CEO Update - October 2020

27 September 2020

Angelina Pillai reflects on the importance of prioritising culture and wellbeing in our workplaces and the wider profession, and reports on our recent inaugural, all-of-ACA-branch and national conference, which brought all our committees together for the first time.

The famous quote that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, popularised by management guru Peter Drucker, has been bandied around businesses for decades. It has all the hallmarks of great leadership thinking and management planning, but I wonder how many organisations understand what it really means and, more importantly, how it can influence productive, healthy and sustainable businesses.

People are at the core of any organisation, and the ACA is actively working towards a profession in which people are being led, mentored, supported, held accountable and inspired. The custodians of culture shouldn’t solely sit within the HR department or the Leadership team. Culture must be embedded within the ecosystem of the entire organisation, with each employee signing up for collective accountability in delivering a healthy, collaborative and vibrant workplace.

Culture and wellbeing

This pandemic has given us the opportunity to rethink how we prioritise culture and wellbeing. The architectural profession has been hit hard with COVID-related challenges, such as remote working, isolation and health risks, adding to the stresses of an already challenged profession. The foundation of the ACA’s charter is to represent and support architectural practices, our members, and the broader architectural community as it relates to workplace conditions and the subsequent management of staff.

Mental wellbeing is a serious workplace issue and goes to the heart of cultivating a healthy workplace culture. We are delighted to have rolled out the Architects Mental Wellbeing Forum (AMWF) here in Australia, building on the exceptional work being done by the AMWF in the UK. Forums are already up and running across the ACA branches in QLD/NT, VIC/TAS and NSW/ACT, with other branches following the lead shortly. For more information and how to get involved, head to our AMWF Australia page.

HR templates

The ACA has also introduced four new HR templates to further assist members in managing good workplace practices that benefit both employers and their employees.

The new Flexibility template aims to promote an inclusive workplace culture that values the work and contributions of all employees, and does not inadvertently discriminate against those who work in non-traditional environments.

The Study Assistance template has been developed to clarify the procedures for employees who wish to undertake work-related tertiary qualifications to enhance their professional development.

The ACA’s zero tolerance of unlawful conduct ensuring the highest standards of ethical behaviour in promoting compliance and good corporate governance, has led to the Whistle Blowing template being added to our suite of templates. It aims to encourage the reporting of suspected unethical, illegal, fraudulent or undesirable behaviour in a safe and confidential manner.

Finally, the COVID-Safe Workplace plan has been developed specifically to assist practices to create and maintain a safe workplace in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you find these new resources beneficial.

Future workplaces

The topic of future workplaces is high on the agenda for many of us. The ACA facilitated an online event recently on a global rethink about how, when and where we all work, and the impact for architects, designers, property developers and financiers. A key takeaway was the need to balance the notion that future workplaces put people at the core of workplace strategy in the pursuit of the triple bottom line, while still embracing change, sustainable design and connectedness.

If you missed this lively debate from a panel of experts across the built environment, you can catch this session on demand here. In the coming months, we will be engaging in broader conversations about the culture of our profession and its intersection with the culture of practices.

Bringing the ACA together

In connecting culture and strategy ourselves here at the ACA, we held our inaugural all-of-ACA-Branch and National conference last month. Under ordinary circumstances this type of coming together across the nation would not have been possible – but Zoom has offered us the opportunity to create more wide-ranging connections and collaboration across our branch committees through this effective online environment.

The purpose of this gathering was for ACA Branch Committee members to introduce themselves to each other and to hear firsthand about the ACA Strategic Plan 2018–2023 from the national executive, how it relates to the work that the ACA does to support our members, and how the Branches can work more cohesively together. Culture can’t eat strategy for any meal if we all know our organisational strategy and the important roles we play in its execution for you, our members!