Organisations are beginning to recognise the strong correlation between positive workplace cultures and business productivity, employee engagement and health of employees. With this backdrop, we are witnessing a noticeable shift in the role of in-house lawyers. Not only are they advisers of legal risk, but influencers of positive corporate governance and workplace culture.

In-house lawyers have increasingly been called upon by organisations to proactively contribute to the development of positive workplace cultures given the impact it has on its ongoing success.

In-house lawyers can be a key constituent in shaping workplace culture. In this respect, here are top 10 steps that in-house lawyers can proactively take to influence workplace culture:

1. Work with the organisation to implement comprehensive workplace relations policies, including bullying and sexual harassment policies.

2. Undertake regular audits of workplace policies to ensure they are:

  • up to date; and
  • compliant with recent changes in workplace laws.

3. Provide staff with ongoing training and guidance in respect of workplace policies.

4. Assist managers and team leaders to regularly and effectively communicate workplace policies to employees, including any changes to current workplace policies. Importantly, new employees should be provided with training in workplace policies so they understand the organisation’s values and the expected standard of behaviour.

5. Educate staff to identify and eliminate bullying, harassment or discrimination and provide training to managers in complaint handling procedures, privacy and conflict resolution.

6. Assist managers and team leaders to ensure that:

  • workplace policies are followed and consistently applied; and
  • complaints are promptly addressed. Importantly, the consistent application of workplace policies can put an organisation in a better position when defending work related claims.

7. Undertake prompt and fair workplace investigations to prevent work related claims.

8. Take measures to prevent victimisation of employees who participate in workplace investigations or disciplinary actions.

9. Take prompt action against any employee (regardless of seniority) who has engaged in inappropriate behaviour in breach of workplace policies.

10. Act as role models by exhibiting positive workplace behaviours and values.

Excerpt taken from ‘Promoting workplace culture: an in-house lawyer’s solution’ by Ryan Solomons, The Australian Corporate Lawyer Magazine, Summer 2016.