Convince Employees and Candidates to Trust You? Good Luck

There’s a group of people, I’m not sure how numerous, who don’t seem to trust anyone anymore. I wonder how this lack of trust in companies and organizations will affect employers’ ability to get job candidates to believe what they’re telling them. I also wonder what’s happening to employee engagement if employees don’t believe what they’re told.

A lot of people now distrust the government, banks, large companies, unions, and the media, according to new Pew Research Center data. If you still trust research center data, that is. 

Folks don’t seem to trust the government’s attempt to reduce unemployment rates. Then again, some people don’t even trust unemployment rates anymore. I guess between birth/death adjustments, seasonal adjustments, and later revisions — the numbers are just too confusing and too malleable.

Sometimes you see this deep skepticism on ERE. When we write something positive about a vendor, a few readers think that it’s because they’re an advertiser; if we write something negative about a vendor, they think we’re getting a fistful of fifties from that vendor’s competitor.

You hear it on conservative talk radio, where a seemingly endless number of commercials tell you to buy gold — commercials sometimes given by the talk-show hosts themselves — implying that gold’s the only currency you can trust. Perhaps if you don’t trust banks (money market funds), corporations (stocks), or the government (bonds), that leaves the space under your mattress. This must make the job of human resources/benefits administrators who handle 401(k) plans that much harder.

I wonder if the people who are buying these gold bars trust that it’s actually real gold. Apparently, it’ll be well-protected gold, as I hear that conservatives are buying many more guns now, because they don’t trust that the government will uphold the Second Amendment.

You feel the negativity in the mainstream/leftist media, too, where some seem to imply the U.S. military (which does most anything to spare civilians) targets civilians; that American medical care (arguably the world’s best) is like the third world’s; that drug companies are out to make a buck at anyone’s expense; that our environment (which has gotten cleaner in recent decades) is on the verge of implosion, and on and on and on and on. They ignore our incredible progress and focus on an endless list of silly bogeyman-type evils, like BPA, vaccines, cell phone towers, and strangest of all, the infamous MSNBC report on hot dogs.

If you work for one of these companies — say, a drug company or cell phone provider — I wonder if you’ve come across job candidates questioning your corporation’s motives.

One friend of mine, a professor who is a self-proclaimed liberal feminist vegetarian, no longer trusts the president. He feels the president pushed through a healthcare bill that my friend sees as exacerbating the shortage of primary doctors, increasing costs, and expanding bureaucracy. 

People used to respect Goldman Sachs, but I don’t know if they will anymore. I hope so. I wonder (and am working on finding out) what reactions Goldman Sachs recruiters are getting from candidates. 

I’m car shopping and someone said to me, “just don’t get a Toyota.” I guess people don’t trust Toyota now either. I hope that’s not the case, and I wonder what questions job candidates are asking Toyota recruiters. 

At a birthday party last Sunday night in Santa Monica, a young lady said to me, “when you go to the car dealer, don’t believe anything they say.”

Wow. I certainly don’t believe everything a car dealer says. But she’s saying I shouldn’t believe anything they say!

You’ve got a few cynical candidates applying for your jobs.

One parent told me last weekend she doesn’t put photos of her children on Facebook, even with strict privacy settings, because, she says, “I just don’t trust that the privacy settings will work.” And this relates to a tech company, which, Pew finds, are among the few institutions (along with small businesses, and churches) that are still well-liked.

The entertainment industry often contributes to all this, somewhat randomly injecting anti-American, or just negative, comments into movies and TV. (Not surprisingly, the Pew research shows people don’t like the entertainment industry anymore either.)  In a recent episode of the television show Parenthood, one character referred to the economy as being in the “crapper.” The cast lives in big houses, drives new cars, attends private schools, has personal therapists, nice clothes, swim lessons, lush baseball fields, prestigious law firm jobs, gorgeous parties in the backyard, and … well, if you turned on that show from Bangladesh, you might think, “Honey, we should move to the crapper.”

Maybe this isn’t new. Maybe there has always been a group of people, mostly young people, who didn’t believe anything they read or saw. After all, we’ve heard 100 times that people didn’t respect or trust authority in the 1960s. (Or so we’re told; trust in the Kennedy/Johnson Administrations, to take one data point, was actually pretty high.)

But even if cynicism has been here before, employee engagement and employment branding efforts weren’t such big things in decades gone by. As part of the intense competition over talent, the ongoing rivalvry over the limited pool of coveted skilled employees companies are fighting for, employers are trying hard to get candidates to believe the messages they’re telling them about how great their workplaces are. And employers from the U.S. to Europe are trying to get current employees to trust them, to believe in their company missions. It’s not going to be easy. Trust me.


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