Report: Trust, societal impact top the priority and pressure list for business leaders

Latest YPO survey of young chief executives globally shows building and maintaining stakeholder and employee trust while showing positive societal impact to be driving forces in organisations today

Seven in 10 business leaders globally believe their organisations can have a positive societal impact without sacrificing profits and nearly all agree trust is a high priority for corporate leaders today.

A fresh global survey of more than 3000 members conducted by YPO, a global community of young business leaders, found 96 per cent recognised building and maintaining trust as a high priority with stakeholders right now, with almost half agreeing trust has gained urgency in the last five years (42 per cent). In A/NZ, 27 per cent saw maintaining trust with stakeholders as a high priority, and 70 per cent saw it as an essential priority.

However, 63 per cent on respondents don’t measure employee trust within their business – even as 43 per cent said they’re interested in doing so - and only 34 per cent have specific plans for building and maintaining trust. What’s more, only four in 10 find it easy to build trust with employees.

Company culture was found to be the top inhibitor for Asia-based leaders (32 per cent), and one of several barriers globally (20 per cent). Other challenges included competing priorities, operational structures and a lack of time. Key elements in improving trust include communication and transparency, with personal experience topping the list of sources of information leaders have used in their efforts to build and maintain trust within the business. Surprisingly, much lower down the list was having a clear mission/objectives and purpose (7 per cent).

The 2020 Global Pulse Survey on Trust also reported 89 per cent of global CEOs feel under pressure to embody their organisations’ values through their actions, a reflection of the growing interest and emphasis on the societal role companies play. In fact, 97 per cent of respondents said they are taking action to address societal issues that concern them, with those leading larger organisations more likely to agree addressing societal concerns as the best way of building employee and public trust in their business.  

Along high on the list of pressures for chief executives is being transparent about business decisions, operations and performance (86 per cent), and ensuring employees have a voice in their businesses (79 per cent). Change management was another ongoing challenge, with 77 per cent of leaders saying the pressure is on to take the lead on change.

The report also found the majority of respondents see taking action on societal issues as a key way of positively influencing employee trust, with responses higher in Asia than globally (67 per cent versus 54 per cent).

Read more: Boycott or buycott - how brand purpose can make the difference

Howcroft: The importance of brand purpose can’t be overstated

For YPO, the results showed the shift from command-and-control styles of leadership to a new people-centred approach where gaining stakeholders’ trust is the central priority.

“The chief executive of the future will define, measure and scale trust, within and outside of their organisation, with determination and enthusiasm,” the report authors stated.

The YPO report was based on a survey of 2960 young business leaders across 118 countries conducted in November 2019.

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