Happy employees cost less—so much so, in fact, that leading companies from around the world are found to significantly invest in their culture and working environment, even during times of economic belt-tightening.

The return-on-investment of a positive work environment and a company culture that promotes trust and collaboration is undisputed, according to research conducted by Burson-Marsteller and the Great Place to Work Institute. A study of 20 of the top 25 best workplaces in the world finds that corporate spending on workplace programs during the past year has increased for 30 percent of respondents and stayed the same for the other 70 percent. One hundred percent of the senior executives surveyed indicate that satisfied and engaged employees positively affect an organization’s bottom line.

With such a strong case for improving your company culture and work environment, where should you begin? Jose Tolovi Jr., CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, says: “Our research and experience has told us that buy-in from senior leadership is a crucial first step to improving a work environment. True company culture is a reflection of an entire organization—from the top down—and connecting company culture to business results requires a strategic and proactive decision on the part of management to become an environment of trust.”

Trust seems to be the common denominator at the 20 best places to work in the world. While there is no one-size-fits-all program to improve your company culture, the best programs seek to understand employees and make them feel connected to the big picture.

“The overwhelmingly defining attribute of the companies found on the World’s Best Multi-National Workplaces ranking was that employees have a high level of trust in their companies,” says Tolovi. “Over 20 years of working with employers and employees has told us that a great workplace is where you trust and enjoy the people you work with, and have pride in what you do.”