Workplace culture: what it is and why it’s so important

Mar 20, 2019

Leaders drive culture. Culture drives results.

Culture is what people do when no-one is watching.”

The recent Banking Royal Commission dedicated an entire section of its final report to explore how governance and culture can influence a workplace.

Commissioner Ken Hayne stated in the report that workplace culture can be defined as “the shared values and norms that shape behaviours and mindsets.”

This can translate to how an organisation addresses employees dealing with stress, heavy workloads, unrealistic deadlines and job uncertainty. It’s also how people experiencing mental health conditions are supported (or not supported) and the attitude towards discrimination.

Dealing with these common workplace issues goes beyond employees however, highlighting the importance of leaders to drive this culture.

Leadership always matters,” the Commissioner said, recommending that banks “must embed conduct and culture messages and expectations from the top down, through middle management down to the teller in their organisation.”

This is applicable to all organisations and their leaders, including middle managers.

While everyone is responsible for the mental health of an organisation, it’s important that managers realise the influence they have and make an effort to act in a way that reinforces a positive cultural outcome.

Ways to create a positive ‘mentally healthy’ workplace culture:

  • Increase your own knowledge about mental health and available support options
  • Educate employees about mental health
  • Talk openly about mental health
  • Provide support to those with mental health conditions
  • Communicate regularly with your team
  • Encourage respectful behaviour
  • Address workplace stressors
  • Role-model healthy work habits

“Managing culture is not a one-off event, but a continuous and ongoing effort that must be integrated into day-to-day business operations.” – Commissioner Hayne.

For more information on how to achieve each of these, see our Tips for managers page.

The pay-off for organisations

The mental health of employees is inextricably linked to the broader culture that exists within an organisation – it helps define it and is influenced by it.

A positive workplace culture will help attract top talent and encourage your current employees to stay.

When staff feel good about coming to work, and are encouraged and supported, this will feed through to how they interact with your external stakeholders and customers.

Ultimately, the culture of your workplace can help drive outcomes that benefit the organisation and your employees too.

Resources for managers

Creating a mentally healthy workplace: A guide for managers (PDF)

Developing a workplace mental health strategy: A how-to guide for organisations (PDF)

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