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Best Workplaces™ Most Trusted Executive Teams Building Trust in the Workplace Starts at the Top

 Best Workplaces™  Most Trusted Executive Teams Building Trust in the Workplace Starts at the Top

Best Workplaces Company Culture

Building trust in the workplace is fundamental to organizational success.

At Great Place to Work® it’s what we’ve been studying for 30 years, and we know from the thousands of hours of interviews and focus groups that went into creating our Trust Index and the over 3+ million of Trust Index™ surveys conducted around the world since, that high trust cultures help our Best Companies outpace the stock market by a factor of three. We also know that building trust in the workplace starts with trustworthy leaders and executives who model trust from the top. 

“You can't create a trusting organization without it being modeled as a value from the top of the organization,”

Sarah Lewis-Kulin, Vice President of Global Recognition at Great Place To Work

At the workplaces on our Most Trusted Executive Teams list what stood out was the ability of their executives to make an emotional connection with their company’s culture and its people while creating a coherent and effective strategy at every level of the business. This requires a great deal of employee confidence in the executive and indeed, the amount of confidence employees have in their executive team is the most significant predictor of workplace trust and enjoyment. When people have a great deal of confidence in their executive team’s judgement, they are 7x more likely to agree they have a great place to work. The organizations on this list prove this point with 92 % of their people agreeing, that taking everything into account their workplace “is a great place to work.”

What Makes an Executive Team Trustworthy?

Employees have the most confidence in leaders who walk the talk, live the company values and make an effort to connect with employees on a human level. Employees say they have a great deal of confidence in their executive team when they believe:

  • Management's actions match its words

  • Their executives fully embody the best characteristics of their organization

  • Management shows a sincere interest in them as a person, not just an employee


Building Trust in The Workplace in Action

What do the employees at the Best Workplaces – Most Trusted Executive Teams believe?


88% agree, “Management’s actions match its words.”

90% agree, “Our executives fully embody the best characteristics of our organization.”

88% agree, “Management shows a sincere interest in me as a person, not just an employee.”

Essentially, building trust in the workplace comes down to authenticity and being real with people. It means taking trust to a deeper level of connection that we may not have expected to see even 10 years ago. This notion of expecting executives to show an interest in employees as people is actually one of the most important drivers of workplace trust and confidence – being a person, not a number is not a new concept but it’s importance to people within the workplace has risen significantly and is rooted in the foundations of work and in leadership effectiveness.

To build both trust and effectiveness, executives need to use their social cognitive system to make emotional connections and their task-oriented analytical system to develop and deliver on their strategy. Toggling between the two, and understanding when and where each should take priority is the delicate balancing act that high-trust executive teams have perfected. Here are the four key functions they use to accomplish this.

Connect With Employees On A Human Level

The cornerstone here is respect. Do your people feel respected both as professionals and individuals with lives outside of work? Do they know that you care about them as people first and employees second? If you can answer yes, then you are doing it right. Leaders, like their teammates, are human and everyone needs to be reminded of this. We all need to feel respected and trusted and valued for both what we do and for simply who we are. As a leader it’s important you take the first step with this because by simply being a ‘leader’ you are afforded a level of respect that not everyone experiences. When you apply respect universally it encourages everyone to do the same.

  • Be approachable.

  • Be open, honest, sincere and humble.

  • Respect that everyone contributes to the success of the team no matter the work they do.

  • Forge meaningful, caring relationships across the organization and do so mindfully by paying attention to implicit biases that may be holding you back from being fully open.

  • Notice people and their work by telling them you appreciate their contributions and are thankful they are part of the team.


Building Trust in The Workplace Through CONNECTIONS

What do the employees at the Best Workplaces – Most Trusted Executive Teams experience?


92% agree, “Management is approachable, easy to talk with.”

92% agree, “I am treated as a full member here regardless of my position.”

88% agree, “Management shows appreciation for good work and extra effort.”


