s a trusted industry and a good place to work.  Financial Services is far less clear.  While its reputation remains in shambles, it still shows signs of being a good industry in which to work.  Perhaps the public is wise enough to know that the actions of a small percentage of employees should not be applied to an entire industry?

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