The Results

The University workplace culture was assessed using the Organisational Culture Inventory (OCI). This is an internationally recognised evidence-based tool for measuring workplace norms and behaviours, developed by Human Synergistics. For more information about the survey tool click here.

The Executive Summary of our results is available to all staff through this link, and explanatory notes are provided below to assist you to interpret the data accurately, as the tool has many elements and Human Synergistics uses some particular language that warrants further explanation.

Explanatory notes

What do we mean by ‘culture’

Culture is the shared values (what is important), norms (explicit and implicit ‘rules’) and expectations (what is encouraged, discouraged, rewarded and punished) that guide staff members in terms of how they approach their work and interact with each other. Taken together these factors form and shape the way we do things around here.

The below explanatory notes align to the headings in the Executive Summary from the OCI survey report.

Actual Culture

The Actual Culture refers to the results from the survey where 4,306 staff described the extent to which they are expected to behave in various ways in order to fit in and get things done.

As stated in the executive summary, “the actual culture is very low in terms of the amount of agreement among members regarding the behaviours that are and are not expected”. This means that respondents had different perceptions and experiences of the culture at UQ. These different experiences are not about some individual faculties, institutes or portfolios being more or less constructive than others, as there were no statistically significant results at this level. The low agreement could be the result of different experiences at different levels of the organisation, in academic compared with professional roles and in the first year of employment compared with staff members that have a longer tenure.

Therefore, while on average the predominant styles of behaviour at UQ are avoidant and conventional behaviours, people report that they experience varying degrees of this.

Preferred Culture

The Preferred Culture refers to the results from a second survey where 63 senior staff described the extent to which they should be expected to behave in certain ways in order to fit in.

As stated in the Executive Summary, “the preferred culture is high in terms of the amount of agreement among members regarding the behaviours that should and should not be expected”. This means that respondents had common views of the preferred culture for UQ.

Impact of culture on outcomes

The data relating to the impact our culture has on role clarity, role conflict, satisfaction and evaluations of service quality compares us to an average. This is Human Synergistics’ “Historical Average”, which represents the mean responses of members from over 1,000 organisations to the OCI outcome items.

We are still analysing our results and as part of this, sections 2 and 3 of the OCI survey report provided by Human Synergistics have been shared with the USMC. It will take time and careful thought to determine how we will shift our culture.

How do we compare?

When we compare UQ’s results with the constructive benchmark,* we can see that it is possible to have a more constructive culture and we have work to do:

Constructive benchmark N = 172 organisations

UQ Actual culture

The Constructive Benchmark represents the most constructive 19.7% of organisational units in the Human Synergistics norming sample. It reflects 172 organisations that have predominantly constructive cultures (as described in the Executive Summary) that is, the workplace cultures of these organisations are:

  • relatively strong in terms of constructive styles (scored at or above 60th percentile when compared to the research norming sample that comprises 921 organisations)
  • relatively weak in terms of passive/defensive and aggressive/defensive styles (scored below the 50th percentile of the research norming sample that comprises 921 organisations)

As described in the Executive Summary and shown in the image above, UQ is relatively strong in terms of passive/defensive and aggressive/defensive styles and relatively weak in terms of constructive styles.

What do we want to do about it?

Desired culture

The survey revealed that our staff would prefer a workplace culture based on a constructive behavioural style. A constructive workplace culture is one where staff members are encouraged to interact with others and approach tasks in ways that will help them meet their needs for achievement, self-actualisation, esteem and affiliation.

Survey respondents described the culture they want at UQ. This is represented in the word cloud below, which is an illustration of the free text comments given by survey respondents. The word cloud gives greater prominence to the words that appeared more frequently in the comments and lesser prominence to the words that appeared less frequently.

Tag cloud of culture keywords

Key opportunities for improving our culture

We identified through this process that many aspects of our culture are driven by characteristics that are common to universities, including:

  • Our size and complexity as an organisation;
  • The relationship between academic and professional staff, each critical to the University’s success;
  • Our research funding model;
  • The individual-based promotion system for academic staff; and
  • The budgeting model and recent budget cuts.

Without making the workload greater for staff of whom we already ask a lot, so far we have identified that we can:

  • Strengthen leadership expectations and capability;
  • Be more open and inclusive in the way decisions are made and encourage feedback;
  • Empower decision making at the local level, with the appropriate support, governance and accountability;
  • Encourage and support respectful questioning in driving positive change; and
  • Place greater emphasis on recognition for all staff and their contributions.

A constructive and people-centred culture will help make UQ a positive workplace for all of us, so that we can enjoy our work and focus our energy on achieving meaningful outcomes for the students and broader communities with whom we work. We have already begun work to develop UQ values, to foster a dialogue and values-driven approach to working at UQ, and will continue to work with staff to refine these.

What next?

We have no doubt that in light of these findings, UQ’s leaders and staff can take steps to spread a more constructive and people-centered culture throughout UQ. We want to ensure that the positive culture that many currently experience is true for all of us.

Leaders of faculties, schools and institutes will be debriefed further on results to gain a greater understanding of the role they play, as will staff.

The fact we have chosen to look at ourselves this closely is something to be proud of, particularly at a time that has been tough for most universities and especially UQ.

To the best of our knowledge, no other university in Australia has looked at themselves with this degree of rigour, so we can consider ourselves somewhat pioneers of cultural self-assessment in Australian academia.

Moreover, the level of participation in the survey, focus groups and interviews indicates the degree of commitment and passion that our colleagues have for UQ.  Staff have genuinely engaged with this process and contributed to improving the workplace experience for all.

Again, thanks to all of you for your hard work and contribution at UQ, and for engaging with us on this initiative to build a more constructive workplace for everyone at UQ.