Why this year's Great Place to Work’s Top Workplaces list has HUGE implications for you

Submitted on Mon 29 Aug 2022

This month saw the announcement of Great Place to Work’s Best Workplaces for 2022.  And guess who was named Australia’s Best Workplace in the under 30 Employees Category.  You guessed it – we did!!

This years announcement is exciting for us on many levels. 

Firstly, to be named as the best place to work in Australia is a huge honour that the TRC team do not take lightly. We’ve worked hard to build the culture we do have, and to have it recognised is truly humbling.

Secondly, this is the 2nd year in a row we’ve been named as Australia’s Best Workplace. The first time around we were proud, we were surprised and, to be honest, we were filled with more than a little bit of Imposters Syndrome.  But to win it two years in a row?  For us this is proof that what we are doing, all the crazy things we’ve implemented, genuinely means something to our team. 

Lastly, (and surprisingly most importantly for us), is the fact that 3 of the top 5 workplaces in Australia in the Under 30 Employees category are recruitment agencies. 

And this has huge implications for all industries!!

We work in an industry that has traditionally been all about $$$.  People’s happiness has always been way down on the priority list. When we started to really focus on culture as our primary driver 10 years ago, our peers said that we were crazy.  But our industry is changing. Historically the list has been led by tech start-ups and healthcare companies, but this year, 3 of the top 5 were recruiters! This has huge implications for not only our industry but for all industries.

Not only does this fact make us incredibly proud of our industry and the giant leaps forward it has taken, but it has also led us to reflect on workplaces in general.   If recruiters are realising that finding and keeping good people should be their number one priority, and the secret to this is to create a great workplace, then all industries should be taking note and upping their game.  Employee expectations are on the rise and what was considered ‘great’ is now ‘expected’ and industries and companies who were considered ‘progressive’ are now falling behind previous laggards such as the recruitment industry. 

It would appear that, whilst some laggard industries are really charging forward, some of the formerly progressive industries may be resting on their laurels.  

It’s a topsy turvy world out there but with these shifts comes opportunity. We get asked all the time “how did you create Australia’s best workplace?”.  The answer is pretty simple, but it isn’t easy.  If its something you think about but aren’t sure where to start, then fear not, we’ve got you. 

Here are 5 simple (but not easy) fundamentals that form the foundation of a great workplace:

  • Lead with trust
  • ‘People first’ systems thinking
  • Give clarity
  • Lead with a vision
  • Live and die by your values

#1 Lead with trust

At TRC trust is not earned, it is given from day one. Every new employee gets a shiny new company credit card on day 1.  And there is no policy beyond the golden rule “don’t take the piss.”  We operate an outcome based flexible working environment.  We trust people to work hard.  If you lead with trust then people step up to it.  They fear breaking your trust far more than they fear being caught when you lead with mistrust.

But leading with trust is simple, but it definitely isn’t easy. It means constantly reviewing your policies (do you NEED to see a doctor’s note if someone takes a Monday off?), your assumptions and the people you hire. Leading with trust isn’t about naively trusting everyone you meet, it’s about hiring people who demonstrate integrity, accountability and consistency THEN trusting them.

Leading with trust means engaging empathy, why did that person do that?  Are they ripping you off or is it a systems issue? (it usually is). Did they mean what you think they meant or are you projecting intent onto their actions? Leading with trust is about constantly questioning yourself and your own assumptions.

Leading with trust is about holding everyone accountable to everyone else all the time. If someone isn’t stepping up to that trust then get rid of them, your team will be stronger for it. Let people know when they have crossed a line but trust them enough to take your feedback and do better next time.

Leading with trust is about what we call “trust and verify”.  Everything is backed by good systems and everyone uses those systems all the time. This means that everything is measurable and everyone knows what everyone else is doing all the time. It isn’t micromanagement because you don’t need to check.  Its “Trust and verify” because everyone knows that they are trusted but everything is stored somewhere.

Leading with trust is the backbone of flexible working. Having a culture of trust means you can focus on helping your team get more out of their job instead of stressing if they are doing their job.

#2 ‘People first’ systems thinking

Systems are the backbone of great culture. Good systems set you free.  Good systems make work easier, they free people to focus on the parts of their job they enjoy not on how to go about doing their job. 

Good systems are the backbone of “Trust and Verify” and therefore are key to leading with trust. 

