Our Culture

Culture, nurture? You decide?

When you think of Government, you think boring, archaic, sluggish - right? Well, think again!

The NSW State Government has dramatically changed how it does business over recent years. State-of the art technology, cutting red tape, a different approach to building teams and working closely with customers has become the modus operandi.

A potent example of building a new team can be found in how the Centre for Work Health and Safety has innovatively developed a remarkable culture in just 12 months – and they’re not just saying it, they’ve measured it.

Evaluation data was collected longitudinally from members of the Centre and new-starters from the broader Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI), to provide a direct comparison of their cultural experiences since joining the Department. The results indicate that the Centre for WHS has developed a strong culture of connectedness, collaboration and customer-centricity.

Over the 12 month period, the Centre had more positive results across a number of parameters measured.

So how did this come about? The Director of the Centre for Work Health and Safety, Skye Buatava, worked in partnership with a strategic leadership advisory company, Bendelta, to establish the key values and attributes for the desired culture, which was embedded in the recruitment process. Team members were selected on a ‘best-for-team’ fit, demonstrating not just the technical skills required, but also the readiness to embrace the desired culture.

This has produced an operating methodology that is worthy of broader exploration in the context of an ongoing interest in building staff engagement throughout the public sector.

Skye explains, “We embarked on a six-week onboarding program that included everything from attending the DFSI orientation day to time out for ice-breaker and team building activities. We had IT and ergonomic support specialists on hand from day one, we ran personality profiling and scheduled team lunches – all mapped out on the wall like a board game that each team member got to play.”

True team collaboration is not just an idea or lip-service, the Centre’s team members put their money where their mouths are. The team practices agility and flexibility - every team member has a laptop and uses a mobile phone rather than a desk phone, allowing them to work from anywhere. They work during the commute between offices and build better relationships with their colleagues by using video-conferencing  but still act on a principle of spending one day a week together in the same location. They also undertake programs of work outside of their streams to better understand the holistic nature of the Centre’s strategic direction and capitalise of everyone’s contribution.

“We share and communicate how we want to work - for example, stop, collaborate and listen, and wearing pink on Wednesdays, among more traditional values like being known for producing great quality, sticking to our promises and being accepting of others”, says Skye.

“We have been able to make our culture something to be proud of, which means it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind. We refer to it in day to day conversations, in meetings, and when someone acts outside of the culture. It is something we live and breathe but also something that requires ongoing consideration. There is no ‘set and forget’ but the team’s daily operation and outputs are all the better for it.”

Skye adds, “We have posters celebrating our diversity, our expertise and our culture. We have a board to showcase pictures of families, friends, pets and hobbies, allowing everyone to share who they are and what motivates them outside of the office.”

The team members respect each other’s diverse and interesting backgrounds by using different perspectives to think outside of the box, push boundaries and challenge a traditional way of thinking.

Perhaps Dave Ryan from the Science Outreach team sums it up best, “Our culture is palpable – we’ve enjoyed building the ideal workplace where employees are happy to come to work each day. It has given us a new sense of ownership in the way we work. We explore new and innovative ways of working and aren’t afraid to learn from taking risks and making the odd mistake.”