According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in UK business reached its lowest recorded levels last year, with just one in five members of the public trusting business leaders to tell the truth and more than half (54 per cent) believing that business greed is the main driver behind innovation.
The Trust in Leadership report, published today by the University of Westminster, in collaboration with leadership events company Top Banana and the Institute of Internal Communication, identifies ways effective communication can build trust within a company.
It says the top factors in creating trust include leaders being physically present and engaging in face-to-face communication with staff. The report also highlights the importance of middle layers of management, such as line managers, to building trusting organisations.
Finally, the way ‘leadership’ is perceived needs to be changed – rather than thinking of it as a position, leadership needs to be seen as a process for a more open working environment, based on a shared purpose.
Katalin Illes, principal lecturer in leadership and development at Westminster Business School and co-author of the report, said: "Continuously declining levels of trust in society indicate that we are not relating to each other in the right way. Humans are social creatures and past and present findings confirm that strong, supportive communities have higher survival rates and prosper more. This is also true of business communities.
"Leaders have a key role to play in changing their own perceptions and helping the change process of others. The trouble is that most leaders are unable to recognise, let alone change, the structural habits of attention they and their organisations use to drive key factors such as trust. This presents a significant opportunity for communication practitioners."
Nick Terry, MD at Top Banana, said: "This is where communication practitioners have a key role to play as a trusted advisor for the organisational leaders they coach, guide, support and advise."