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Corporate workplace culture trends to look out for

New research has identified several trends that in-house counsel should be keeping a close eye on, with many set to impact their organisations from the ground up.

user iconEmma Musgrave 22 January 2019 Corporate Counsel
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John Colbert, director at Corporate Edge, has shared the top 6 workplace culture trends to look out for in 2019.

“Workplaces across every industry are becoming more and more aware of the importance culture plays in organisational success,” Mr Colbert wrote.

“As political, economic and social shifts happen – the way we work and the expectations we have changes. 2019 is set to be a big year for corporate culture as organisations are awakening to the fact that culture is key to team engagement and therefore long-term success. Here’s what we can expect in the next year in the world in which we work.”


The first, he says, is the impact from last year’s royal commission into the banking and financial services industry, noting that such a spotlight has resulted in increased awareness of the role of culture in managing risk.

“Companies naturally take on risk in the process of growing or innovating, but it must be carefully balanced. The sophisticated frameworks and processes for managing risk have proven (again) to be ineffective within major banks when an underlying culture for excessive risk taking is tolerated, even celebrated, by leaders,” Mr Colbert said.

“Executives, boards and regulatory teams will need to be increasingly careful about the culture of their teams, in order to safeguard companies against unwise risk-taking.”

Diversity and inclusion is another trend set to impact the Australian workforce, right across the board, according to Mr Colbert.

"The ‘#MeToo’ movement is one example of the acceleration of social change and community momentum towards eliminating bias, discrimination and bullying," he said.

“Companies will be even more accountable to reflect this in their approach to company culture in 2019. The future face of corporate culture includes a variety of ethnicities, genders, sexualities, abilities and religions. The attractiveness of a company to external talent and its ability to leverage and harness the strength of diversity, will continue to be a huge focus for leaders.

“This shift in culture is sure to be encouraged by an increase in expectations of transparency and whistle-blowers on the lookout for companies which are not inclusive.”

Greater priority placed on mental health is also a trend to watch out for, Mr Colbert said, with the last decade seeing the provenance of mental health issues in the workplace, resulting in increased awareness of the issue.

To his point, Mr Colbert noted that one in five Australians will struggle with their mental health at some point, making it a top priority within corporate culture.

“2019 will see a positive move [towards] workplaces implementing mental health strategies and focusing on the holistic wellbeing of employees,” he added.

An agile corporate culture was also dubbed a key workplace trend by Mr Colbert.

“Agile companies are those organisations which are quick in responding to changes in the marketplace, industry or society. In order to achieve this, the culture behind the business must be trained in agility too and evolve to reflect shorter planning cycles, pivoting priorities and dynamic conditions,” he explained.

“2019 will be the year that corporate culture accelerates in being people-focused and less process-focused, but it won't be as simple as implementing ‘agile methodologies’ or spinning off ‘start-up’ departments who focus on innovation. By embracing flexibility, cooperation and creativity, corporate cultures can become more agile in this fast-paced world.”

Further, companies, both big and small, will more likely to embrace artificial intelligence this year, according to Mr Colbert, who noted that the benefits it provides are tenfold.

“Machine learning and AI stands to provide immeasurable benefits in capability and efficiency to so many organisations, but the industries which most stand to gain in these areas may also be most impacted by losses to traditional job functions,” he said.

“The social and economic dilemma is that AI can add enormous value if human capacity is re-deployed to other areas of value, but only we can facilitate the transition for a lot of people whose current jobs may disappear. Companies will need to build cultures that are open to change and have supportive environments for learning and growth so that people resources can be quickly redeployed and reutilised without always needing to be replaced. Without this culture focus, the gains could be slow or negated.”

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