How to create a thriving workplace culture according to 10 business leaders

Written by Danielle Owen Whitford

When a workplace thrives, employees support each other, feel safe, and do their best work. This helps retention rates, attracts top talent, and boosts the bottom line.

So how can we create that environment, particularly through prolonged, high-stress periods?

We reached out to our business leadership community for their top tips on creating a thriving workplace culture.

Alicia Aitken, Head of Investment Management and Delivery at ANZ

Care about your people and take the time to get to know them as whole humans. If you really care, not just fake it, you’ll find out all about the secret superpowers everyone has and be able to turn your team into a productive, thriving, engaged and successful team.


Ron Arnold, Managing Director at 11eight

To get excited about coming to work, people need to believe in what you are trying to do. So a believable and inspiring sense of purpose is important.

Also, people need to feel safe in the work environment, and that you have their back if they make a mistake. It is only then that they will push beyond their boundaries and discover what they are really capable of.

As a leader, you need to show vulnerability and fallibility, and never ask people to do something you are not prepared to do yourself.

Finally, value and nurture diversity. People should feel they can make a difference - regardless of their background, race, gender or beliefs.


Lana Weal, Marketing Consultant at Market Mindfully

It’s all about communication. When we understand each other more, we’re more compassionate and respectful of others. In this digital age it’s so easy to assume what others are thinking or doing so my advice is always to over-communicate at the beginning. Establish team rituals, communication channels, authority sign-offs and seek to understand how others work so you can support each other to do your best work.


Russ Macumber, GM at Impressive Digital USA

The starting point here is leadership (or in many cases, the founder/s). Workplace culture is a reflection of the top. Assuming that is in place, the best recipe for thriving workplace culture is good people. Don’t hire d*ckheads. You can train people up on skills, but you can’t train an arse to be a nice person.


Maria Cowley, Regional Manager at Service NSW

For me, a great workplace culture really comes down to genuine trust.  When people feel trusted, they feel empowered. That leads to people owning their role, feeling like they're adding value and contributing in a meaningful way.  It also allows people to feel safe to be vulnerable.  Where they can speak out if they are unsure or need guidance. Trust for me is truly the key to a great workplace culture.


Nathan Moyes, General Manager at Virtual Business Partners

Authenticity is the core to a thriving workplace culture as it drives equality, standards, expectations and communication. If you do not start with a genuine desire and value set that seeks for honest and transparent engagement, then you simply won’t ever achieve it.

The hard part is not the nice events, or rewards and comments. It is when the pressure hits and you have a challenge (see COVID) or an opportunity (see a huge growth opportunity) and then observe what happens to the values posted on the wall.


Danny Levy, MD, APAC at Worldwide Business Research Insights

90% of the Managing Director’s role is hiring. If you get the people right everything else is easy. When I hire I look for three things – Self-awareness, ability to solve problems and positivity. Everything else can be trained. Do this and you’ll have a thriving workplace culture. 


Jo Hatcher, General Manager of Digital & Direct at QBE Insurance

I think about this from the perspective of what makes me thrive in the workplace and the top thing on my list is about being absolutely clear about what the business is aiming to achieve (next 6 months, 12 months, 2 years) and to communicate it, and progress towards it, as regularly and in as many ways as you can.


Lisa Sweeney OAM, Director of Social Impact, Service NSW

My team scored very high in the recent NSW public sector engagement survey, so I feel I can answer this one with confidence! Our team has been under an incredible workload this year and have had to pivot to deliver in different ways. They remained positive and optimistic because we constantly updated them on the strategy behind the work they were undertaking. We also responded to feedback quickly and provided more resources when needed. And finally, we celebrated and rewarded their professional and personal achievements along the way.


Anna Fitzgerald, Founder at The Wonderfull Project & Fintech CMO

A workplace culture thrives when the leaders are able to create and communicate a clear guiding purpose that reflects their personal values, and then live those values - demonstrating them everyday. People will notice what you do, not what you say. Actions speak louder than values printed out and posted on the wall. So leaders should try and be consistent, keep promises, build great relationships, and foster an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work. This engenders trust.  And with trust comes passionate followers.

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