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How to build a sustainable workplace? Focus on company culture

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Company culture and values are something that exist within your company’s DNA, not what employees bring with them. If your company doesn’t have a strong culture, however, it can quickly deteriorate. Culture is among the top challenges for CEOs in Australia and New Zealand, see the latest TEC CEO Confidence Index results. If you’ve spent a lot of time focusing on growth lately, bringing in new employees, and expanding into new initiatives, it may be time to take a step back and see what kind of overall environment is emerging.

According to the Global CEO outlook 2019, 86% of Australian CEOs believed their people numbers would increase over the next 3 years: most by less than 5%, but 28% of respondents thought by 6 to 10%. This comes with challenges – mainly to maintain a healthy culture and retain top talent in the modern workforce. Modern employees want to work for companies that are aligned with them in terms of values, and they are aggressive about defending their own benefits and work-life balance. If you don’t have a strong identity and brand, you won’t be able to maintain the best talent, and you won’t be able to control the direction in which your company grows.

Here are a few things that you can do to take control of your company’s sustainability.

Review your existing company values

When was the last time you reviewed your company’s culture and values? Have they stayed the same over time, or have they evolved? Do you feel that they are still current and with the times?

Now could be a good time to think about the long-term plan for your company’s growth and its culture, and fine-tune a vision for each department. Companies often evolve or change with the times; even major brands such as Google and Microsoft have periodically evaluated and adjusted their values statements. Company culture and values do change over time, but the core and heart of your company will likely remain the same.

You can’t control your environment if you aren’t paying attention to the things that are changing around you. When new employees are coming in, and a company is growing, culture can become vulnerable. If the feel of your company environment has shifted towards a less than desirable direction, now may be the time to pull it back in.

It’s easy for what makes a company unique to begin to dissolve over time, especially as newer employees come in. Louder voices may take focus over more reasonable ones. Once a working environment becomes hostile, it can be difficult (or even impossible) to recover. The company becomes at odds with its own employees, and must start rebuilding its value system from scratch. Sustainable companies often focus on developing a beneficial environment and maintaining their company direction.

Cultivate the right kind of dissatisfaction

There’s a difference between satisfaction and complacency. It’s good to have employees satisfied with their positions. Dissatisfied employees should be communicated with, and their issues resolved. But employees who feel that there’s nothing more to strive for will become complacent. They won’t go looking for new problems to solve, and won’t be looking at their work as something that they can improve upon. While you should celebrate hard work and progress, consider also looking towards your employees to be continuously improving. Otherwise, the business may stagnate.

When building a sustainable workplace, long-term goals become more important. Employees can never be satisfied, because then they will stop moving forward. When companies fail to innovate and improve, they are lapsed by the competition. It’s harder to recover from last place than it is to keep first place.

Give your employees a mentor

Wondering what your employees are thinking? Mentoring can help. Employees need to develop on both a professional level and a personal level, so mentor the whole person, and not just their career. External forces, such as having problems out of work, will impact an employee’s performance at work. Mentors can ask employees their story and find out what motivates them. Employees give a lot to their employers and their employers need to be willing to give that back. If you mentor your employees, you can learn more about what makes them tick.

The modern workforce is looking for employers that they can be loyal to, and that will be loyal to them. Asking great questions can help a mentor truly connect to an employee. Once a mentor understands what motivates an employee, they are likely to go that extra mile for you. They will also be able to tell the company what is and isn’t working for employees.

For most companies, it isn’t just about making money and improving performance: it’s about creating a strong business from within. When your employees feel appreciated, recognized, and cared about, they are able to better operate as a team. Mentorship allows your company to connect with employees on a deeper level, improving the sustainability of your talent pool.

Embrace different personalities at work

Working with different personalities, even difficult personalities, is often necessary to get the most effective blend of viewpoints and experiences. Every employee has the things that they’re good at and the things that they’re not; understanding their personality types lets you better utilise them at work.

Teams that have diverse sets of personalities are less likely to have cognitive and skill-based gaps; they’re more likely to be able to tackle any challenge ahead of them.

There are clear advantages to embracing all personality types. Companies are able to create teams that can excel at any task, while also strengthening the bonds between employees. Diverse personality sets will be able to better weather new challenges that arise, whether in the local or global marketplace, and will be a stepping stone towards a truly sustainable company. Personality tests are one way to find out more about what drives and motivates individuals.


Building a more positive and sustainable work culture means opening up and creating opportunities for team members to create strong working relationships and build trust. It means nurturing their growth and development and giving them constructive and positive feedback.

When a sustainable work culture is nurtured it impacts both the internal and external business identity and ultimately business longevity.

In the most recent TEC CEO Confidence Index, attracting and retaining highly skilled workers are the top two talent issues identified by leaders in both Australia and New Zealand.  In Australia 50 per cent of the businesses surveyed are looking to expand their workforce and in New Zealand 41 per cent over the next 12 months.

More than ever, business leaders need to be focused on implementing a robust onboarding process. This not only gives the new employee a good experience but results in earlier productivity gains and higher retention rates, benefiting the team, and the business.

CEO Blueprint Guide for Success

Build a stronger company culture and achieve your business goals with the CEO Blueprint for Success

These leadership lessons from our experts will help you to build trust, drive purpose, improve culture, and foster lasting results as business leader.

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