Morton & Morton: Culture Kings

Creating a positive work enviroment aids employee engagement, performance and staff retention. Morton Joint Managing Director Ewan Morton talks about the ingredients he recommends for creating the perfect mix

This isn’t an article about stress balls, workplace yoga and office zen zones that miraculously transform your business into a place where every employee is eternally happy and shares a united positive energy.

It’s about people. It’s about performance, and it’s practical.

I’ve been in this business for more than two decades. I’ve seen it all and tried most of it in my role as Managing Director at Morton and there is no doubt creating a positive office culture is incredibly important.

The right atmosphere will support employee engagement and create an invaluable foundation for staff retention, but I’ve learnt culture is as elusive as it is essential.

In my experience, the right office culture comes from focussing on the individual rather than the organisation.

Combining the right ingredients in the correct way is the best recipe for creating the perfect environment for business success. These are my recommended ingredients:

Be clear about the overall drive and direction of the business. If you haven’t already, work with your team to develop a mission statement and a set of values. Then make sure you don’t set them and forget them.

Lead by example and ensure those values inform every decision you make. The clichés are correct. You have to talk the talk and walk the walk, and by doing so your team will absorb their importance and it will be those values that underpin the culture of the team.

Don’t lose sight of the importance of the individual as the foundation for a positive culture. Fundamentally, every employee wants to feel they are adding value and valued for their contribution.

Culture can often be clouded with a focus on the generic, overall feeling and function of a workplace. I believe it grows from giving individuals defined goals, clear responsibilities, support and encouragement, and then providing recognition for a job well done.

It’s about more than money. It’s about making sure every person in your team knows they matter.

Make decisions based on what is best for the individual first. Look at the person, not at the business.

It might sound counter-intuitive but prioritising the individual will always end up being the right decision for the business.

Supporting an employee to make the right decisions for their individual career inspires allegiance and business engagement to the point that the Morton employee retention rate is now at an all-time high.

It’s important to acknowledge the modern reality that work and personal lives are no longer separate. Good, loyal employees will also generally be good, loyal family members, so be prepared to be flexible around working conditions.

That said, I think flexibility is a privilege not a right. An employee needs to earn the trust of the business and demonstrate they understand what is expected in terms of performance and delivery.

Sure, we’re all busy but it is vital to have a structured employee engagement strategy and to make the time to execute it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.

I make a point of calling my team on their Morton work anniversary and their birthday. It gives me an opportunity to ask how they’re doing and get an update on their career aspirations and personal situations.

Be prepared to be open and honest about the business. People appreciate honesty and I have predominantly found our team emboldened and motivated to work harder when I’ve been frank about the challenges we face.

Business leaders need to be prepared to have hard conversations with employees about performance, perspective and attitude. It’s important to be supportive and never aggressive, but there are times when someone might benefit from the proverbial kick up the pants, pull yourself together motivation.

Take ownership of mistakes. We are always searching for new ways to work but we won’t always get it right.

Just as we continually review our values, we also regularly conduct employee surveys to gather honest, formal feedback from our team on everything from structures, to incentives and management.

We are then ready to make changes where improvements or issues have been identified. Taking the time to ask, listen and react demonstrates our business values the opinions and insights of every team member.

I’m not referring to remuneration here, although obviously that’s important too. At Morton we have a training budget for each employee to provide opportunities that will help them feel empowered to do their job better.

Whatever the training or support required, we provide that opportunity for every person to expand their professional development. It’s good for the business and is another practical demonstration that we value the growth of our team.

Real estate is a high intensity, highly stressful profession, so it’s important to encourage positive physical and mental wellbeing. Team building doesn’t have to be a boozy lunch.

Morton has a wellbeing strategy that is practical rather than preaching. We have team ping-pong tournaments, teams undertaking the 10,000 Steps Challenge, clean up crews, and family fun days in our precincts.

The aim is to encourage positive choices at the same time as creating opportunities for our staff to have fun and enjoy some healthy competition, all of which is good for the body, soul, mind and business.

Each of these points requires a commitment from the business and the individual. For a relationship to be successful it requires equal engagement from both sides.

It’s the responsibility of our business to establish the platforms for communication, motivation, recognition, professional development, wellbeing and feedback, but it is equally the responsibility of each employee to take advantage of those platforms and take ownership of their own contribution to their success.

Creating an office culture is as easy as juggling jelly.

It’s tricky and ever-changing but with the right ingredients you can create an environment of positive energy that will allow you to manage your people for peak performance.

Ewan Morton will be speaking about leadership and its challenges at The Business of Real Estate on September 9 and 10. For more information visit thebusinessofrealestate.com.au.

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Ewan Morton

Ewan Morton is the Joint Managing Director at Morton. He leads with an open door management style and a determination to embrace innovation and challenge convention. Visit morton.com.au