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The Future of Trust: Measuring Enterprise Performance

There’s a tendency among businesses to regard Trust as an abstract and amorphous concept. It’s important to have it – but how do you know when you do, and how do you quantify it?  At the organizational level, Trust often gets attention when it takes a nosedive – a reactive, crisis-management strategy that’s often too little, too late.

It’s time to leave that mindset and approach in the past because the Future of Trust impacts the future of organizations. Trust is evolving from a chance outcome to a strategic priority, as forward-looking companies take steps to measure Trust and its quantifiable components, and cultivate and manage Trust proactively.

Trusted organizations know the importance of Trust in:

  • Building shareholder confidence – which then influences market capitalization.
  • Improving financial performance – with trustworthy organizations outperforming non-trustworthy ones by 2.5 times[1]. In addition, nearly 9 in 10 customers[2] who highly Trust a brand have bought from that same brand again.
  • Improving job performance – with 79 percent[3] of employees who trust their employer feeling motivated to work (compared to only 29 percent of those who don’t).

Welcome to the Trust Age

Trust has always been at the core of interpersonal relationships, but only recently have businesses started to recognize its strong and direct impact on organizational outcomes as well. Today, businesses are operating in the “Trust Age,” where (mis)information is omnipresent, individual perceptions reign supreme, and digital security and data privacy face constant threats.

It’s also a time of intense scrutiny, as myriad stakeholders—including customers, shareholders, employees, the board, partners, regulators, media, and the community at large—hold organizations accountable for doing the right thing. They demand that companies today are trustworthy whether it’s in protecting personal data; making a positive impact on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues; providing financial transparency; affording safe working conditions; and much more. Every stakeholder counts.

When Trust is managed proactively, prioritized, acted upon, and embedded in organizational culture it can become a competitive advantage.

What comprises Trust?

Research[4] affirms that Trust in an organization is an ongoing relationship between that entity and its stakeholders. So, what can organizations do to strengthen these relationships and earn Trust? Competence refers to an organization’s ability to execute and deliver consistently on its promise of the provision of goods and services. Equally important, is the intent behind those promises and actions. An organization’s actions, performed with a high degree of competence and authentic intent, earn Trust with stakeholders.

Trust is built from the inside out, through levers and actions that cut across the functional areas of an organization.

Organizations today can consider enacting Trust-driving actions that span a variety of functional areas, with a focus on:

with leaders leading by example and driving effective enterprise risk monitoring strategies, so the organization is aware of potential Trust-altering events.

keeping in mind concepts such as human-centered design, digitally native operations, and service excellence, while emphasizing a commitment to safety.

exhibiting a high degree of audit readiness, while also striving for digitization and security, and communicating transparently and proactively with stakeholders.

regardless of industry, employing data-led intelligence practices and understanding emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, blockchain) while encouraging their ethical use.

with organizations having effective, active, enterprise-wide compliance programs; sophisticated fraud and misconduct monitoring and prevention; a highly resilient cyber posture with predictive threat intelligence; and systems with a high degree of data integrity.

having a clearly articulated mission and creating a culture of accountability and consistent adherence to ethical standards across the enterprise.

focusing on collaboration, transparency and accountability with workers at all levels, while also prioritizing talent development and professional growth, employee safety, and physical and mental health resources.

Measuring Trust

Because Trust is measurable, organizations that take steps to continuously measure and manage it are better positioned to build a critical asset.

Deloitte has created a structured approach[5] for helping organizations quantify and enhance Trust using a suite of diagnostic solutions that can effectively gauge an organization’s Trust score, including TrustIQTM.

Deloitte assists companies to take the following steps in support of their journeys to becoming Trusted organizations:    

  • Explore – Gaining an understanding of Trust within the organization’s industry and sector; getting initial perceptions of Trust within the organization’s walls (along with any variances across departments, business units and geographies); assessing Trust expectations among the organization’s shareholders.
  • Diagnose – Evaluating an organization’s ability to act with competence and intent; creating a detailed, quantifiable, objective, and multidimensional view of the organization´s performance through the lens of Trust; measuring levels of stakeholder Trust to provide insights into future stakeholder behaviors.

Prioritize – Focusing on key areas to enhance, protect, and rebuild Trust.

Activate – Taking concerted actions to remedy Trust gaps.

Because strategic priorities and focus areas change for organizations over time, and different expectations arise from various stakeholders, Trust also rises and wanes. Therefore, organizations may look to make exploring, diagnosing, prioritizing, and acting on Trust as part of their DNA, considering it an ongoing journey rather than a one-time exercise.

Building Trust equity

When bonds of Trust break, are they severed for good? Research[6] shows that it takes a long time to both build and break Trust – so the more Trust an organization builds up, the harder it is to lose when a negative Trust event happens. In other words, for highly trustworthy organizations, levels of Trust are likely to be preserved and regained more quickly[7] if a crisis occurs.

By investing in Trust across the enterprise and making it a strategic priority, organizations can, in essence, “bank” Trust that will help keep them resilient in the face of potential adverse events.

The Future of Trust is here – and it’s no longer just at the heart of personal relationships, but also at the core of organizational strategy. No company should wait for a crisis to start focusing on Trust. The Trust Age calls for organizations to measure Trust and to build Trust equity every single day.

[1] Stephen M. R. Covey and Douglas R. Conant, “The Connection Between Employee Trust and Financial Performance,” Harvard Business Review, July 18, 2016.

[2] Ashley Reichheld, Mark Allen, Michael Bondar, Deirdre O’Connell, and Andy Sussman, A new measure of trust for consumer industries, Deloitte Digital, 2020, p. 2.

[3] Ashley Reichheld, Mark Allen, Michael Bondar, Deirdre O’Connell, and Andy Sussman, A new measure of trust, p. 2.

[4] Sandra J. Sucher and Shalene Gupta, “The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, and Regain It,” Harvard Business School.

[5] Michael Bondar, Don Fancher, Holly Tucker, and Samantha Parish, 2021. "Importance of Trust In Your Organization". Deloitte United States. Accessed July 29, 2021.

[6] Sandra J. Sucher and Shalene Gupta, “Broken Trust,” Harvard Business Review, August 2, 2019.

[7] Sandra J. Sucher and Shalene Gupta, “The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, and Regain It,” Harvard Business School