It’s not just the board and CEO that can improve workplace culture

It’s not just the board and CEO that can improve workplace culture. Diversity is key.

The Governance Institute Australia is the only independent professional association with a sole focus on whole-of-organisation governance. You can find out more about their full suite of courses and events here. (Partner Content)

We spend a substantial chunk of our lives at work, so it’s fair that we expect our employers to invest in initiatives and practices that make our time there safe and enjoyable.

In recent years, several organisations have stepped up to the plate; aware that productive and innovative workforce participation will only stem from inclusive, supportive and diverse workplace cultures.

But we still have a long way to go before this becomes a universal reality.

Megan Motto, the new CEO of The Governance Institute Australia, believes that organisational culture is governed by people more so than ever before, so its imperative that businesses focus on diversity.

New CEO of Governance Institute Australia, Megan Motto

“We all know that organisations are microcosms of society and at the end of the day, organisations aren’t really governed by rules and regulations, they are governed by people,” she tells me. “People bring personalities, behaviours and social norms to the workplace.”

Tying into this idea, Motto says workplaces that purport to have formal structures in place to combat workplace issues like gender bias or sexual harassment also need to focus on informal structures to strengthen their efforts.

“When we talk about change and cultural change, we need to think about internal and external forces,” she says. “Importantly, it’s driven by formal and informal systems, and a lot of organisations have got the formal systems in place. However, where the rubber hits the road really is in those informal systems.”

“Where the rubber hits the road really is in those informal systems.”

“Informal systems are the things that inform culture – they’re the things that happen in an organisation beside, or despite, the rules. Cultural change is driven by the things that are deemed to be acceptable, because they are either tolerated or ignored. Organisations need to crack these informal systems before they can make a difference.”

Motto is encouraged by the conscious resolve of a number of organisations and believes certain initiatives like Male Champions of Change have had a resounding impact. On a broader social level, she credits policy decisions like the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and the Banking Royal Commission, saying these have brought to light a number of concerning revelations and “crystallise the fact that we are not really where we want to be yet.”

“To say that the complete responsibility sits with the CEO or the board is a complete misnomer.”

So how great is the responsibility on business leaders to ensure workplace culture is inclusive, and to eliminate damaging behaviours?

“To say that the complete responsibility sits with the CEO or the board is a complete misnomer,” says Motto. “It’s a matter of the right messages being sent from the right places across the entire organisation. It’s also a matter of consistency, of setting what the expectation is.”

Responsibility has a trickle-down effect. Yes, leaders have to learn to communicate properly and set their expectations, but it’s also up to others throughout the workforce to “call out bad behaviour when others don’t live up to expectations,” she says.

With an advanced senior female management team and 79 percent female staff overall, The Governance Institute practices what it preaches.

“Our internal governance is fabulous, which I am really pleased to represent,” says Motto.

Along with new President, Rachel Rees, Motto says she feels a great responsibility to make sure the 110 year old Governance Institute lives on.

“I want to make sure that the legacy is protected”, she says.

She jokes that even though the founding father of the organisation (and his original all-male board) “might be rolling in his grave to think that there is a female president and female CEO today, the organisation is all the more strong for that.”

“There will be an increase in knowledge, accountability and transparency.”

As for Motto’s predictions of Australia’s future workforce?

“There will be an increase in knowledge, accountability and transparency, largely due to the increase in social media and employee activism. There is much greater ability of groups of people to mobilise and shine the spotlight where it is needed,” she says.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the chairman, the CEO or the receptionist, we all need to pull together, for the same common aim.”

She likewise expects that boards will start to have a more a hands-on input in the running of business, forging relationships at all levels.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the chairman, the CEO or the receptionist, we all need to pull together, for the same common aim.”

“Organisations will be happier, healthier and more authentic places to work. New technology will create more interesting and better types of jobs. The blending between work and life will continue to happen.”

 

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