The 4 Factors of Organizational Trust… and What They Mean for Schools

A large amount of research on the value, importance, and significance of trust has been conducted over the previous decades. The research demonstrates that high levels of trust in educational institutions and their leaders results in the following:

  • higher levels of retention of faculty and staff
  • greater levels of achievement by students
  • stronger parent and community relations
  • …and more

Without trust, schools struggle to retain qualified and committed faculty and staff; the achievement levels of students in both academic and non-academic disciplines diminish, and parent and community support wanes. In some cases, students, teachers, parents, and even community members become adversarial and destructive.

The Four Key Factors of Trust
The largest public relations firm in the world is Edelman. They have over 5,500 employees serving in 65 cities worldwide, with affiliate firms in an additional 40 cities. Their clients work in research, creativity, medical communications, and more. Edelman is also the premier researcher in the field of organizational trust. Each year they produce an annual global study called the Edelman Trust Barometer. In the 2015 edition, Richard Edelman states in the introduction, “We see an evaporation of trust across all institutions… For the first time, two-thirds of the 27 nations we survey fall into the “distruster” category.”

Note that he said “all institutions.” Today’s lack of trust is not just a concern of businesses and governments, but all organizations – from family-operated convenience stores to global charities and schools. So how do we begin to address this trust crisis? Perhaps, first, we need to understand the general principles or “factors” that shape trust.

Edleman identifies the following factors as key to establishing trust in an organization:

Application for School Leaders
Consider the application of these four fundamental factors to school leadership.

  1. Industry Sector. Recent studies reveal that the Technology Sector is the most trusted at 79%, while the Media sector is at just 51% (only slightly above Banks and Financial Services). If age categories broke down these studies, we would most likely discover that the younger the audience surveyed, the higher the trust level in technology. Most school leaders are also in my age category, meaning they grew up in a time very different from that of their students and the majority of their faculty and staff in relation to technology.

In education today, we talk a great deal about preparing students with 21st Century Skills; however, to what extent are university administration programs focusing on developing leaders who can genuinely implement and lead in an area that perhaps they still have a difficult time trusting themselves. We must recognize that we live in a technology world, and it is not going away. As school leaders, we must also recognize that there is a large amount of research demonstrating that even though our faculty members may be receiving great amounts of training and professional development in the area of integrating technology into the classroom, without strong leadership and the support of their administrator, they will most likely be unsuccessful in the effective implementation of their training. Several studies have suggested that administrative support is the most important factor in technology implementation and that without it, other variables will be negatively affected (Ertmer, Bai, Dong, Khalil, Park, & Wang, 2002; Gerard, Bowyer, & Linn, 2008; Hilliard & Jackson, 2011)… [Continue Reading on Global School Consulting Group]


TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement