Leadership

Cautious, agile and inclusive: How the workplace will change in 2019

John Colbert /

business strategy

Corporate Edge director and partner John Colbert. Source: Supplied.

Workplaces across every industry are becoming more and more aware of the importance culture plays in organisational success.

As political, economic and social shifts happen, the way we work and the expectations we have change. This year is set to be a big year for corporate culture as organisations are awakening to the fact 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.

Weighing up the risk

The recent royal commission into banking has brought an 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, and even celebrated, by leaders.

Executives, boards and regulatory teams will need to prioritise culture in order to safeguard companies against unwise risk taking.

Diversity and inclusion

The ‘#metoo’ movement is one example of the acceleration of social change and community momentum toward eliminating bias, discrimination and bullying. 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.

Mental health prioritised

Over the last decade, the provenance of mental health issues in the workplace has resulted in an ever-increasing awareness of the issue.

One in five Australians will struggle with their mental health at some point, making it a top priority within corporate culture. This year will see a positive move toward workplaces implementing mental health strategies and focusing on the holistic wellbeing of employees.

Agile corporate culture

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.

This year will be the year corporate culture accelerates to be more people focused and less process focused, but it won’t be as simple as implementing ‘agile methodologies’ or spinning off ‘startup’ departments who focus on innovation.

By embracing flexibility, cooperation and creativity, corporate cultures can become more agile in this fast-paced world.

Embracing ‘artificial intelligence’

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (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.

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.

Corporate culture must reflect the time it functions in. That’s why it is always changing.

As values and lifestyles change, the culture of workplaces move too. A commitment to adaptability will be important for companies hoping to ride the wave of change in 2019.

This next year is set to be an exciting one for corporate culture, changed by movements of inclusivity, mental health, agility, risk-taking and union involvement.

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John Colbert

John is a director and partner at Corporate Edge.