Key Drivers of Excellent Workplaces...


This article was based on a report of a study carried out by the University of Sydney, with support from the Business Council of Australia.

This article was based on a report of a study carried out by the University of Sydney, with support from the Business Council of Australia. 

The aim of the study was to identify a number of excellent workplaces in Australia and to analyse the basis for their outstanding performance.

Good workplaces are reasonably common in Australia where people and processes combine to deliver a reasonable business result and satisfactory productivity and service.

There are though only a few, that are so extraordinary, that we stop and remark on them. They are the leading workplaces, the exemplars of productivity.

These excellent workplaces are often seen as very unusual, sometimes unique and perhaps the result of “one-off” situations. They are not usually seen as easily reproducible in other locations.

It was contended by the report however that excellence could be achieved by many more of the organisations in Australia and that the first step towards that, is understanding what makes such places special in the lives of the people who work in them. If we develop this understanding, as a leader, perhaps we can then apply it consistently and progressively, to our own situation.  

Our article printed here is a summarised version of what was a comprehensive 41 page report. We have zeroed in on what the research discovered, represented The 15 Key Drivers for Excellence. All of these drivers were found to be present in varying degrees in organisations that stood apart from the generally good workplaces, to be regarded as excellent.

Much more detail can be accessed by viewing the full report but perhaps a great place to start might be to give your organisation a score out of 5 as to how you think you rate under each of the key drivers. Perhaps then ask others within your organisation to do the same.

Take the quiz…..

The quality of working relationships - people relating to each other as friends, colleagues and co-workers. Supporting each other and helping to get the job done.     /5

  1. Workplace leadership - how the immediate supervisor, team leader, manager or coordinator presents themselves. Their focus of leadership and energy as opposed to management and administration.     /5

  2. Having a say - participating in decisions that effect the day-to-day business of the workplace.     /5

  3. Clear values -  the extent to which people can see and understand the overall purpose and individual behaviours expected in the place of work.     /5

  4. Being safe - high levels of personal safety, both physical and psychological. Emotional stability and a feeling of being protected by the system.     /5

  5. The built environment - a high standard of accommodation and fit-out with regard to the particular industry type.     /5

  6. Recruitment -  consistently employing the right people that share the same values and approach to work as the rest of the group.     /5

  7. Pay and conditions -  the level of income and basic working conditions (hours, access, travel and the like) are met to a reasonable standard. At least to a level that the people who work there see as reasonable.     /5

  8. Getting feedback - always knowing what people think of each other, their contribution to the success of the place and their individual performance over time.     /5   

  9. Autonomy and uniqueness - the capacity of the organisation to tolerate and encourage a sense of difference and a sense of being the best at what they do.     /5

  10. A sense of ownership and identity - being seen to be different and special through pride in the place of work, knowing the business and controlling the technology.     /5

  11. Learning - being able to learn on the job, acquire skills and knowledge from everywhere, and develop a greater understanding of the whole workplace.     /5

  12. Passion - the energy and commitment to the workplace, high levels of volunteering, excitement and a sense of well-being. Actually wanting to come to work.     /5  

  13. Having fun - a psychologically secure workplace in which people can relax with each other and enjoy social interaction.    /5

  14. Community connections - being part of the local community, feeling as though the workplace is a valuable element of local affairs.     /5

The report went on to conclude that quality working relationships represented the central pivot on which excellent workplaces are founded, underpinned by key variables such as good workplace leadership, clear values, having a say and being safe.  

It suggested that many more Australian organisations could create excellent workplaces because the characteristicts that define excellent workplaces were identifiable, quantifiable and manageable. There is no magic it would seem.

As to how much weight should be given to each of the 15 drivers, this was not determined, but if you were to simply score your organisation out of 5 on each of the drivers above, and then perhaps get others within your organisation to do the same, this would provide a terrific snapshot into what areas need work and in which areas you might be stronger.