December 2021 – How to build a better workplace: lessons from 2021

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What did we learn in 2021? As we wind up for the year, I thought it might be instructive to look back at the insights and advice we’ve heard from the Great Place to Work® community during what turned out to be a tumultuous twelve months. We’ve had the privilege of hearing from some of Australia’s greatest companies this year – from global giants like Cisco and SAP to Australian property and tech leaders REA Group and Atlassian, plus a diverse range of home-grown success stories like Hub Australia, Cobild, BlueRock, Ansarada, Mantel, Bellroy and more. And we heard from academic experts like University of Melbourne’s Brock Bastian discussing psychological safety as an essential feature of a positive and robust culture, Dame Carol Black, a prominent UK government advisor, highlighting the importance of collecting data to understanding your employees, and Swinburne University of Technology’s John Hopkins helping us understand how best to deploy flexible working as pandemic lockdowns end. Here are four top insights that stand out from 2021 – and some links to read more on each:
  1. Leadership at scale: Mary Lemonis’ advice on the importance of leadership alignment throughout an organisation was among our most read posts, and for good reason. As REA Group’s chief people officer, Lemonis oversees a workplace that ranks in top five large places to work and where 92 per cent of employees say it is a great workplace. Her insight? Employee experience is deeply influenced by team leadership at all levels and it’s critical to spend time ensuring that people leaders through an organisation understand they are expected to create a connection between their teams and the company’s purpose. “You cannot take your eye off the ball on leaders,” says Lemonis. ”Leadership at scale will make or break great workplaces”.
  2. Purpose-driven workplaces prosper. We know purpose is essential to culture. (For more on that, download our Best Workplaces report, Purpose Driven, People First.) But our discussion of workplace ESG struck a chord. ESG refers to the practice of incorporating environmental, social and governance factors into decision-making, giving your employees a clear connection to something important – a purpose that is bigger than their individual roles. Research from Great Place to Work shows that when employees say their work has “special meaning,” rather than being “just a job,” they are 56 per cent more likely to experience innovation opportunities. We also learned that corporate giving is an important driver of employee experience.
  3. Hybrid working is here to stay. The key message: a hybrid of in-office and at-home working is here to stay for the long term post-pandemic – and leaders must take a considered approach to making it work in their organisations. Somewhat surprisingly, before COVID, 75% of Australian office workers rarely or never worked from home. Now flexibility is the norm. But as organisations plan for 2022, it is essential to equip people with the tools, leadership and processes to make hybrid working a success. Our insights into hybrid working — and our hybrid-working masterclass with Cisco — were among 2021’s most popular.
  4. Trust is key. The number one marker of a good leader and a great workplace is trust. Organisations that trust their workers are proven to deliver better financial results. Trust goes two ways — organisations need to trust their people but also people need to trust their leaders that they’re going to back them and stand up for them. A true high trust culture relies on an acceptance that mistakes are made and a commitment not to blame. We saw this in action in Bellroy’s insightful masterclass.

That’s it for our monthly newsletters in 2021.

We’ve heard loud and clear that you find these insights from the Great Place to Work community useful and an inspiration as you build your own great places to work — and we’ll keep it up in 2022.

All the best for the summer break and trust you can find some time to rest and re-energise with friends and family after (yet another) hectic year.

To get the new work year underway, we’ll be back with a bumper newsletter late in January with insights from some of Australia’s Great Place to Work–Certified™ companies on how you can help your people better collaborate and innovate.

As always, if you want to hear more from me about starting your journey to becoming Great Place to Work-Certified or about how our Emprising™ platform can help you with data-driven insights from your employees, get in touch.

Our offices are closed between 23 December and 5 January, but we look forward to supporting to you in the new year.

Best wishes

Samantha Huddle
General Manager Aus/NZ
“Our team acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we meet and work. We wish to pay our respects to their Elders – Past, Present and Emerging – and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and within the Great Place to Work For All Community”

I want to get recognized!


To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.