Perspectives

Importance of trust in a dynamic business landscape

Trust is indispensable in today's business landscape, influencing operations, reputation, and growth. Despite its acknowledged significance, few actively pursue methods to measure and cultivate it.

Trust is a company’s most valuable asset. It resides in leadership, amongst the workforce, in the minds of customers, suppliers, the community, and other stakeholders. Trust develops when actions exhibit a significant level of skill and genuine intention, leading to proven ability, dependability, openness, and compassion.

Businesses are increasingly recognising the impact of Trust on their operations, reputation and growth. According to a Deloitte survey, 94% of boards acknowledge that building Trust is critical for their organisation's performance. However, only 14% of these boards have been taking proactive steps to earn and measure Trust.1 This presents a responsibility and opportunity for leaders to help rebuild and nurture trust.

Trust at the core of corporate strategy and as a strategic priority

Making Trust a part of core corporate strategy and culture of an organisation and defining individual responsibilities and accountability are critical. Key considerations to make this impactful are:

  • New methods that look within and outside the company are necessary to meaningfully identify Trust gaps
  • A structured framework is crucial for measuring trust, requiring a 360-degree assessment of organisational performance across leadership, governance, customer experience, supply chain resilience, cyber, and ESG. This approach identifies trust deficits, making trust tangible and actionable for business leaders to build trust equity
  • A prioritised plan of action is needed across relevant areas to take meaningful steps forward to earn and protect Trust

Owing the trust agenda: The responsibility of the Chief Trust Officer (CTrO)

As businesses increasingly seek to embody Trust in their operations, the Chief Trust Officer (CTrO) has emerged as a strategic leader, who plays a pivotal role in driving and measuring Trust across the organisation’s stakeholders and partner ecosystems. Reporting to the CEO, the CTrO not only indicates the company's commitment to prioritising trust but also marks a step towards building an organisation’s trust mirror where they see the true picture of their trust levels.

The role of a CTrO involves overseeing trust-building initiatives, including ensuring ethical conduct, safeguarding data, ensuring compliance and managing risks – for both internal and external stakeholders. The CTrO works to cultivate a culture of Trust within the company, fostering open communication, transparency, and a sense of shared purpose. By promoting Trust among employees, the CTrO contributes to increased job satisfaction, employee engagement, and overall organisational resilience.

In recent times, several large MNCs already have a dedicated CTrO to own, drive and monitor the Trust agenda. However, some other organisations have added on this role to an existing C-suite role, like the Chief Risk Officer, Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Internal Audit, etc. since these roles also oversee all domains of an organisation, and in that sense could be a natural alignment to the CTrO.

Driving the trust agenda through collaboration

The CTrO's responsibilities differ significantly from other C-suite executives. While the CISO focuses on technical aspects of cybersecurity, the CTrO addresses elevated levels of responsibility and reputational impact resulting from transformative technology adoption and while the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) primarily mitigates financial risks, the CTrO's focus encompasses data privacy, ethics, and reputation on a broader scale.

Hence, to drive the trust agenda across the organisation effectively, the CTrO needs to collaborate with other C-suite executives, however, the primary responsibility of communication and advocacy of trust extends across the entire C-suite.

It's time to act!

As organisations navigate market complexities, diverse stakeholder expectations, complex supply chains and climate and sustainability challenges - the role of the CTrO is pivotal in ensuring that trust becomes an integral part of a company's growth strategy and vision. With trust at the helm, organisations can build credible and sustainable relationships, in an era where trust is the ultimate currency.

The original article was published in People matters on 11th April 2024

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