The Biggest Threat To Organisational Trust

Let me ask you this question… what do you think is the biggest threat to the future of organisational trust?

I’m working my way through reading the 3.5kg 3 volume final report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry… I know… get a life, right?

Among many key insights, this stands out for me:

“Taking action in response to misconduct is backward looking. The conduct that gives rise to the action has already occurred.” 1

These financial institutions named and shamed in the Royal Commission Final Report are now in the position of looking for ways to reactively rebuild trust with their customers, employees, shareholders and the broader community.

The key word here though is Reactively.

Surely the more proactive and overwhelmingly more sensible approach is for executive leaders and their teams to be actively and transparently behaving in ways that earn, build and maintain trust with all stakeholders.

The Future of Trust

It would seem the Accounting Profession are taking a much more proactive approach to ensuring trust is firmly on the agenda and top of mind in the intentions, promises, actions and results of their members, so they don’t end up in the reactive position of needing to rebuild trust.

In the Foreword to a recent report titled ‘The Future of Trust’, 2 Stephen Walker, President of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand poses this important ethical decision making question:

“I may have the right to do this, but is it the right thing to do?”

The report was commissioned by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), with the assistance of Dr Lisa Marriott, 3 and based on two separate surveys by CA ANZ and market research firm Edelman Intelligence.

One of the key findings in the report explores the relationship between the increased use of technology and trust.

Geraldine Magarey, Chartered Accountants’ Thought Leadership & Research Leader highlights how the research shows “it is not the shift towards increased use of technology that is damaging trust in the delivery of professional services, but the accompanying move away from face-to-face contact.”

The report states: “Respondents who reported increased digital contact with their accountant compared to five years earlier experienced no associated increased trust in their accountant. However, respondents who saw their accountant less face-to-face than five years earlier reported lower trust in their accountant than those who saw them more or the same.”

With the mantra of “finding ways to do more with less” (at some point the overwhelm of employees will result in doing less with less), the push to use technology to communicate with clients more and face-to-face less, may in fact be the biggest threat to the future of organisational trust.

  1. volume 2, Pg. 60
  2. The Future of Trust: New technology meets old-fashioned values
  3. Dr Lisa Marriott is Professor of Taxation and Associate Dean (Research) at Victoria University of Wellington’s Business School
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