Work systems include obvious workflows and IT applications, but they also include meeting and communication systems, reward systems, performance management systems, forms and policies.  A constant and unrelenting focus on continually improving and questioning systems is key to good culture. Why do you do things a certain way? Can it be done more efficiently? Why are meetings at that time? Are they convenient for the diverse workforce you have now or are they based on times that suited a 90’s workforce?

The basis of good systems is Lean thinking: Add value and reduce waste and continually look at many tiny ways of doing both better.

#3 Give clarity

There is a common misconception that great culture is about perks and pandering to people. It isn’t.  Good people want to be challenged, they want to be held accountable, they want to work with other accountable people. Good quality employees want to know what you expect of them and they want to know that they have done well against those expectations.

Let people know what it expected of them, give them absolute clarity on it, hold them accountable for it, then reward them for it.  Simple? Yes. Easy? No.

Systems and trust are key to accountability. But accountability needs clarity.  People aren’t just randomly ‘accountable’.  They need to know exactly what they are accountable for, what they ‘own’.  They need to know how they are measured and they need to know how they are doing against this measure, pretty much in real time.  Feedback, learning and improvement needs to be in rapid cycles (not in an annual review, not in a quarterly review or even a monthly review, but in real time). 

And everybody needs to be crystal clear on what measure equals poor performance, what equals good performance and what equals over achievement.  Then, they need to know the exact consequences of all 3.

Nobody should be surprised when their employment is terminated and nobody should be surprised when they get promoted, get a pay rise or get a reward.  Absolute clarity on what is expected and on consequences is essential to accountability.

Clarity underpins everything.  Is your vision communicated consistently and effectively, do people know how to use your systems and why they are in place?  Do people know and understand what your values are and why they are important?

#4 Lead with a vision

As well as clarity and systems, accountability is driven by being part of a shared, engaging vision: a bigger purpose.  Being part of a team that is working towards something you all care about and feel is important AND knowing the part you play in getting the team towards that goal, creates accountability.

If you hire good people and they aren’t accountable, then you have to ask yourself “have I given them something to care about?”

#5 Live and die by your values

If you don’t live by your values then they aren’t your values. If you don’t fire people who don’t live them, if you don’t hire people who display them, then they aren’t your values. Your values are what you show, not what you say they are, and your team will live up to the values you show. 

But if your stated company values genuinely reflect the values of the organisation and they are communicated with clarity, if they are aligned with your long term vision AND all your systems are aligned around them, then they can be a powerful driver of great culture.  Values are for life, not just for plaques on the wall.  It doesn’t matter if people can recite them, it matters that they understand them and live by them.

The obsession with ‘perks’

This is our second year as Australia’s Best Workplace, in our category, and we have discussed it many, many times with customers, with media, with prospective employees, and one commonality is that people who ask us about it are obsessed with the perks.

Categorically, perks do not make great culture.  Perks and benefits cannot replace trust, good systems, clarity, a compelling vision and genuine values shared across the team.  They don’t usually harm culture and they can bolster an already strong culture, but you cannot create a great culture with space invaders machines and kombucha on tap.

When we talk about our culture, people glaze over when we discuss our Single Metric system, our family friendly meeting structure and our values playbook, but when we talk about our karaoke machine, beer fridge, wine fridge, big screen Mario Cart, glitter ball, in-office-bar, trips to Vegas, swanky lunches, gym membership, quarterly holidays, public transport allowance, remote working set up bonus, giant Connect 4 set and all the other myriad of benefits and perks we give, their eyes light up.  “Ahh”, they say, “that’s what makes you Australia’s Best Workplace”. But it really isn’t. 

I was proud to see three recruitment companies in the top 5 places to work, 5 years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. But what got us there hasn’t been the perks we give, its been a constant focus on these 5 things:  leading with trust, ‘People first’ systems thinking, giving clarity, lead with a vision, living and dying by your values.

Simple, but definitely not easy.


If you are looking to engage a recruitment agency to help hire amazing people for your awesome company and you’d like to start with a chat, then call us today on (02) 8346 6700 and speak to one of our recruiters or send us an email to [email protected]

The Recruitment Company – Making people enjoy the recruitment experience again

Specialist Sydney Employment Agency within Information Technology, Project Services, IT Infrastructure, Software Development, SAP, Data and Analytics, Devops, Cloud and the Public Sector.


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