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No longer negotiable: Why culture needs to be at the top of your organisation’s radar

Culture has been identified as a major contributor to business success. But getting culture wrong can also play a major part in an organisation’s unravelling.

And with culture pinpointed as a key factor in several governance failures this year, Governance Institute of Australia has made culture – and how culture powers purpose – the key theme of this year’s

National Conference.

To be held on September 1-2, more than 45 speakers will drill down on how culture impacts leadership, structure, decision-making, and skilling – and what steps you need to take to set the optimal culture for your organisation.

Governance Institute CEO Megan Motto said the theme is part of a deliberate strategy to focus attention on critical culture issues – and problems – currently pervasive in organisations across Australia.

“We have seen in 2021 multiple governance failures across government, business, and aged care,” Ms Motto said.

“The one common factor between all of them is a failure in culture.”

Ms Motto said the sessions will examine how culture impacts purpose in relation to governance, leadership and risk management.

“Especially now, as we navigate what will be a long period of uncertainty, the one thing we cannot afford to ignore is culture. Culture is both the strongest and weakest link. This means we must ensure we understand it, frame it, monitor it and measure it.”

BUPA Non-Executive Director Dr Lisa O’Brien – who will chair a fireside chat about the challenges for governance and service delivery for not-for-profit organisations – said investment in culture can help organisations withstand uncertain times.

“A strong organisational culture that is aligned to business strategy is essential for high performance,” Dr O’Brien said.

“It can help mitigate risk, encourage innovation, and help build customer centricity.”

She said organisations have been dealing with rapid change and continuing uncertainty for many months because of the pandemic – and with little stability ahead, culture needs to now be a priority.

“Long term uncertainty adversely impacts resilience and in turn increases the risk of behaviour that is out of line with the organisation’s overarching culture.

“Businesses that have invested over the long term in building a strong culture that is aligned to their strategy will best withstand the challenges ahead.”

CEO of Aurecon, Bill Cox – who will chair the ‘achieving net zero: The task for business’ session – said positive culture needs to be protected, nurtured and developed – and expectations on business to cultivate a positive culture are increasing.

“Businesses will be expected to stand for something and play a role in driving change particularly in addressing a number of the complex challenges that face the world today,” Mr Cox said.

“We will need to lead with purpose and not just be driven by profit. A purpose-led organisation is crucial for our people to feel connected, that’s when we bring our best to our work.”

Google Vice President and Wesfarmers Non-Executive Director, Anil Sabharwal – who will discuss the intersection of technology, risk management, operations and governance at a fireside chat on day one – says a technology aware culture in the workplace is no longer negotiable.

“The widespread use of technology opens up a new world of possibilities and opportunity, but also carries with it material risk for business,” Mr Sabharwal said.

“On one hand, it improves operational efficiency and stakeholder engagement. On the other hand, access and use of customer data, risks to brand and reputation, and potential for poor conduct are all real concerns.

“A deep, embedded understanding of how technology impacts, changes and reinforces an organisation’s core business is no longer a luxury, but a requirement.”

Gidgee Group Managing Director, Sean Gordon – who will speak at the ‘beyond reconciliation to meaningful action’ session – said there are some key lessons that corporate Australia can learn from Indigenous culture.

“Culture is integral to Indigenous people, it’s what drives who we are, our identity and what we do, and our purpose,” Mr Gordon said.

“When our culture is practiced and our purpose is meaningful, our organisation, community and people prosper and power ahead.

“There is much for corporate Australia to learn from Indigenous people.”

Governance Institute National Conference – key facts:

More than 45 speakers will feature across 18 sessions over two days
Attendees can earn up to 12.25 CPD hours
To be held on 1-2 September, virtually
Early bird pricing ends 23 July 2021.

Check out the program here.


Acting for You, June 2023

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