Australian workplace culture (Professional Insights)

Australian workplace culture (Professional Insights)


Welcome everybody, I’m Olivia Doyle. I’m one of the Career Practitioners at the Centre for Career Development and today’s presentation as most of you will know is on Australian Workplace Culture. So let me tell you what we’re actually going to cover We’re going to give you an overview of distinctive features of Australian Business Culture then we’re going to look at some hierarchy and leadership styles that you might typically find in Australian organisations. Then we will move on to look at what employers expect of their workforce, and how you can develop some of those attributes. Then in particular we’ll have a bit of a focus on communication styles, because as you’ll learn in this presentation, communication is really fundamental to your career within an organisation. so looking at a few strategies to improve those. Basically the feedback from employers is that clearly we’re working in a global workforce these days. Swinburne’s not just preparing students to work in the Australian workforce but very much in a global atmosphere. so what I’ve done is I’ve tried to do some research to find out some of the employment challenges actually facing people from multicultural backgrounds, and one of the big ones that’s clearly coming up is understanding Australian workplace culture. Another factor is that people new to the Australian environment, or who don’t have a strong network are severely impacted when it comes to seeking work. We know that in Australia, potentially 60-70% of positions are actually never formally advertised. So if you don’t have a network of contacts it’s going to make it a little bit harder for you to actually find employment. Culture is really the way we do things around here. What we consider to be sort of normal, if there can be a normal and it touches on understanding core beliefs and values but it is dynamic, and it’s changing and so whilst I’m going to talk to you in a general sense, all organisations are going to be slightly different. and I would say as a Career Practitioner, it’s very important that you understand what an organisations culture is, and what its values are so that you can find employment that’s actually going to match up with that and you’ve got to remember that applying for a job is a two-way process, it’s not all in the hands of the employer. it’s very much in your hands too, and you’ve got to ask questions, and make sure you’re comfortable working for that organisation. So what do I mean by business culture? I guess some of the stuff that I’m trying to tap into here is basic, what we call, business etiquette or manners I suppose, is another way of talking about that. I’m talking about the organisational culture and values I’m talking a little bit about the policies and procedures of the company patterns of behaviour and general ethics and you’ll find that they do vary a lot. Bit of a list here, but I’ve got here that Australian culture, some of the things that I’ve noticed in companies, hierarchy is quite hard to pick out, so it’s less obvious who’s the manager and who’s the staff member so we have a flatter style, and I’m going to talk about that a bit later. Australia, even though our trains and trams mightn’t run on time, Australians appear relaxed but, when it comes to meetings and deadlines very focused on those, and meeting time frames is very important. You’ll find that in assignments here but you’ll find that very much in the workplace. Quite team focused, so in Australia people tend to work in teams, rather than very individually By that I mean I know in some countries you do individual projects and you’ve got all your own tasks to do. I think you’ll find in the Australian workplace it’s increasingly team focused. There’s quite a focus on workplace rights, and legislation and laws, and following those. On that same train, we’ve got a strong focus on what we call Occupational Health and Safety so a lot of companies place a lot of value on following the right procedures and guidelines to make sure they’re complying with the law. A lot of companies have quite a strong focus on sport barbeques, holidays an social events and I think that’s just important to know about when you’re actually communicating with people and to understand the importance of actually joining in some of those activities, and this is what Australians tend to value. It’s probably a whole lot of others, but let me try and contrast it with some of the things that I’ve noticed about international and I’m focusing probably a little bit more on Asian culture, these are some of the things that I’ve been told that are quite points of difference. So perhaps in other cultures there might be more hierarchy. and more respect for people in positions of authority as opposed to the junior staff members who tend to often keep very quiet, and not interact. What I want to do is give you an example, a friend of mine who works in the health-care system and she said here: “We have a lot of international students in the workplace. Their technical skills are first class but I often find I have to go around and fix up problems caused by differences in communication or lack of cultural understanding.” So, some of our research and some of the reports being done in industry are showing that there are some issues with people from international student backgrounds or multicultural backgrounds, and some of them relate as I’ve mentioned before on punctuality, but very much on communication and written communication is one I particularly want to highlight. Things need to be written in Australia in a very professional style. So your emails, your letters, your reports have to be as spot on as you can actually make them in terms of your grammar, and your written expression, but also in terms of your, I guess the tone that you’re adopting in those documents as well and I would say that some of the ones that people from international backgrounds they’re perhaps not getting the tone right. Some of them refer to me as Honourable Madam in emails to me, and that’s very formal, and it’s probably not appropriate in Australia If you put that in a letter to an employer Dear Honourable Madam or Dear Respected Sir, it’s just not right, and employers will pick that out. Now in terms of oral communication, this is a big factor as well. I know a lot of you have great technical English, but really important before you graduate that you focus very much on clarity, and that’s potentially trying to minimise accents, and perhaps take on a little bit of the Australian accent as well. So things like joining in office conversations is quite vital to get those interpersonal relationships happening. Technical skills in terms of your IT skills are really important too, and this is for all students you know, I was speaking to one of the directors at PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the big professional services firms. He said “Olivia, if anything tell the students they need to know how to use Powerpoint, and have very strong Excel skills no matter what they do.” A few quotes from people from different cultures: “I often see Australian employees taking the time to talk to the security guard, the cleaner, the tea lady much more than you would in my own country. Even top management will make sure they ask about families, and get involved if there’s an issue. Natesh from India: “I was raised in India where it was unacceptable to question the directions of someone more senior. It was normal to follow directions without questions. Here it’s very different.” Communication tends to be quite open and direct. So, you have to be very aware of that. Australians will call what we call a spade, a spade but Australians do love initiative, they don’t they expect you to work things out for yourself to an extent and if you can’t, ask a question. They like new ideas, and creativity is generally encouraged every workplace I’ve been in, that’s very much been the case To suceed, you need to show that you’ve got flexibility and you can multi-task. Now Australians don’t necessarily de-lineate between jobs, and very important in getting any job in Australia is continuing to show enthusiasm and show that you’re motivated that’s one of the biggest differentiators when you’relooking for work. Show you’re passionate and you’re involved and be able to actually demonstrate that Now I’m not sure whether you’re all aware of this service This is the Language and Academic Skills service that’s a free service at Swinburne, and I don’t think enough people know about it, so they help local and international students with lots of different issues but in particular in relation to communication skills they have conversation groups, workshops individual sessions as well where they can really help you with lots of things to do with your spoken communication. You know the big focus is on these skills as I’ve been saying. So whilst you’re at University you need to start thinking of an employability portfolio and how you can demonstrate these skills to employers in your resumes, in your LinkedIn profiles in your job application letters, and definitely when you’re going to interviews. because this is what’s going to set you apart and start getting you the job.

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