Here’s what goes into creating our rankings—and why we’re shaking up that process in a major way.

By Michael Bush and Sarah Lewis-Kulin
March 9, 2017

Twenty years ago, when Great Place to Work produced the first 100 Best Companies to Work For list for Fortune, only the most forward-thinking business leaders appreciated the concrete value of creating employee-friendly workplaces. Today, countless studies acknowledge the link between culture, trust, and business success. And for most companies, the mission of creating a great workplace has become an integral part of their strategy.

After its debut, Fortune’s list played a role in changing the way American companies viewed their greatest resource—their human capital. And at the same time, it helped more American employees view their places of work as a chance to be personally fulfilled. Now we are making change to the list that we hope will reflect a new vision of the American workplace—one where employees have a level playing field and companies realize the full human potential of their workforce.

In the 2018 list of the 100 Best—for which we are currently accepting applicants—many elements will stay the same: Our methodology will continue to place the most weight on what employees themselves report about the workplace. As in the past, the primary data affecting each company’s ranking will still be the results from an anonymous Trust Index Employee Survey, focusing on measuring leaders’ credibility and the respect and fairness with which people are treated.

Going forward, however, higher expectations will be placed on each company to ensure that employees’ experiences are consistent, regardless of their function and personal background—a standard we refer to as a “Great Workplace for All.” Employers’ effectiveness will be considered in light of the complexity of their organization, leveling the playing field among companies of different sizes, locations, and workforce populations.

Great Place to Work will continue to evaluate the programs each company offers and the extent to which they systemically create a great culture. Rankings will also consider how companies use their cultures to be financially successful today and be ready for growth, change, and innovation in the future. And since we know great workplaces require commitment from the top, additional weight will be placed on evaluating executive teams’ leadership ­effectiveness—including their ability to connect authentically with their people, and their skill in communicating a clear path to success. All these elements will be assessed not only via information provided by the company itself, but also validated by employees through our survey. In developing this approach with CEOs and C-suite executives at the 100 Best, we found that these metrics, which gauge inclusivity as well as overall satisfaction, are the ones leaders are eager to hold themselves accountable to. And that’s good news for all.

Michael C. Bush and Sarah Lewis-Kulin are CEO and vice president, respectively, at Great Place to Work, the longtime research partner for Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and other best workplaces lists. Great Place to Work also provides executive advisory and culture consulting services to businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies in more than 50 countries on six continents.

A version of this article appears in the March 15, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “How to Get on This List.”

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