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Trust is the Most Critical Business KPI

Trust is the Most Critical Business KPI
Trust is the Most Critical Business KPI

Virtually every company, and especially companies running on the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®), use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success. We have metrics for sales, marketing, customer service, and human resources to name a few. We may also have KPIs for employee engagement and recruiting, but if so, are we missing the most important factor?

In their State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report, Gallup found that only 21 percent of workers trust leaders, and therefore, only 23 percent are fully engaged. Most of the disengaged have “quiet quit,” and almost 20 percent of these are actively damaging their companies. Conversely, according to research from Deloitte, high trust firms outperform competitors by 400 percent and have 200 percent more customer satisfaction. Most of their employees are fully engaged and drive 80 percent more productivity. Gallup studies show that high employee engagement results in 20 percent more revenue.

Given that many of our business KPIs are directly related to trust factors, shouldn’t employee trust be at the top of our KPI list? Perhaps, but what is trust, and how do we measure it?

High Trust = Oxytocin

Current and former EOS® Worldwide Visionaries, Mark O’Donnell and Mike Paton, wrote the Foreword to my next book, Start With Who, wherein I offer research relating trust to a brain chemical we all have called oxytocin. Dr. German Fresco is a PhD neuroscientist and the chief science officer for RemotelyMe. He and other neuroscientists have validated that high trust talent can drive 106 percent more energy and 79 percent more engagement. If we want to achieve stellar business KPIs, trust is obviously the golden key.

Companies running on EOS® often use a People Analyzer™ to initially assess current and prospective employees and gain several key metrics. Other firms may rely exclusively on manager reviews for current employees and resume reviews for candidates. These are good starts, but we’re still missing a way to quantify trust. Some firms use personality or occupational tests to augment employee data, but most of these were invented decades ago and rely exclusively on text or word-based questions. Neuroscience shows that non-visual assessments only access about 10 percent of our decision-making brain, and therefore only achieve 50 to 75 percent Cronbach’s Alpha validity. Most importantly, none of these tests discern for trust factors.

Employee engagement surveys can be helpful in measuring point-in-time satisfaction or dissatisfaction, but many employees are reluctant to be fully transparent for fear of repercussions—despite assurances of anonymity. Given trust concerns related to surveys, they may not be our best choice to measure engagement.

In my latest book, I outline eight actions companies can take to increase oxytocin and therefore trust. These actions also provide ways to measure “before and after” trust levels. As a prerequisite, we need to have employees, and especially top performers, complete an assessment that measures for trust. The best way to do this is with visual neuroscience. Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than words and are also divided into three parts that are more logical (neocortex), instinctual (reptilian complex), and emotional (limbic system). Our logical brain is responsible for about 10 percent of our decision making, and prefers text, words, and numbers, which is why written tests have lower validity.

Our other two brains prefer visual and auditory stimulation, and must be accessed properly to measure for trust.

Measuring for trust and engagement can provide us with a baseline. From there, we can employ eight ways to increase oxytocin and trust, and here are three:

Recognize excellence measure and publicly reward desired behaviors and accomplishments.

Induce challenge stresstoo much stress is counterproductive, but healthy “gamification” team competition is healthy.

Facilitate employee development most people want to advance personally and professionally, so give them plenty of ways to do this and measure their progress.

Recent research from Korn Ferry shows that organization-wide transformation becomes tangible when only 10 percent advocate a new mindset. Imagine what could happen if just 10 percent of your employees took active steps to increase trust.

Trust is the Most Critical Business KPI. If you want to win against competitors, retain customers, and attract the best talent, you need to ensure that trust is one of your top KPIs.


William Craig Reed is with, which offers the only visual neuroscience assessments. Reed is also the New York Times bestselling author of The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership and Start With Who, that Ken Blanchard, co-author of The New One Minute Manager, says is “thought-provoking.”


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