How Workplace Culture is Changing

There’s been commentary coming out of the USA about ‘The Great Resignation’ that is happening as a result of the pandemic enforced changes of the last two years; but what is happening in Australian workplace culture and how are we specifically going to need to adapt our leadership?

The premise of the conversation is that workers have a renewed focus on what’s most important in life. They are focussed now on what is important to them, their time, their wellbeing and on things that enrich their lives. This is leading people to quit their jobs in droves; to switch employers in the search for better working conditions and better bosses. A poor relationship with your manager, and lack of respect for them, is one of the leading reasons people leave a job they would otherwise enjoy (A Gallup poll of 7000 people reported 50% of them as having quit a job due to disliking their direct manager).

Factors Driving workplace change

In the Australian context, the labour market has numerous external environmental factors that, in my opinion, are building to contribute to the ‘Great Workplace Re-set’ that is only just beginning here. We currently have a talent shortage due to combined factors such as, low skilled migrant entries, low unemployment rates, stagnant wages, and lockdowns that have forced work from home arrangements. Add to this a whole new demographic who, thanks to a booming housing market, are now financially comfortable because they have record levels of equity that didn’t exist 18 months ago.

In my earlier HR career, we set up our people systems with a one size fits all approach – to put rules and boundaries in place and then apply them across the organisation with very few exceptions. When I reflect on why this was, I think it was because it’s the easiest way to manage people. There’s no finesse or high level of skill required in the management of people if you have one set of clear rules.

These factors have created the perfect storm in which the biggest shift in workplace culture in my lifetime is upon us.

So what does this mean at a practical level for leaders in business?

  • The power dynamic has shifted to the employee (for the time being at least). They will be asking more of their employer than they ever have before. Employees are going to feel more able to express their dissatisfaction, and to find their voice in asking for what they want. They will simply let their ‘feet do the talking’ and go in search of employers who will meet their new needs
  • If they are to remain working for someone else, they will demand development, progression and growth
  • Many will be asking for flexibility – less focus on hours spent in the office, and more emphasis on outcomes achieved
  • Workers will want to be paid what they’re worth, and be treated well by their employer into the bargain, with innovative benefits packages likely to get them over the line.

Put simply, the days of an employer thinking they can offer an average salary and expect people to give them their blood, sweat and tears in exchange, are over.

People Centric Workplaces

Workplaces moving forward are going to have to offer personalisation if they want to attract and retain good people. The ‘rules’ of the workplace culture are now going to be driven by the employee, and of course, every person is different! This in turn, is going to mean that leaders will be required to be more highly skilled in what have generally been termed, the ‘soft skills’.

Leaders will have to use their discretion, have conversations they usually try to avoid, clearly communicate the vision and values, and define goals and outcomes, but trust the employee to work out the ‘how’. I expect it will shine a light on those technical managers who have risen through the ranks because they are technically competent, but haven’t put as much knowledge development into what it takes to be a great leader.

“What got you here, won’t get you there…” Marshall Goldsmith
What Leadership skill development is required?

To get ahead of the curve as a leader, there are two areas I suggest your energy and resources could be directed to:

  1. Upskilling your employees in core management skills through the implementation of personal development programs (EG Emotional Intelligence) that enable them to be more authentic, resilient, and/ adaptable; better communicators, and more inspiring visionaries; and
  2. Personalisation – asking your employees what it is they want to be fulfilled in their role, helping them find balance that makes them happier, creating career succession plans that include the learning and development required to get there, setting new boundaries that allow for flexibility and diversity. Basically gaining an in depth understanding of each and every one of them!
Are you ready for this change?

Rapid and significant change is hard, we know this. But as with all change, it’s easier to get on the front foot and work through it in a planned approach. The question is, are you and your organisation ready for the new normal?

To find out if I can support you in building your leadership skills, reach out here and book a Free Consultation