Thank you for taking the time to learn about the 5 THINGS HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES DO TO CREATE A BETTER WORKPLACE. This article is a precursor to a book I am about to publish, by the same title and it is based on hundreds of hours of interviews, informal conversations and hands on experience in organisations across all industry sectors, primarily in Australia. Now, in saying that, I know that I am not the first person to conduct research into what makes a great workplace, and I am sure that I am not the first person to conclude that running a highly successful business is all about making our people feel safe, having them know they will always be treated fairly and with respect and ensuring they have a strong sense of belonging. In other words, it is all about ‘INCLUSION’.

What do I mean by INCLUSION

When I talk about ‘INCLUSION’, it is all about a belief that everyone has the right to feel safe and to be treated fairly and with respect. It goes beyond our legal requirements for safety, fair work and privacy and into the realms of engagement. Personally, I think the next BIG competitive advantage in business is going to be driven by INCLUSION, well at least that is what my studies suggest!

So, let’s get on with the show.

#1. Highly Successful Businesses MAKE THEIR PEOPLE FEEL SAFE

In 2014, a popular TED Talk by Simon Sinek, titled Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe, is a favorite of mine. If you have not had the chance to check it out, it’s worthy of 15-20 minutes of your time. You see, going back a couple of decades, safety was often referred to as the only ‘NOT NEGOTIABLE’ in business, and it was very much around focused on physical safety and injury prevention. These days, safety extends far beyond our physical health and includes things such as mental health and wellbeing. When an organisation has the belief that people come first, they put the safety, mental health and wellbeing as a priority. As a result, their people feel safe at work and are more likely to speak up and have a go at new things. This also means that people at all levels can have honest conversations about important matters, without there being any repercussions. This creates an environment where people strive to be their best, resulting in improved productivity, increased employee engagement and a noticeable shift in customer satisfaction!


Think about the last time there was a less than desirable situation at your workplace. A ‘near miss’, a colleague treated inappropriately, or even just a bit of office banter gone wrong. You see, it all comes down to professional standards, or often referred to as code of conduct. It is one thing to have professional standards in place (i.e. the SET part of it) and a totally different thing to conduct yourself in line with those standards and help others recognise what ‘IS’ and ‘IS NOT’ appropriate conduct in the workplace (i.e. the ‘MAINTAIN’ part of it). The highly successful businesses realise that professional standards are not set and forget, instead, they are set and maintain. Or in other words, they ensure common sense becomes common practice across the whole organisation, without exception, and that makes all the difference!

#3. Highly Successful Businesses STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW

When it comes to governance, risk and compliance, highly successful businesses do not just ‘tick a box’. Instead they take all reasonable steps, and then some, to stay on the right side of the law. Their leaders understand that if you aim for the minimum, you fall below, and when it comes to the law, that is quite simply, not negotiable. Now we could get into a debate about what is and what is not taking all reasonable steps when it comes to meeting legal obligations in business. Safety, fair work and privacy are all local examples here in Australia, where the Australian Human Rights Commission continues to report figures about fair work the suggest that suggest we still have a long way to go when it comes to inclusion in the workplace. However, highly successful businesses buck this trend because they have established workplace relations and safety programs in place. They also have appropriate structures to enable an efficient and effective roll out, from onboarding through the life of every employee, contractor and volunteer. It is reinforced by appropriate management action in times of crisis. It is fully supported from the top down. Of course, when you get the little things right in business, people notice. For highly successful businesses, being on the right side of the law is just the beginning!


If you’ve read some of my earlier articles, you will know by now that I love a good sporting analogy. In this case, I feel the difference between a mediocre business and a highly successful business is the way they perceive the HR, people and culture function. The highly successful businesses play their HR in offence. Gone are the days of HR being bad cop, bogged down in administration and with a silent voice at the executive. In fact, the best leaders recognise that HR are leading the next BIG competitive advantage in business, and that is INCLUSION, which in the past has often been perceived as the poor cousin of engagement. In saying that, I am certainly not disputing what most employee engagement surveys tell us engagement is dramatically improved when three things happen (1) Effective leadership, (2) Meaningful work and (3) Good relationships with work colleagues. What I am suggesting is that the foundation of engagement is in fact inclusion, because nothing is important than feeling like you belong. When you play HR in offence, engagement is top of mind and inclusion is a primary focus. When HR is appropriately resourced, they are able to drive initiatives and help the leadership group understand the underlying benefits of caring a little less about the numbers and a little more about the people. I’m sure you too have seen many a CEO who has tried to roll out business strategy that is based purely on numbers, and then wondered why implementation failed and engagement scores plummeted. Regardless of whether an organisation is a Not-For-Profit, Government, SME, privately owned or publicly listed, it all comes down to having a senior leadership group that genuinely gets INCLUSION and that empowers their HR function to drive engagement across the whole organisation. In other words, they play HR in offence!


OLD SCHOOL PRINCIPLES, I’m sure you will agree, have stood the test of time and will always be current. Things like ‘Do Unto Others’, Prevention is Better than Cure and practice what you preach and the list goes on. In highly successful businesses, there are heroes who become part of stories that represent a company culture that is founded on honesty, trust and respect. However, as our business environment becomes more complex and fast-paced, just having OLD SCHOOL PRINCIPLES is not enough. That is why the highly successful businesses use NEW SCHOOL TECHNOLOGY to leverage OLD SCHOOL PRINCIPLES and make them relevant in the new generation of employees coming into their business. Highly successful businesses know that keeping up with technology advancements is important and they invest accordingly.

About the Author

Gavin Altus, is Co-Founder and Director at Sentrient, an Australian business that helps businesses that are struggling to meet their legal obligations for things like safety fair work and privacy, by making it easy for them to reduce risk and create a safe, fair and better workplace. As a Director at Sentrient, Gavin is passionate about leveraging new school technology combined with the very best of old school values and that is what makes all the difference!