When we ask: “Who does culture well?”, our minds are often instantly drawn to the tech juggernauts and Silicon Valley success stories. We automatically think: Salesforce, Netflix, Google, Zappos—and while there is a lot to learn from these companies, we also know there’s a lot to learn from Australian businesses who are doing culture well.
Creating a company culture where employees feel engaged and valued extends beyond offering simple perks, so here we share lessons from some of Australia’s best places to work. Here’s our shortlist of Australian companies who are nailing company culture and lessons we can learn from them.
One: Mecca Brands
Mecca is consistently ranked highly on Australia’s list of ‘Great Places to Work’, but what is it they do differently? Known for their customer-centric approach to beauty, this behaviour is mirrored in the way they treat their team. Jo Horgan, the founder of Mecca, is known for investing in the growth of her employees and nurturing talent within the company. In fact, it’s not uncommon for staff members to start their careers within a Mecca store before shifting to a role within the support centre.
“At Mecca, we aim to empower women to look and feel their best, and we cannot do that if we don’t empower our own people to be the best they can be. We strive to create a workplace, which feeds both their mind and their spirit, and to create a culture, which is as inspiring as it is nurturing.” Jo Horgan told Great Place to Work.
This online design business is one of the few Australian technology companies to reach the much coveted ‘unicorn status’, currently valued at $3.6 billion AUD. But despite its exponential growth, the company has maintained their start-up ethos, with the co-founders keeping it simple and modelling the corporate structure around a company they would love to work for.
Co-founder, Melanie Perkins, told Shortpress: “Canva’s culture is about creating a place where everyone loves coming to work, where everyone is striving to do the best work of their lives and create the most outstanding product and company we can.”
Three: Arts Centre Melbourne
Arts Centre Melbourne (ACM) relies on a passionate and diverse group of individuals to make it Australia’s largest and busiest performing arts centre. Following a difficult restructure in early 2015, there emerged a need to understand, refine and then articulate the unique culture required to deliver the centre’s overarching strategic goal to ‘enhance the creativity of Melbourne’. In a partnership that began in 2015, Corporate Edge worked with the senior leaders of ACM to launch their culture statement: The Role You Play.
Of their culture statement, CEO Claire Spencer states that “it has provided us with a clear direction to live by, making Arts Centre Melbourne a great place to be. It will continue to guide how we work together to deliver remarkable experiences every day and to ready ourselves for a reimagined future.”
As a result of this partnership, a culture ambassador group was created with the sole purpose of “keeping the culture alive” and a “buddy system” was set up in which culture ambassadors help new starters understand how “The Role You Play” relates to the overall purpose and business context.
When it comes to culture, Atlassian are never far from the top spot on Australia’s ‘Great Places to Work List’ and have become pioneers in the Australian tech world for their counter-intuitive and innovative approach to culture. One of the things that set Atlassian apart from a traditional corporate is the value placed on “disrespectful dissent”.
While many companies shy away from conflict—often resulting in a culture of “yes men and women”—Atlassian see the value in shaking up the status quo and challenging fellow employee’s thinking — as long as it’s done respectfully. On their company blog they sum this principle up perfectly, advising readers to “argue like you’re right, and listen like you’re wrong.”
This online wine business grew from a garage in Adelaide to a $50 million company and they’ve made a name for themselves for more than just delivering great wine. Vinomofo have been featured in the Top 25 Great Places to Work 2016 list, received an award for Most Successful Staff Engagement, and have created one of the most sought-after employer brands in Australia.
So what do they do differently (aside from the free wine)? It starts with recruitment. Justin Dry (co-founder & CEO of Vinomofo) told the Huffington Post they have maintained their family-like culture while scaling by frequently hiring customers. “Around 90 percent of the people that we actually employ are currently mofos. So they get the culture of the business before they even apply for the job. They know what to expect, they know what we believe in, they know they are going to work hard but it’s going to be super fun at the same time.”
Another high-growth Austalian tech company to make the list, Envato are known for their ability to maintain their culture as they have scaled. As is common amongst many of these businesses, their attitude is to transparency and a people-centric approach.
“We value truthfulness and integrity, openness and transparency, the ability to admit when one is wrong, and the courage it takes to be completely honest. We prize giving and receiving feedback that is respectful, constructive and encouraging,” Envato states on their website.