Building a Culture of Trust:
Insights from UKG and Great Place To Work®

Brandon Hall Group™ views building a great corporate culture as a paradox. Great culture requires very human skills — trust, transparency, inclusion, recognition, collaboration, leadership, motivation, pride — to name just a few.

But in today’s fast-paced, dispersed, hybrid, global work environment, those human traits cannot be fully capitalized on without the right technology. There’s too much to do and too little time to rely on only traditional analog approaches in the age of AI.

Leave it to Great Place to Work® Institute, a trusted authority on workplace culture, and its owner, UKG, the HCM software company whose “purpose is people,” to address this with The Culture Playbook.

The playbook delivers a clear path to minimizing the impact of turnover, employee burnout and other business pitfalls by combining an end-to-end culture strategy with technology systems that facilitate the high-trust behaviors that inspire employees and establish the building blocks of a thriving enterprise.

Of course, it starts with the human stuff. Organizations must recognize the elements contributing to a culture of trust and belonging and ask the right questions about their organization to uncover opportunities to address those elements. But once focused and ready to act, the path must also be centered on leveraging technology systems to facilitate the journey. Culture depends on technology.

The Importance of Technology

Brandon Hall Group™ research shows that there are 17 traits necessary for a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture. Most do not exist to a high degree in the majority of organizations. It is not for a lack of trying. In the past several years, more than 80% of organizations responding to our surveys have launched or accelerated culture-building initiatives. However, there has been far more emphasis on training than on strategies and actions that embed the principles of trust and belonging across organizations. In this era of work, that requires operationalizing the cultural standards through HR and workforce management systems and processes.

We have also found that HR teams often focus on “macro” approaches of culture building — such as enterprise-wide diversity, equity and inclusion strategies that are hard to coordinate and sustain — to the exclusion of “micro” approaches that can more easily have a positive impact on employees.

The Culture Playbook includes many of these, all of which require the help of technology. They include:

  • Empowering employees with self-service tools for scheduling and time-off requests.
  • Regularly surveying employees and using AI-based sentiment analysis to understand their needs.
  • Providing managers with real-time guidance and “nudges” to help lead and develop their teams.
  • Transparently communicating progress and timelines and incorporating employee input on new company initiatives.
  • Centralizing key information, documents and communications for easy employee access.
  • Equitably sharing successes, opportunities and resources across the organization.

Overall, the insights from UKG and Great Place To Work® align well with our own research on high-performance cultures. Building trust requires focused and sustained effort across multiple dimensions. For organizations that get it right, the payoff is immense in terms of employee engagement, retention and business results. Technology becomes the great enabler.

Here is a deeper dive into the insights of the Culture Playbook:

The Contributing Elements of a Culture of Trust and Belonging

Thirty years of continual research by Great Place To Work® has proven that the definition of a great workplace is one where employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with. With survey responses from more than 100 million employees, GPTW has found that five factors are instrumental in building a great workplace:

  • Credibility
  • Respect
  • Pride
  • Camaraderie
  • Fairness

For each of the factors, the playbook poses a few insightful questions, plus worksheets that allow you to see how well your organization stacks up with it comes to nurturing trust. You can access them here at the back of the book.

Encouraging Personal Best

The playbook focuses on high-trust behaviors, including thanking, developing and caring. Technology can help in this in several ways, including:

  • Prioritizing learning and development and setting clear outcomes, such as promotions, raises, bonuses or performance goal completion, based on employees hitting learning milestones. With the right systems, you can actively track which team members receive certain opportunities to ensure equal access for everyone.
  • Mapping career paths and succession plans for the different roles in your organization, predicting the readiness of different people in your organization to move up, prompting managers to recognize those readiness markers and scheduling regular discussions with employees on these topics to help them feel engaged in the process and having a clear vision of their future.
  • Offering intuitive access through technology to a variety of voluntary benefits that go beyond just healthcare coverage, such as employee assistance programs for mental health support, mindfulness resources, nutrition and fitness support, financial advice, or charitable gift matching.

Cultivating Team Spirit

For this, the playbook focuses on thanking, developing and caring. Technology can help in this regard by:

  • Systematically integrating career planning, mentorship and learning opportunities into your new-hire processes to start new employees off in a way that makes them feel supported.
  • Setting clear, unbiased requirements across the employee lifecycle and build them into your processes as rules, such as in the templates and descriptions you use for open job requisitions, onboarding processes for different roles, milestones to meet for different types of promotions and other similar key moments in the employee experience.
  • Using technology to regularly evaluate key business practices, such as candidate screening, onboarding, performance reviews and succession planning by using sentiment analysis.


  • Building a great organizational culture requires a combination of very human elements like trust, transparency, inclusion and recognition with the effective use of HR technology.
  • As the playbook by UKG + Great Place to Work® emphasizes, it’s critical to operationalize cultural standards through HR and workforce management systems and processes. Technology solutions can facilitate and scale trust-building behaviors such as empowering employees, understanding their needs, providing real-time guidance to managers, transparently communicating and equitably sharing resources.
  • Brandon Hall Group™ research validates the playbook’s insights. We’ve found that while most organizations have prioritized culture-building in recent years, there has often been an overemphasis on training vs embedding the principles of trust and belonging through actionable “micro” approaches enabled by technology.
  • Forward-thinking organizations will embrace the guidance of The Culture Playbook and recognize the role that HR technology plays in bringing their cultural aspirations to life.

About UKG

At UKG, our purpose is people. We are on a mission to inspire every organization to become a great place to work through HCM technology built for all. More than 80,000 organizations across all sizes, industries, and geographies trust UKG HR, payroll, workforce management, and culture cloud solutions to drive great workplace experiences and make better, more confident people and business decisions. With the world’s largest collection of people data, work data, and culture data combined with rich experience using artificial intelligence in the service of people, we connect culture insights with business outcomes to show what’s possible when organizations invest in their people. To learn more, visit

About Great Place to Work®

The global authority on workplace culture. Powered by our proprietary model and platform, GPTW offers the most respected workplace certification and lists, unparalleled data and benchmarking, and industry-leading research and insights, all supported by a wealth of resources and a thriving community.

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Claude Werder



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Claude Werder

Claude J. Werder Senior Vice President and Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group Claude Werder runs Brandon Hall Group’s Talent Management, Leadership Development and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) practices. His specific areas of focus include how organizations must transform culturally and strategically to meet the needs of the emerging workforce and workplace. Claude develops insights and solutions on employee experience, leadership, coaching, talent development, assessments, culture, DE&I, and other topics to help members and clients make talent development a competitive business advantage now and in the evolving future of work. Before joining Brandon Hall Group in 2012, Claude was an HR consultant and also spent more than 25 years as an executive and people leader for media and news organizations. This included a decade as the producer of the HR Technology Conference and Expo. He helped transform it from a small event to the world’s largest HR technology conference. Claude is a judge for the global Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards and Excellence in Technology Awards, contributes to the company’s HCM certification programs, and produces the firm’s annual HCM Excellence Conference. He is also a certified executive and leadership coach. He lives in Boynton Beach, FL.

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