Workers Wonder: Will Business Meet Challenges?

February 19, 2020 LRN Corporation

People have more trust in business than other institutions such as government and media, but concerns remain about whether corporations will be able to meet the challenges created by ongoing technological disruption.

A survey of more than 34,000 people in 28 countries by communications firm Edelman found people were most concerned about business’ ability to adapt to social change, and to train effectively employees for technological advancement. They worry about their own economic prospects, and whether or not family members would be better off five years from now.

In fact, 83% worried about losing their jobs due to these variables: freelance/gig economy, looming recession, lack of training or skills, cheaper foreign competitors, immigrants, automation or jobs being outsourcing to other countries. 

Within the various categories of business, respondents said they trusted family-owned companies the most, followed by other privately owned companies. The least trusted institutions: public companies, and state-owned entities. 

Some of the other key findings from Trust Barometer 2020:

  • Some 56% of respondents said capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good. Forty-eight percent said capitalism is failing them, a gain of three percentage points from last year. Just 18% said the system is working for them. Almost three-quarters feel a sense of injustice and a desire for change--74% and 73%, respectively.
  • Eighty-seven percent said they believe stakeholders--employees, customers and communities--and not shareholders, are most important to a company’s long-term success. Almost three-quarters (73%) said it’s possible for a company to take actions that both increase profit and improve conditions in communities.
  • Three-quarters said chief executives should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for governments to impose it, a nine percentage point increase from two years ago. And 92% said it’s important for CEOs to speak out on one or more of the following issues: training for jobs of the future; automation’s impact on jobs; ethical use of tech; income inequality; diversity; climate change, and immigration.
  • People’s trust in business to do what’s right declined across all industries. 
  • Most respondents worried technology is getting “out of control.” Two-thirds said they fear technology will make it impossible to know if what people are seeing or hearing is real; 61% said the pace of technological change is too fast; and 61% said the government doesn’t understand emerging technologies enough to effectively regulate them.

Clearly, trust is an issue the C-suite, and ethics and compliance leaders will be grappling with for the foreseeable future.

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