The seismic shift in workplace culture and the nature of work caused by the pandemic is resetting how we think about the role of work in our lives and how we collectively organise.  A recent research study found that while working virtually collaboration within groups increased however organisational silos have gotten deeper and further apart. This might suggest that the human side of enterprise has strengthened while the efficiency of the whole has deteriorated. Also, the concept of work also as the best avenue for human flourishing has come under review.  The lockdown has provided many professionals and employees with an opportunity to reassess the social price in terms of family relationships and leisure pursuits that the 24/7 pace of modern workplaces demand.  For some, the price is now seen as too high and not worth the sacrifices required.  The most talented are rethinking how they too can redesign their post-Covid careers.

On many fronts, organisational leaders’  are being challenged to build back better by recognising employees’ social needs and the interdependence of business prosperity and societal progress.  The widespread public backlash and anger at corporations taking taxpayer’s money in the form of job keeper payments while declaring increased profits has heightened public angst that businesses who profit at the expense of society impoverish the next generation.

For those who want to be part of a new story of thriving businesses and thriving communities, there’s no better place to start than by reimagining your company’s Code of Conduct and recasting it to recognise human needs, desires and ambitions with their interdependence with human flourishing.  Cultural visions  built on values of inclusivity, diversity, flexibility, resilience, and purpose are the basis of healthy workplace cultures.

You won’t read about it in economic textbooks, but we humans struggle with isolation; we are social animals. Working together in an office, a factory, a worksite, a school, even parliaments provide a needed opportunity for relationship building and social contact. Many of us took the benefits of the social dimension of workplaces for granted until they disappeared.  While  millions of Australians have become comfortable with remote working they are also keen to get back to workplaces to regain that social dimension but in a a new way that no longer segregates personal and professional lives.  Remote working has also dealt a blow to managerial micro-management, and it’s not likely to return.  Hopefully, what we have finally put behind us is the “Monday to Friday sort of dying” as historian Studs Terkel described the modern workplace experience.

Like building a solid house, a code of conduct lays the foundation for leaders to design and build the type of workplace culture that enables their people to perform at their best.  Such a build entails erecting a complex social infrastructure designed by appropriately skilled people in human social-psycho dynamics.  A supportive social infrastructure enables its members to understand the rules of engagement; how they should behave as individuals and as a community in pursuit of a shared purpose and vision for success.  It represents each organisation’s unique success formula.  By making the rules clear, organisational members gain self-control from knowing what is expected and where boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour lie. It builds the “why” behind organisational values, enabling members to achieve more than any individual or group could have achieved alone.

Many organisations fail to recognise that the primary purpose of a Code of Conduct is to protect employees from unsafe work practices, exploitation by third parties, bullying and harassment by co-workers, changing regulatory requirements, and potential adverse technology impacts.  Codes need to be reframed to meet the new psychological workplace contracts that have been forged during lockdowns.  Code of Conduct engagement should be the mortar that binds the structure and its people together.   It is a living document reflecting the dynamic internal and external environments where organisational members operate. It resonates with how people see themselves and how they behave, perform and excel. Its stories, scenarios and examples, reflect their lived experiences.

Everyone wants to work for an organisation that cares; one that listens to enable its members to achieve and flourish from their workplace experiences. Shared Purpose is the glue that holds employees together.  Let’s take our lead from the example recently set by Canva’s young co-founders.

Canva’s leaders recently pledged to give a 30 per cent stake – valued at $US12 billion ($16.4billion) – to a charitable foundation seeking to eliminate extreme poverty. In this one visionary initiative, they created Australia’s largest charitable foundation.  Explaining their decision to tackle existing world wealth inequity they justified their actions because of their vision that we already have enough wealth to reduce world poverty; what’s missing is the will and the vision. They recognised too that a social purpose transcends any commercial goal in terms of employee satisfaction. That Canva employees’ motivation is driven by being part of an organisation with a purpose beyond making profits and this vision attracts talented people.

So, when we come to build back better, let’s start from the perspective that ethical leadership begins with purposeful culture design.  Most people want to do their best at work; they want leaders to invite them to contribute to a workplace culture that enables them to do this, and in return, both the enterprise and the individual can shine.


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