trust technology

Live from UNLEASH America: Rachel Botsman on Why Trust Matters

This week, I’ve been in Las Vegas at UNLEASH America, soaking up big ideas about the latest HR tech trends and how technology is changing the way we work.

One of the speakers who knocked my socks off was Rachel Botsman. She is an author and visiting lecturer and researcher at the University of Oxford. Her keynote was all about trust, and why organizations need it to survive and thrive. Her new book is “Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart.” Here are the highlights Rachel shared in a conversation with media before her keynote.

How Technology Changes Everything

As technology has taken huge leaps forward, our expectations have taken an enormous leap, too, she says. Instead of just trusting technology to do something, we now have to trust technology to make decisions for us. That means we have to trust that the technology is competent and reliable, and we have to trust its intentions and its integrity. “How on earth do you trust the intentions of an algorithm?” she says. “That’s a huge problem. There’s an idea that we can outsource trust to an algorithm, but when an algorithm makes a decision we don’t agree with, who’s accountable? That’s the danger of outsourcing too much to machines. It becomes an issue of accountability when things go wrong.”

How to Measure Trust

When people consider whether a company is trustworthy, they consider a few key traits, she says:

  • Are they competent? Do they have the skills and the knowledge to do what they say they’re going to do?
  • Are they reliable? Are they consistent over time?
  • Are they benevolent? How much do they really care?
  • Do they have integrity? Do they have my best interests at heart?

Rachel says that some organizations are strong in all four areas, but “most organizations wobble around one trait, and when there is a trust crisis you really see that one trait break down.”

Plus, she says, it’s hard to measure trust because it’s extremely contextual. When you say, “I trust Amazon,” do you trust them because they deliver their packages on time? Or do you trust them to pay their taxes? Do you trust them to take care of their people? Any trust score is ultimately contextual, she says.

How to Regain Customers’ Trust

Rachel says companies can regain trust after a crisis. The key elements of a rebound are:

  • Responsiveness – Respond quickly.
  • Empathy – Acknowledge the human consequences of a mistake.
  • Accountability – Take ownership of the problem.
  • Assurance – Show people that the system and the culture has changed to avoid future crises.

“It’s easy to forget is that trust is a human process,” she says. “Technology cannot replace the way humans trust one another, and technology runs the risk of us giving our trust away too easily. The goal for any organization shouldn’t be more trust, it should be better-placed trust.”