Many companies have a powerful set of values that guide them toward their goals. But at the center of every strong culture lies one key value in particular: trust.  

While you may emphasize interpersonal trust among individuals, teams, or managers, what’s particularly important are the unified outcomes of that trust. Trust is often thought of as resulting from certain actions and goals, but it’s a classic chicken and egg situation: companies can’t achieve high performance without first having a foundation of trust.  

That’s where organizational trust comes in. Let’s explore the role of organizational trust—what it is, why it matters, and how to measure it within your organization.  

 

What is Organizational Trust?

OneTrust leadership defines trust as an outcome earned from actioning integrity-based commitments across four pillars: Security, ESG, Ethics, and Privacy. Organizational trust refers to your outcomes at the corporate level. It goes beyond trust between individual contributors, managers, and the C-suite (though executives play a valuable role in guiding trust).  

Organizational trust encompasses: 

What this means is that organizational trust permeates the entirety of your organization. It refers to how you operate, and the confidence you hold in your people, processes, values, and ability to achieve corporate goals.   

Why is Organizational Trust Important?

For the longest time, the onus of trust has been on the individual. But in recent years, it’s become clear that trust is systemic, the corporate whole being the sum of employees, teams, culture, and values.  

Organizational trust is the foundation of customer and stakeholder relationships—and ultimately, your public reputation. Just think about some of the business world’s biggest scandals—and how long it took for these companies to begin to repair their reputational damage. One analysis of major corporate scandals found that high-profile companies lost as much as 74 percent of their relative value compared to other market leaders. 

It’s also a key aspect of the employee experience. In fact, a group of researchers performed an intervention for a major online retailer and found that improving trust by just six percent led to a 1 percent increase in employee retention.  

Beyond that, high-trust companies have been shown to outperform their low-trust counterparts by two and a half times. And conversely, when trust is low, it impacts the bottom line.  

In short, trust improves performance and mitigates risk. Companies have nothing to lose and everything to gain from building organizational trust.  

 

How to Measure Organizational Trust

Do you know where your trust currently stands? Measuring your organizational trust is the first step in continual improvement.  

Your corporate ethics and compliance program holds many indicators about the level of trust within your organization. Here are just a few of the ways to measure trust—and mark areas for improvement:  

  • Assess your speak-up culture and helpline metrics. Track the amount of proxy or named reports submitted to your employee helpline, versus the number of anonymous reports made online or over the phone. Employees who have greater trust in your organization will be more likely to submit named reports, because they do not fear retaliation or negative repercussions.  
  • Dig into the numbers. Look at the data you can glean from your case intake and management process. Analyze the types of reports made, the number of cases opened, and the time to resolution to observe any trends, patterns, or hotspots.  
  • Check your employee pulse. Send out an annual ethics survey to gauge employee levels of confidence in the company and its leaders. 
  • See how performance stacks up. Take a look at how well your organization is meeting its short and long-term goals. Corroborate your findings by administering a customer satisfaction survey. 

Collecting quantitative and qualitative data—along with evaluating your other trust pillars of security, ESG, and privacy—can help you gain a holistic understanding of where your organization stands, and create a plan for improvement. 

 

Making Trust Your Mission

A culture of trust makes companies stronger. It propels growth. And it is built on a combination of ethics, integrity, and transparency.  

Your ethics and compliance program can uphold corporate values and help build trust from the inside out. Your customers, employees, and the general public are looking to you to earn their trust.  


Looking for more resources on building organizational trust? Download our guide to How to Build a Speak-Up Culture to learn more.