Trust in U.S. Businesses on the Rise

This time last year, collective faith in American businesses was down, both domestically and abroad. Then again, at this time last year Brett Favre seemed to be settling into retirement and Conan O’Brien was eagerly awaiting fulfilling his dream of taking over "The Tonight Show." Quite a bit can change in a year.

And it looks as though trust in American businesses is rebounding, according to PR Newswire:

Trust in business and government in the United States has improved significantly, according to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer. Among informed publics(1), trust in U.S. business to do what is right jumped 18 points since last year to 54 percent. Trust in U.S. companies is trending up in 19 of the 20 countries surveyed, with the largest increases – 20 percentage points or more – recorded in Europe, reversing years of low trust in U.S. companies across the EU and Russia. In the U.S., trust in government also rose 16 points since last year, to 46 percent, one of the largest increases in trust in government among the countries surveyed. These levels of trust are approaching those measured by Edelman before the "great recession," at the height of the economic expansion in 2006 and 2007. However, nearly two-thirds (59 percent) of U.S. respondents express concern that business and financial institutions will return to "business as usual" after the recession is over… 

For the first time, this year’s survey shows that trust and transparency are as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services. In the U.S. and in much of Western Europe, those two attributes rank higher than product quality – and far outrank financial returns, which sits at or near the bottom of 10 criteria in all regions. This is in stark contrast to 2006, when financial performance was in third place in a list of 10 attributes shaping trust in the United States. An increasing number of respondents also expressed trust in information from a company’s CEO – up 12 points, from 19 percent to 31 percent, which is still relatively low.

Conan the Destroyer: A Lesson in Making Sure Your Best Performers are Happy

In the business world, there are some companies that work under the mantra, "People should feel lucky to work here, so … whatever." And then there are some companies (see our Best Places to Work in Indiana award winners) who ask, "What can we do to make people want to stay here?" One can guess which model is most likely to breed success.

All businesses should take heed of NBC’s Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno saga that’s currently unfolding. Much like customers, it’s far easier to retain a top employee than find someone new. And you never know when one of your top performers may be feeling disrespected and create real problems by going public with unflattering comments, like this statement O’Brien has released:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me.  For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky.  That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009.  Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me.  I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future.  It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule.  Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35.  For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news.  I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.  The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show.  Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot.  That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it.  My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.  Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter.  But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next.  My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Bonus: And here’s O’Brien ripping his employer in his monologue.