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Culture / Feb 2019

Guide: Australia's Future Workplaces

The future of workplace is about people.  We look at three Australian companies that today are outworking the qualities we need for our future workforce.

1. Workforce Diversity

Generational, gender, nationality and religious diversity creates a cultural melting pot in today’s modern workplace, and research shows diverse teams outperform more homogenous teams.  Harnessing the harmony to deliver benefits in the workplace takes intentioned recruiting practices, sensitivity to inherent differences, and a commitment to continual integration. Once such Australian company kicking not only diversity goals but proving diversity pays dividends is burgeoning prop-tech company MadeComfy.  Founded in 2015 by Quirin Schwaighofer and Sabrina Bethunin, MadeComfy manages Airbnb rentals that help property investors improve their rental yields.  The company has grown at a rate of 500% year-over-year, now managing about 600 properties and 4000 guests per month.  MadeComfy is made of team members representing 22 countries, and half of the leadership team is women.”  Although not a deliberate strategy in early days, the ethnically diverse founders noticed organic diversity within the organisation and it created like (or rather, unlike) minds.  Made Comfy CMO Nina Jung believes “Diversity brings richness of talents, skillsets and views which foster creative thinking. Having creative solutions to problems take your business ahead of the game.”

In keeping with its international flavour, the company now has its sights on overseas expansion, thanks to an initial round of$1.1 million funding in 2017 (with backing of 2 Amaysim co-founders and the former boss of LinkedIn), and $6 million in 2018 (the majority coming from Investec).

2. Invisible Technology

Atlassian’s new George Street offices in Sydney proves that, just because you are Australia’s most successful tech company doesn’t mean you need to look like one.  There’s not a slippery slide or Segway in sight and old-fashioned analogue communication methods are still honoured with whiteboards covering every free space.  Don’t be fooled though – this is a software company at heart and engineers created a highly elaborate ‘space budget’ spreadsheet that spat out the exact number of linear metres of whiteboard space that would be needed in the office.

Atlassian enlisted Siren design for the office fit-out and the brief was to use design to reflect the company’s core values: no bullsh**; build with heart and balance; don’t #@!% the customer; play as a team; and be the change you seek. The result is a highly functional and practical design that is friendly, unintimidating and personable.  The entire space is bright, airy, and light with living plants and the signature Atlassian blue accents everywhere.  Speaking with Business Insider, Brent Harman, Head of Workplace Experience and Real Estate admitted ‘we’ll never win a design award, but the office design is perfect for what we need. It’s functionality over form, definitely. We want to reduce the friction that a worker has day-to-day, so they are enabled to do their best work.’

Atlassian software is all about simplifying the user experience and they have achieved this with their straightforward office layout.  The office experience team ran a post-occupancy survey and 99 out of 100 responses were overwhelmingly positive.

3. Employee Experience

In 2016 The Office Space looked at MYOB’s The Future of Business Report as the Australian-based business accounting platform set its sights to 2040.  This was accompanied by a three-year strategic plan, with a strong focus on investing in product innovation and its people. Now, with a revamped approach to talent management, employer branding, leadership development and HR systems, MYOB has achieved a significant 10% increase in employee engagement which has also contributed to double-digit growth in MYOB Group’s bottom line.

Where most companies pursue the hearts and loyalty of its customer, MYOB has worked on repositioning its employer brand.  “We’ve really focused on changing job seekers’ perception of our employment brand,” revealed Head of People and Performance Alla Keogh to Insider HR. “The way in which we’ve done that is to take the opportunity to showcase the way in which we’ve changed, and the way which our work practices and our culture has changed, and taking that out into the market,” she said.

Rather than targeting the low hanging (but ultimately unsatisfying) ‘employee experience fruit’ of free food and social activities, MYOB has re-evaluated its DNA and redesigned its work practices, process and programs to create ‘employee experiences’ for its workers.  The core value proposition to employees is “your work matters” And the organisation has a deliberately flat structure and the executive team are readily accessible so people can have a direct impact and tangible effect on how the organisation functions.  Career mapping is also emphasised so individuals understand how their role fits in the organisation and also how they can continue to learn and grow. MYOB has also partnered with The School of Life to enhance EQ and life skills for its workers, as well as more formal learning and development programs.  There are also multiple initiatives around attracting girls and women to IT careers as well as developing future women leaders.  Flexible work schedules, parental leave, affiliate rewards and rewards for recognition of contribution further round out the multi-layered employee experience ensuring MYOB’s 1,200 staff are happy and highly supported at work.  Their Melbourne workplace is also pretty spectacular, a designed by our 2018 Future of Work and the Workplace panel guest Angela Ferguson from FutureSpace.


Photo by Nicole England for Futurespace