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Workplace Culture 101 With Vinomofo’s Head of Culture Mikey Ellis

A special preview of next week’s Scout event at General Assembly.

Next week Scout will host a special event at General Assembly Melbourne to educate business owners, managers and hiring personnel on recruiting and retaining the best staff. It’s free to attend, so if finding and keeping the right people is giving you a headache, head along to hear great tips.


In the lead up to the event, we spoke to Vinomofo’s head of culture, Mikey Ellis, about his approach to one of the most important influences on staff retainment: “workplace culture”.

What is "workplace culture"?

It's not easy to define [workplace culture] and I think futile to try. We're talking about humans – we're complex and complicated, and so is the culture we create. It's not simple or finite, but it is visceral – you feel it. I see culture as the expression of a company's values as demonstrated through “how we do things around here”. It's a way of working aligned to these shared values and it's more subtle than it is explicit – it's what people do when nobody is watching over their shoulder.

How does workplace culture affect recruitment?

People want to belong to something that they believe in. And so having a great workplace culture is going to appeal to great candidates – nobody wants to work in an environment that stifles the expression of their unique talent, strengths, creativity and identity. Great places to work are going to attract great people, and in turn, great people co-create great places to work.

How do you know if you have a great workplace culture?

You need to define what great culture means to you and your workplace, and this will differ from one workplace to the next. Once you know, you set expectations around how people behave, work, interact and ensure it is consistent with what you value. This is demonstrated through consistent action. Then you measure it through collecting data, anecdotal evidence, gathering feedback – talking to people etc. Compare what’s actually going on to what your ideal culture is, then do whatever it takes to bridge the gap.

If you have poor workplace culture, what process should you put into place to reverse the situation?

It's not a quick fix! Poor workplace culture is often the result of years of ingrained behaviours, which don't change overnight. You need to dig and find the source – is it a lack of clarity around expectations, are there inconsistent messages being shared, are leaders contradicting their expectations? It's really important to avoid quick fixes. It's more difficult to call out what's really going on, but if poor culture is to be reversed, you need to invest the time. You need to remove the weeds and fertilise the soil first, before you plant the seeds.

What are some processes/policies that Vinomofo has in place to ensure it maintains positive workplace culture?

We spent time clarifying our values and our purpose and continue to refine these. Positive reinforcement is more effective than a punitive approach, so we reinforce behaviours and people who are exemplars of our values and, when necessary, address those that are not. And we constantly check in to see how we're going. It's a constant work in progress and it's never done, but this is important work so we aim for continuous improvement and evolution.

Scout x GA Present: Bridging the Talent Gap – Lightning Talks & Mixer is a free event on Thursday June 28 at General Assembly, 12A/45 William Street, Melbourne from 6pm to 8pm.


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