What Can Australian Businesses Learn From American Workplace Culture?

Australia is a nation built on workplace change. Understanding corporate culture values in foreign nations is a great way to learn about how different nations value work, home, and lifestyle. A qualification such as a global MBA online can help give you a thorough idea of how it all ties together, and how different methodologies may be transferable to the Australian workforce.

In a world where open-plan offices, hybrid work, and increasing flexibility are rapidly becoming the norm in offices around Australia, what lessons can we learn from the US? For a nation of 300 million people, the US leads the way in fostering innovative leaders the likes of Bezos and Gates. What can we learn from the home of these leaders, which is also a hub for many billion- and trillion-dollar enterprises?

A Leader in Technology Innovation

When tech leaders are asked what nations they see as leaders in technology and innovation, one nation rises above all others when it comes to the world’s leading technology and innovation hub – the United States. A 2018 survey found that more than one-third of global tech industry leaders identified the U.S. as a leader, and showed the most promise for the introduction of disruptive technology.

When one looks at how U.S. startups have transformed the industry on a global scale, it becomes evident. The rise of Uber transformed the way Aussies travel from A to B, or hire a car. The rapid emergence of gig platforms such as Amazon Flex has transformed logistics forever, allowing for products to be delivered in a matter of days, not weeks. Medical startups have allowed for the rapid implementation of remote medical care, reducing the need for physical attendance at a practitioner’s office for mild illnesses.

These innovations in the U.S. are not alone – but one must ask – how do they consistently bring out innovative new ideas, faster than other nations? After all, it must be said that while some Australian businesses have found global success, such as the online graphic design platform Canva, none have reached the heights of companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, and AMD.

Key Values in American Workplace Culture

In part, this may be able to be attributed to differing key values in American workplace culture. U.S. workplace culture is characterised by several values that shape how workplaces operate, from San Francisco to New York. Having a firm knowledge of how these values factor into workplace culture can help us begin to understand why so many firms find success in the U.S.

U.S. workplace culture holds the value of individualism in high regard. There’s a high focus on personal pursuit in the United States, which fosters a sense of entrepreneurship in many workers. This can be seen in the number of organisations where employees leave to begin their own start-ups – from Snowflake to Bumble, individualism is highly regarded in the U.S. workforce. This is vastly different from Australia, where workplace culture is defined by a high level of teamwork, and cooperation

Another value that is regarded highly in U.S. workplaces is the value of competitiveness. When a U.S. organisation faces an operational crisis, it’s not uncommon for some employees to band together to find innovative and creative solutions. Consider American semiconductor company AMD – when a financial crisis and product decline hit their company, quick thinking from key personnel such as CEO Lisa Su allowed for innovative new products such as the Epyc line of server processors. These chips are now market leaders and form the backbone of many high-end computing applications, such as the Ngarrgu Tindebeek supercomputer.

Meritocracy is also a value that is fundamental in workplaces throughout the U.S. The role of individual development, including honing one’s skills, and earning achievements, is a highly significant value, and a key driver for American workers. This emphasis on personal growth and development is somewhat different from many Australian organisations, where a focus may be on more traditional education (such as completing university courses).

The Importance of Workplace Diversity

An element of the workplace that is changing in both the United States and Australia is the share of workers that come from non-Caucasian backgrounds. Working to improve diversity can be a challenge – many industries, from nursing to bus driving, are often dominated by one gender over another.

This is changing, however. The U.S. is beginning to see a generational shift in the diversity of the workforce, as the population continues to age, and the demography of the workforce shifts. This is expected to force employers to consider how they address diversity within the workforce, and to try new tactics to attract the best talent possible.

Australia experiences similar diversity challenges within leadership roles – a 2018 study by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that more than 95% of CEOs identified as either Anglo-Celtic or European, a damning statistic for a multicultural nation.

Both the United States and Australia have a long way to go, as they work towards more diverse and accepting cultures.

Learning From Alternative Workplace Cultures

While U.S. and Australian workplace cultures have several key differences, there’s much that can be learned from the way that both cultures intersect on workplace values. For example, leaders in Australia may find that adopting a culture that fosters competitiveness may help to drive further innovation in the workforce.

A cornerstone of both cultures will be the way that they seek to employ a diverse range of their citizens. As they work towards this lofty goal, it will be exciting to see how this transforms the workplace into a more diverse landscape in the years ahead.

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