UK public sector workers have the lowest trust in the organisations they work for, according to a new report released by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) today.

‘The truth about trust’ report, drawn from a survey of over 1,600 UK managers, revealed that just 29% of public sector managers have high levels of trust in their organisation, well below levels in the private sector (45%) and third sector (46%). The report also revealed that managers in the public sector are less trusting of their colleagues, with more than one in 10 (12%) stating that they trust almost no one in their organisation.

Drilling down a layer further, the report found the individual industries with the lowest trust levels are central and local government (including the police and fire service) with just 10% high trust in their organisations, followed by education (32%) and financial services, banking and insurance industries (34%).

Charles Elvin, CEO of the Institute of Leadership and Management said: “Our research shows relatively low levels of employee trust across the public sector, which we believe is due to uncertainty following several years of budget cuts and upheaval. This challenge is by no means unique to the public sector – we also see a real opportunity for leaders to transform low trust across the financial services industries by building the open two-way relationships that enable high-performance workplaces.”

The research highlights five fundamental skills and qualities that leaders need in order to be trusted by their staff. The single most powerful driver of trust was found to be openness – which 70% of employees ranked as one of their top three drivers. This is followed by effective communication (53%), the ability to make decisions (49%), integrity (48%) and competence in their role (42%).

Charles Elvin advises organisations to measure and develop the levels of trust in their leadership teams. “We know that high-trust organisations benefit from increased productivity, processes and well-being, which is why we believe trust should be monitored and managed as a key performance indicator. By identifying the five fundamental skills and behaviours needed to build trust, this research provides a useful framework for organisations to assess and develop the open, ethical and capable leaders and managers that today’s workers expect and demand.”

By comparing levels of trust from employees and non-employees, the study found those industries with the lowest internal trust were typically also among the least trusted by consumers. Local and central government, financial services, banking and insurance all scored well below average for both internal and external trust.

Charles Elvin continued: “It’s no surprise that those industries with the lowest trust levels internally are also among the least trusted by the general public. This suggests that the first step to building trust with consumers is to focus on gaining the trust of your most important stakeholders – your employees.

“Trust is more than a nice-to-have, it is the lifeblood of sustainable organisational performance. The more someone trusts a colleague, manager or team member, the greater the likelihood they will share information, take risks and work together. Trust also allows leaders to try new things, which is essential for any organisation that wants to grow and develop.”