5 ways Australian boards can take responsibility for company culture


Businesses come in all shapes and sizes but the most successful of them all share one common trait — an outstanding corporate culture.

After the outgoing ASIC boss, Greg Medcraft, suggested that boards take greater responsibility for corporate culture, the idea of company values has been at the forefront of directors’ minds.

This is reflected in the findings from The Australian Institute of Company Directors’ (AICD) latest Director Sentiment Index, which reveals about 90% of directors said Australian business needs to make improvements in corporate culture.

Of course, many CEOs and business leaders will tell you it’s easier said than done. Investor and market demands keep them focused on short term, quarterly financial results, but given the relationship between culture and organisational performance, responsibility needs to be taken by the Board of Directors to ensure the culture lever is pulled.

The longer-term nature of a board position enables those individuals to hold the CEO and Executive accountable.

Recent research from the Corporate Executive Board suggests an aligned workforce culture results in improvements up to 9% on revenue goals, 22% on employee performance and 16% on reputation outcomes.

Here are five key, but simple, steps directors can require from the Executive team to make their businesses an even better place to work.

Walk the walk

Employees can’t be expected to get an accurate picture of corporate culture if they don’t see it in action at the very top.

Directors need to be involved in the business, have a great working relationship with the CEO and demonstrate organisational values at work. It shouldn’t be underestimated how great communication and interaction from the CEO, board and management team has an enormous impact on the working environment of all employees.

Understand your employees and teams

By using a tool such as Gooroo Mindspace, it is possible to use neuroscience to get a better understanding of how individuals contribute to the workplace.

Do they come up with thousands of ideas to a problem they face, do they leverage the relationships around them to come up with solutions, do they look to what has worked similarly in the past? What do they value, what do they enjoy, what drives them? By creating these profiles of the complete workforce, “thinking patterns” emerge that are important in determining engagement and collaboration in the workplace.

The right person can be assigned to a particular task and the right team to work together to complete a project.

Employees will be set up for success by assigning them tasks and roles in which they’ll thrive.

Build a diverse and equal workforce

To ensure happy and loyal employees, treat all employees equally and avoid discrimination when considering opportunities for promotion and reskilling, for example.

To ensure you’re getting the most out of teams and to help every member thrive, a tool such as Mindspace will bring focus on individuals’ strengths and successes, rather than faults and weakness, while discussing performance issues, and provide each team member opportunities for success, based on their potential.

THE AICD’s Director Sentiment Index also found 53% of directors reported their boards were actively seeking to increase gender diversity while 77% reported they were actively looking to increase diversity of skills.

Having a clear view of each member of the workforce, how each individual thinks and how they collaborate, brings greater insight into how employees contribute and moves thinking away from any unconscious bias.

There is no doubt a workplace that is diverse and equal in every way brings many benefits – diverse thinking provides greater innovation, diverse contributions deliver increased adaptability, and a workplace free of unconscious bias can only improve loyalty.

Hire based on organisational fit

Arguably, nothing contributes to — or detracts from — a corporate culture more than the employees of a company. Consequently, who is hired can significantly influence the corporate culture you get.

Just because an individual is qualified for a job doesn’t mean they are a good fit for the position. It is possible to use behavioural neuroscience to make better decisions – identifying a person’s potential to succeed in a role; the likely future contribution of an individual to a company; identifying the right successors to ensure future success. Gooroo Mindspace identifies key elements such as decision-making preferences, responses to certain situations, workplace perceptions and life motivations.

This creates individual profiles, which allow organisations and individuals to evaluate how they would react to uncertainty or challenge, their approach their work, the values that drive their career, or their capacity they have to innovate or be creative.

In summary, how well they would enhance corporate culture.

Loop everyone in

Employees who feel consulted and that their input has been considered when it comes to decision-making have higher levels of engagement, loyalty and ultimately, performance.

This is especially relevant when it comes to setting goals. A shared understanding of what is expected of every individual and how that fits into team and organisational goals is a powerful motivating force in creating a cultural environment where every employee wants to go beyond what is expected, creating a winning solution for all.

The importance of corporate culture cannot be overstated. The past is littered with examples where corporate cultures have damaged the reputations of many organisations and even caused their demise.

The Board’s role is to ensure their organisation is positioned for success now and into the future. Having the right culture is a critical success factor in that quest.

Tom Brown is a Chairman at ASX-listed Gooroo.

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