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On this episode of the Trust Podcast, an SAP podcast about cybersecurity, trust and today’s landscape, SAP’s Chief Trust Officer Elena Kvochko was joined by Sandra Sucher, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School and Author of "The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It". They discussed the importance of trust in business and best practices for building and retaining trust.

Trust in Business 

"Trust is the willing to be vulnerable to other people's actions and intentions." shared Sucher.

Sucher expanded on this definition of trust by sharing that "When people put trust in you, they are giving you the power by saying that there are things I want that you can actually produce and I trust in you to do that but I also understand there is a chance you may not follow through." Trust is based in the idea of having faith in others treating you fairly whether it is a business or a personal interaction.

In 2017, Sucher was visiting Recruit Holdings, a company that owns Indeed and Glassdoor, in Japan and learned about the company surviving a scandal so large that the Prime Minster of Japan and his entire Cabinet had to resign. Not only were they surviving but they had approximately 50,000 employees worldwide and their revenue was in the billions so they were thriving despite having been part of a major scandal. This intrigued Sucher because "up until then the big rule about trust and business as once it's lost, it's gone forever."

Fostering Trust in Economic Uncertainty

According to the Edelman Trust barometer, the biggest concern of employees right now is a fear of job loss. Sucher shared "It is really important to meet employees where they are. So the biggest thing companies can do is understand that employees are concerned and share information fairly."

This means business should openly share what concerns are there for the business, what actions they are taking to address these concerns and especially indicating the care they are taking when making decisions which impact people directly such as layoffs.

Sucher shared an example of a company that handled layoffs in a way that retained because they  did several things that are helpful to people to keep in mind as best practices:

  1. Set actions in the context of the broader economy

  2. Had initial communication address things that would be important to employees including severance pay, immigration support and any services to help laid off employees find new roles

  3. Took responsibility for actions that the company took that led to having to do layoffs

Public Perception Around Trust

The Edelman Trust Barometer is a way of measuring trust in institution so it compares trust in government organizations to trust in media to trust in businesses and so forth. In the past few years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has found that public trusts businesses more than they trust other types of organizations.
Sucher explains " With this way of measuring trust, it compares trust in these organizations on a relative basis. This means a business comes up on top because how people saw businesses respond to the pandemic."

Business were able to prove their trustworthiness with how they stepped up to provide services and products while caring for the health and well-being of their employees. Sucher also shares that "the data in general shows that the expectations around businesses and society in general has raised where companies are now expected to do more than just grow wealth and create jobs but also contribute towards communities in more positive ways."

Establishing a Trust Function

Sucher believes it's a good idea to establish a trust function and understands that "it's one of those things that everyone thinks is a good idea but they're not exactly sure what to do about it."

She expanded that the Chief Trust Officer is useful because it's a person in the organization who understands the trust space and develops best practices but also somebody that looks end to end on issues the company faces. This person can make sure their is an equality in approach to issues and a focus on the right things for their particular business and sector.

At the end of the episode, Sucher shared a piece of advice, “The most practical question that someone can ask in a meeting. To try to bring trust into the room, is, how will this decision effect whether people trust us or not? And with whom? So will this decision, cause us to gain trust or to lose trust."

Listen to the full episode with Sandra Sucher here.