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We are bombarded with messages about the rapid pace of change in the workplace that comes with artificial intelligence, automation, globalization, hybrid work, and the list goes on. As each new change is ushered in, business leaders must not only optimize current operations but ensure their people are ready to adapt to the next normal.

Innovation is top of mind for executives today, and for good reason. But our research shows that conventional wisdom around innovation misses a key component: the people piece. Corporate innovation strategies of the past two decades have been dominated by siloed R&D teams with the occasional hackathon or employee suggestion box thrown in for good measure. These top-down efforts are too slow for the pace of business today – and they don’t produce the desired results.

It’s easy to think employees’ biggest worry is getting replaced by a robot. It’s not. Their real fear is being treated like one.

Marcus Erb, Vice-President, Data Science and Innovation, Great Place to Work

When asked about their biggest challenges with innovation, many leaders believe their own people are the biggest obstacles, because they don’t want to change or fear what these changes might mean for their future job security.

A foundation of trust

In order to facilitate healthy change and allow an innovation-by-all culture to take hold, a foundation of workplace trust must be in place. When employees trust their leaders, they give their best freely and feel comfortable trying new things. When leaders trust their employees, they allow innovative ideas to bubble up from all levels in the organization. When employees trust each other, they report a sense of camaraderie and feel part of a team working towards a common goal. All these benefits go right to the company’s bottom line.

Great Place to Work supports thousands of companies around the world to help them assess and improve their levels of workplace trust. We know what it means to be an exceptional employer, and it has very little to do with the perks and programs on offer, but everything to do with the relationships that leaders are cultivating within the organization, and the connections that people have with the work they’re doing and with those around them. Perks and programs only feel genuine to employees and elevate their experience after a foundation of trust has been established.

Although we began studying workplace trust over 30 years ago, this concept has stood the test of time. Trust is at the heart of great workplaces, and this is more relevant today than ever.

The bottom line

Our most current research shows that the Best Workplaces – those with the highest levels of workplace trust – outperform the market by a factor of three (see chart above). They also enjoy greater productivity, quicker speed to market, less turnover and access to the best talent.

To join the thousands of companies that have committed to building high-trust company cultures that help them attract, retain and take care of their people, contact us about getting certified today.

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Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Great Place To Work Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.