How to Restore Employee Trust After a Very Public Company Scandal

Company scandals like those Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, and Facebook have experienced cost millions of dollars every year—sometimes billions of dollars. Public company scandals obviously test public and consumer trust, but they also test the resolve and trust of employees.


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If you’re a Human Resources (HR) professional, here’s how to restore your employees’ trust in your organization and its mission after your organization undergoes a very public scandal.

Address Issues Head On and with Transparency

To get your employees to trust your organization again, especially its leadership, be as transparent with them as possible. Make a statement addressing what went wrong and where and how your organization’s leadership plans on rectifying those wrongs.

Employees will not sincerely trust the leadership across your organization if those leaders don’t take responsibility for wrongdoings and how they will address any necessary reparations.

Invest in New Leadership or Leadership Guidelines

When necessary, be prepared to invest in new leadership teams and guidelines so that your employees trust their organization’s leaders again. If a group of executives was found guilty of or actively participated in illicit activities (or activities that call into question the integrity of your organization), don’t be afraid to find new leadership to restore the trust of your employees.

Keep in mind that employees will often follow the example of their organization’s leaders, too. And if certain behaviors exhibited by individuals involved in a scandal at your organization were questionable but not necessarily overtly illicit or immoral, be prepared to invest in and establish new guidelines that clarify how those questionable behaviors will be perceived or handled in the future.

You can establish new leadership ethics guidelines in your employee handbooks and code of conduct.

Officially Establish New Commitments and Policies

After undergoing a public company scandal, it’s important that your employees know exactly how such a scandal will be handled and addressed so that future scandals don’t occur.

For example, if negligence led to a security breach, what new commitments and policies will be put in place to prevent future security breaches? Or, if employees mistakenly made a defective product that hurt people, what will they be required to do in the future to ensure product quality and safety?

It is often not enough to simply apologize and move on from a company scandal. Employees need to know specifically how your organization will handle a scandal and prevent one from happening again if they’re to sincerely restore trust in your organization that will encourage them to stay with you long term.

Touch Base with Employees, and Solicit Their Feedback

To understand precisely what your employees need to see, hear, or experience in order to trust your organization and its mission again, ask them directly. Depending on the type of scandal your organization experienced, some employees might want a personal apology from a leader, some might want new policies or procedures to be enacted across your organization, and some might request financial reparations.

You won’t know what will make employees truly trust your organization again until you ask them. Keep in mind that financial reparations may simply not be enough to restore trust, nor will a public apology.

If you’re interested in rebuilding your employees’ trust, keep the best practices highlighted above in mind.

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