Internal and external trust have a measurable impact on the financial performance of all organizations. By internal trust, I am of course referring to the trust employees have for each other and for the company's leaders and managers. External trust is the trust customers, partners, vendors and investors have for a brand.
The experiences I have had in my own companies we well as much research on the subject points to the fact that trust is a multi-dimensional concept. The first dimension is competence; the belief that an organization has the ability to deliver on what it says it will do. That it has the ability to sustain and compete in the marketplace. The second dimension is integrity; the belief that an organization is fair and just. The third dimension is dependability; the belief that an organization will do what it says it will and act consistently.
All great companies have a desire to have high levels of internal and external trust. But few do a very good job of measuring trust and working towards constantly improving it. They don't pay attention to the impact trust has on the financial health of the company.
How is the brand perceived in the marketplace, by both its competitors and customers? Do customers continue to buy from the company or are the relationships short-term and purely transactional? Do employees trust each other and go out of their way to collaborate and help each other strive towards achieving common goals? Do they take on responsibilities outside of their job descriptions or stay inside their lane markers doing the bare minimum? Do employees trust that senior management has their best interests in mind?
Before we dive into the process for measuring trust let's take a look at quantifiable components of trust. Trust is a multilevel organism that spans coworker, team, organization and inter-organizational alliances - so we need to cast a very wide net when starting to measure its effects on a company.
Trust can also be deeply rooted in the culture - or at least it should be. And therefore, it is important to identify and measure the behaviors associated with building and maintaining trust - and those that damage trust.
Trust is dynamic and so its measurement must be done consistently over time, not just through one simple process. Trust is also multidimensional and touches everything from the cognitive and emotional to the intellectual levels.
Trust measurement and evaluation involves assessing the success or failure of an organization's effort to improve and enhance its relationships with - internally and externally. More specifically, trust measurement is a way of giving a result a precise specification, generally by comparison to some standard or baseline, and usually is done in a quantifiable or numerical manner.
Step One: Define the Audience
As in the measurement of anything, it's is imperative to first clearly define the purpose and audience: What are we trying to accomplish? If we are measuring internal trust levels in a company, it's really involves everyone. Trust between co-workers, management, across departments and business units. The list goes on. External trust will involve measuring trust for the brand, between the company and its partners or vendors and its general reputation in the marketplace.
Step Two: Set Specific Measurable Goals and Objectives
The team in charge of measuring trust must define what they are trying to measure and what goals they hope to accomplish. What are the goals or objectives of the organization? What exactly will this program or the activities hope to accomplish? The more specific the answers, the more meaningful the research will be.
Step Three: Select a Measurement Tool
There isn't any one specific tool or system so it helps to use a combination of questionnaires, surveys, polls and before-and-after drills. Models can be built but it really doesn't have to be all that complicated. Surveys are take the form of "agree-disagree" questions or rating systems based on the specific questions that are developed.
Step Four: Analyze the Data and Take Action
There is no point in doing any of this unless the data is used to develop an action plan. Financial performance measurement will take on the form of setting goals for increasing repeat customers and decreasing turnover. Similarly, increasing internal trust will increase employee retention, morale, speed and efficiencies - and naturally it will decrease employee turnover.
Trust is a delicate thing but one of the most important components of any organizations performance. So measuring and improving it constantly will only lead to great things!