Role Model How All Teams Should Behave

The most important relationship executives can forge is with each other.  Presenting your executive team as a united front that is moving in the same direction instils a great deal of trust and ultimately, how can you ask your people to trust you if you don’t trust yourselves? Through the process and careful application of high-trust behaviours amongst yourselves you will learn valuable lessons to pass along to the rest of the team. As leaders these lessons will allow you to build a deeper level of trust and help others establish, or regain, trust as needed. This creates a positive cycle as you work toward an organization that has a culture of trust at its core.

  • Surround yourself with people who are highly credible, consistently respectful and fair to everyone they meet.

  • Be worthy of trust – be honest, ethical, and reliable.

  • Commit to high levels of interpersonal trust within your executive team – share ideas and feelings, spend time together outside of the office, and appreciate your differences knowing they will help make better decisions.

  • Collaborate and cooperate – particularly when it just seems easier to make the decision yourself – and support your teams’ decisions.


Building Trust in The Workplace Through Role Modeling Effective Team Behaviour

What do the employees at the Best Workplaces – Most Trusted Executive Teams experience? 


94% agree, “My manager is honest and ethical in their business practices.”

87% agree, “Management delivers on its promises.”


Cascade Clear Strategy To All Levels Of The Business

High-trust, high functioning executive teams serve as role model for how other teams should interact but at their core is the responsibly to guide the business through strategy and execution. As leaders, you must first agree on the company’s vision and strategy, and then explain it in clear and compelling language to ensure all understand it as well as how it fits into the big picture. This is especially true when you are pushing decision-making down through the organization as part of your trust-building strategy. For employee empowerment efforts to be successful, your people need a solid plan and a logical overarching strategy to serve as their guidepost.

  • Articulate your ‘True North’ and help everyone understand why they do what they do.

  • Engage all of your people in strategy development thoughtfully and intentionally with an approach that allows great ideas to rise to the top.

  • Communicate expectations, goals, and targets clearly and concisely and share progress openly and regularly.

  • Keep people engaged with a feedback loop so employees can provide input and/or suggest how the organization can make updates and adjustments.

Building Trust in The Workplace Through Strategic Competence

What do the employees at the Best Workplaces – Most Trusted Executive Teams experience?


93% agree, “Management is competent at running the business.”

89% agree, “Management has a clear view of where the organization is going and how to get there.”

88% agree, “Management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas.”


Welcome and Encourage Diverse Perspectives

Ideally, the executive team should reflect the demographics of the wider community. This builds credibility and establishes hope when employees see people like themselves in leadership positions. Ultimately though, the drive for diversity is much deeper than that. The root of why diversity is so important is that it gives voice to a wide range of perspectives that generate richer ideas and lead to better decisions. Diverse executive teams that practice respectful, trustworthy behaviour allow members to share their different viewpoints and openly disagree with one another while they reach for the most innovative idea, wrestle with which choice to make, or agree on the solution everyone can get behind. This appreciation for diversity then embeds itself in the culture allowing all teams and all individuals to feel free to express themselves knowing they are valued both for what makes them unique and for how that uniqueness contributes to organizational success.

  • Actively recruit diverse voices that will enhance your leadership team.

  • Create a robust mentoring program that provides leadership opportunities to high potential individuals from all different backgrounds.

  • Set diversity goals for your leadership team and the team at large – then hold yourself accountable for your progress.

Revisit how to role model effective team behaviour regularly and remember to practice what you preach.


Building Trust in The Workplace Through Diversity

What do the employees at the Best Workplaces – Most Trusted Executive Teams experience?


95% agree, “People here are treated fairly regardless of their age, race or ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.”

91% agree, “I can be myself around here.”

Building trust in the workplace takes planning and perseverance – it doesn’t just happen. And it needs to happen at the top with the executive team modeling trustworthy behaviour and working together to earn the trust of their people. In this way, trust isn’t a final destination – it is a journey that has many twists and turns, detours and obstacles that keep us constantly mindful of the relationships we have with the people at work. The Best Workplaces – Most Trusted Executive Teams are enjoying this journey and committed to staying the course as they work together to achieve personal and organizational success.

To join the thousands of companies that have committed to building trust in the workplace to help them attract, retain and take care of their people, contact us about getting Certified today.

Nancy Fonseca
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