Taking Action on Culture

Updated: Mar 16

The action required will depend on your organisation's risk appetite.

Over the past few weeks, the culture of several high-profile organisations has been headlining most news bulletins. Unfortunately, this has not been because their culture has created an inspiring and innovative place to work where employees are aligned on achieving shared goals and driving outstanding financial and non-financial results.


What we have seen making the headlines, are excuses from leaders as they respond to significant systemic culture issues that have been allowed to perpetuate and remain uncorrected for years. The responses to their front-page infamy have ranged from ignorance and complacency to victim blaming and blame shifting.


In 2021, there are no acceptable reasons for systemic culture issues to exist in any organisation, particularly high-profile, financially robust and well-resourced organisations such as Collingwood Football Club, Crown Resorts, and the Liberal Party. There are many organisations that are currently recognising or experiencing issues stemming from culture however, they won’t make front page headlines, because of the action they are taking.


Legacy issues exist in many organisations due a slow response to changes in systems and processes, legislative and regulatory requirements, acceptance of social conventions, workforce demographics and changes in strategic priorities. All of these changes impact an organisation’s culture – the internal behaviours that are guided by governance, risk and strategic frameworks and managed by leaders.

How do you know if your culture is impacted by systemic issues? Taking action to correct and improve culture stemming from systemic issues requires an investment in understanding current culture.


An annual employee engagement survey is not sufficient. A survey alone focuses on understanding the outcome of culture and not the defining or influencing factors that create the behavioural norms.


Our experience has shown, and it is widely recognised and researched, that when systemic issues exist, many employees do not respond openly when asked for feedback or willingly report issues when they fear negative consequences or victimisation. It is also often the case that leadership remuneration and employee rewards are also tied to engagement survey outcomes and can result in skewed responses. The only way to understand the internal culture of an organisation is to conduct an independent assessment of culture that considers the influencing factors enabling behaviours. An independent and unbiased Culture Audit should consider governance frameworks, identified risks and risk appetite, complaints, leadership and employee behaviours, and feedback from all levels of the organisation, including the board, to provide an unbiased and independent report that will inform the way forward. Conducting an independent Culture Audit to identify systemic culture issues will allow you to take proactive and impactful steps to rectify legacy and systemic issues and behaviours that are not acceptable in modern workplaces. Taking Action

As we are seeing play out in the media, leadership ignorance and complacency are not a defence or an acceptable response.


Regardless of an organisation’s size, location, industry, or profile, culture issues that are not addressed are an enormous risk. Organisations that have fallen victim to their culture, experience hefty consequences including reputation damage, financial impacts, decreases in productivity, disruption to business and customers, and ultimately, the requirement to invest significant time and effort in responding to allegations, complaints and identified risks.


The impact on an organisation is compounded by the devastating toll on individuals including victims of alleged incidents, the impact on co-workers, and the personal liability of directors and officers.


Like most people I speak to, my reaction is one of continued disbelief that organisations are failing to prioritise culture and identify, understand and correct systemic culture issues.

The cost of not taking action could be your organisation’s or your personal reputation. Are you willing to take the risk?

Investing in a positive future

An investment in culture will provide a significant return from the resulting improvement in financial and non-financial results, and the demonstration of genuine care and respect for the people who work with you. HENRY REED are culture specialists and we have been supporting boards and executives across Australia to conduct independent Culture Audits to provide valuable insights into the organisation culture. The results inform board and executive decisions aligned to risk appetite and strategic objectives to improve culture. Contact HENRY REED on 1300 266 995 for a confidential discussion or book an online zoom meeting with our Managing Director, Georgia Henry via this link.

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