The government may be shut down, but business isn’t. And even when — at this point, I should say if — an agreement is hammered out in Washington, the episode is likely to further erode people’s trust in the government to take on our most challenging issues. But as the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer shows, as people’s trust in institutions of all kinds has been eroding, their trust in their employers has gone up.

The survey represents a profound shift that’s taking place both in people’s relationships with their employers and in the increasing value — and even expectation — for corporations to engage with society and speak out about their values.

While almost half of the respondents feel like the system is failing them, 76 percent of employees say they want CEOs to “take the lead on change instead of waiting for government to impose it.” Worldwide, a nearly equal number — 75 percent — say they trust “my employer” to do the right thing, which is higher than even NGOs, at 57 percent.

And it’s not just that people are putting more trust in their employers to do what’s right, it’s also becoming an assumed built-in part of the job contract. As the report puts it, “employees’ expectation that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80).”

And when those higher expectations are met, the employees reciprocate. The survey found that employees who trust their company are more loyal, more committed and more likely be to be advocates.

The report also notes that when these demands aren’t met, employees will take action themselves, as when 20,000 Google employees staged a walkout to protest how the company had handled sexual harassment issues.

As JUST Capital’s 2018 survey found, these expectations are true of businesses in general, and not just for one’s own employers. Nearly two-thirds of American workers believe CEOs “have a responsibility to take a stand on important social issues,” 76 percent said they’d take less money for a job at a more just company and 78 percent said they’d “taken action to show their support for a company’s positive behavior.”

And there are plenty of examples of companies responding. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff recently gave over $6 million to turn a shuttered hotel into housing for the homeless. And this came after he’d been a forceful advocate for a local referendum in San Francisco that would tax big companies to fund homeless programs. The measure passed with 60 percent of the vote. The next week, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson announced the company was pledging $1 million for the homeless.

After the Parkland shooting last February, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced its decision to no longer sell assault-style weapons. And just this month, Gillette took on changing ideas of masculinity with a video called “We Believe.”

So yes, the government is shut down and that has real and terrible consequences. But the good news is that our expectation that businesses stand for something beyond just quarterly profits is growing. It’s also a great example of another one of Thrive’s core pillars – that our work lives aren’t separate from our home lives. We bring our whole selves to work, and we want our workplaces not just to use our talents but to reflect our values. And businesses that respond to these demands will be increasingly rewarded by employees and customers alike.

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Author(s)

  • Arianna Huffington

    Founder & CEO of Thrive

    Arianna Huffington is the founder and CEO of Thrive, the founder of The Huffington Post, and the author of 15 books, including Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. In 2016, she launched Thrive, a leading behavior change tech company with the mission of changing the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success. She has been named to Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list. Originally from Greece, she moved to England when she was 16 and graduated from Cambridge University with an M.A. in economics. At 21, she became president of the famed debating society, the Cambridge Union. She serves on numerous boards, including Onex and The B Team. Her last two books, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder and The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time, both became instant international bestsellers. Most recently, she wrote the foreword to Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps.