A great employee experience doesn’t hinge solely on compensation or benefits. Instead, it's founded on trust—a sentiment that leaders can often overlook.
To cultivate genuine trust within an organization, every employee, whether in the C-suite or on the factory floor, must feel supported, valued, and genuinely heard. This isn’t just a noble ideal but a critical ingredient for sustained success in our ever-evolving business world.
Supporting this claim, Great Place To Work® has spent 30 years analyzing workplace cultures across 170 countries. Through rigorous surveys taken by more 100 million employees around the world, our insights highlight the essential role of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in building organizational trust.
Here’s what we’ve learned about the role of trust in creating a great workplace.
Trust is the backbone of a strong company culture
According to our research and model, a great workplace is marked by four distinct qualities:
- Employees trust the people they work for.
- Employees take pride in their work.
- Employees enjoy collaborating with their colleagues.
- The workplace experience is consistent for everyone, regardless of their role, identity, or location in the organization.
The business case for creating a high-trust workplace
Employees have many choices about where and how they work. This is why modern organizations must focus on building a company culture of trust to retain talent and succeed.
The business case of building a high-trust workplace is clear:
- A lack of belonging is one of the top three most important reasons employees give for leaving their job
- Workplaces with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth compared to their competitors
- Companies that score in the top 25% on employee experience report double the return on sales
- Companies that make the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® List consistently outperform the market by a factor of 3.36, according to FTSE Russell, the global index and data provider
- High-trust cultures experience accelerated rates of innovation
- Companies that supported key employee groups were able to grow during the Great Recession and have vastly outstripped the competition in the decade since
- The No. 1 reason candidates choose one job over another is organizational culture
The data paint a clear picture: companies that invest in their workers deliver stronger financial results over the long term and are more likely to attract top talent in the first place.
4 ways to make your company a great place to work
If trust is a pillar of great workplaces, how do you build a high-trust culture? Start with these four examples of how to make your company a great place to work:
1. Start by listening.
Listening is one of the most important high-trust behaviors leaders should practice. Listening is more than ensuring you’ve accurately heard what someone has said. True listening requires leaders to be humble, vulnerable, and empathetic.
Engage in dialogue with employees, give them the opportunity to ask questions, get answers, and voice their concerns.
Listening should be proactive. Make yourself available and seek out chances to listen. Schedule informal meetings like a brown-bag lunch and ask questions with a willingness to learn. Use surveys and employee resource groups (ERGs) to get more candid employee opinions—and follow up with feedback results and how you’ll take action.
2. Set your leaders up for success.
Trust between employees and leaders is the foundation of a great employee experience. But to create a high-trust culture, it's important to operationalize those standards and make them actionable if you want them to have a positive impact on your workforce. That means ensuring you’ve set up your HR and workforce management technology in a way that supports trust and belonging.
When trust is low, it impacts many aspects of your business and company culture:
- Employees put less effort and attention into their work
- Levels of collaboration and cooperation with others plummet
- Employees care less about the success of the organization
Given that leaders affect the majority of the employee experience, it’s crucial to set your leaders up for success when it comes to a culture of building trust.
When you partner with a technology solution, like the UKG Great Place to Work Hub, it helps your leaders prioritize creating trust, pride, and camaraderie in the workplace. You can turn HR metrics into opportunities to build inclusive, equitable cultures, and provide managers with access to leadership development and train leaders on the importance of matching actions with their words.
Here are three critical ways leaders can foster a high-trust environment:
Relationships matter: When leaders invest time into getting to know their employees as people as well as professionals, trust flourishes. Regular and frequent one-on-one time with employees, even if only for 15 minutes, helps create the kind of connection that enables stronger relationships.
Open communication: Taking the time to share information transparently and authentically is a show of respect and a powerful trust builder. Sharing information sends a message to people that they matter.
Involve people in decisions:When employees are part of decision-making processes that touch on their roles, they feel more valued and have a stronger sense of purpose. This can make them feel more dedicated and loyal to the organization.
3. Build a culture of credibility, respect, and fairness.
Creating a culture anchored in credibility, respect, and fairness is a linchpin for fostering trust among leaders and employees.
Let’s review each of these facets to understand how they each contribute to building a high-trust environment:
Credibility: This cornerstone of trust is cultivated when leaders are competent, authentic, and honest. Consistent and direct communication, actions that reflect company values, and a two-way communication street are essential in building credibility. Leaders need to not only share information but also actively listen to their employees, ensuring that public value statements align with the internal experience of the workforce.
Respect: This facet is about valuing employees for who they are, both in and outside of the workplace. In a culture that supports work-life balance, shows genuine interest in employees' lives, and focuses on belonging and inclusion, respect is both demonstrated and earned. Providing ample opportunities for development and training is also a vital way to show respect to employees by acknowledging their potential and aspirations.
Fairness: In a truly fair workplace, opportunities for growth and recognition are accessible to all. Leaders need to scrutinize compensation structures, address any existing pay gaps, and ensure diverse voices are represented at decision-making discussions. By analyzing and adapting workplace well-being programs, fairness is demonstrated, ensuring that the needs of all employees are met, not just those of certain groups.
4. Cultivate workplace pride.
In the pursuit of an exceptional workplace, trust often takes the spotlight, yet there's another critical element that deserves recognition—workplace pride. It transcends mere job satisfaction; it’s the profound sense of being proud of one’s workplace and what it stands for, encompassing pride in the work itself, pride in the team, and pride in the organization’s overarching mission.
Why does workplace pride matter?
Workplace pride isn’t just a feel-good sentiment; it’s a potent catalyst for employee engagement and organizational success. When employees take pride in their workplace:
Engagement soars: They become more engaged, fully invested in their roles and responsibilities.
Communication flourishes: Communication within teams reaches new heights, fostering collaboration and shared success.
Strengths are maximized: Employees build upon each other’s strengths, resulting in a more cohesive and effective workforce.
To cultivate workplace pride, consider practical strategies that can make a real difference. For a comprehensive guide on how to nurture this powerful force within your organization, explore my article on cultivating workplace pride.
Scenario of pride in action:
Meet Salma, a dedicated project manager at Y Inc. Salma takes immense pride in her work, consistently exceeding expectations and driving projects to successful completion. She not only finds fulfillment in her tasks (pride in the work) but also values her dynamic team, collaborating seamlessly to achieve shared goals (pride in the team). Likewise, Salma deeply believes in Y Inc.’s commitment to sustainability and community engagement, which resonates with her personal values (pride in the company).
Salma’s story exemplifies the transformative power of workplace pride, where employees like her become the driving force behind an organization’s excellence.
Inspire greatness at your organization
A culture of trust and belonging is the cornerstone of a great workplace for all. That’s why we’re excited to announce the Great Place To Work Hub, which brings together Great Place To Work research, your organization’s data, and your employees’ voices to build inclusive, equitable cultures.
If you’re looking for a clear plan for building a people-centric culture of trust to help your employees thrive, check out the UKG + Great Place To Work Culture Playbook and learn more about the Great Place To Work Hub.