Chief Executive Officer,
Women & Leadership Australia

Leading through the Great Resignation: Rebuilding social capital and team culture

Leading through the Great Resignation is a series of articles exploring the tools and frameworks that will help leaders effectively navigate emerging workplace trends, by Suzi Finkelstein, CEO at Women & Leadership Australia.

Over the last two years we have seen significant shifts in Australian workplaces and society. Many of us have been working from home. We have been juggling family responsibilities. We have been finding new ways to support our own mental health, and to look after loved ones from a distance. We have been reconsidering what is truly important to us.

And, it seems, for many people across Australia – and the world – it’s time for change.

New research shows that globally, more than 40 per cent of workers could be considering a career move in the next year.

So, what can we as leaders do to support our teams, keep our talented staff, and move our organisations forward with resilience and focus?

Rebuilding social capital and team culture will be critical.

Social capital refers to the shared values, social connections and collaborative relationships that help people work together effectively. We know that social capital is key to improving wellbeing and performance across organisations.

A report from McCrindle Research suggests that relationships with peers and colleagues, and a collaborative work environment, are key factors in workplace wellbeing.

And we see this consistently in our leadership development programs at Women & Leadership Australia. Each of our programs explores team dynamics and culture, and regardless of industry, seniority or job role, the themes tend to be the same: team culture can be tricky to get right, but when it does improve, team cohesion, performance and resilience soar.

Why is this so important for leaders to focus on right now?

Many teams have been disrupted throughout the pandemic. Now, more than ever, teams are working in a digital world. Of course, there are benefits to this – according to Microsoft, interactions with our close networks are more frequent than they were before the pandemic. However, teams also tend to be more siloed in a digital work world, and for many of us, our connections with our broader networks have suffered.

Being physically separated from work colleagues means it’s been harder to build informal connections, to pick up non-verbal communication cues, and share anecdotes in the lunchroom. These small moments play a big role in building social capital and a positive team culture.

And hybrid working is a trend that’s here to stay: three in five Australian workers say a hybrid work model is their ideal arrangement, with a combination of working from home and the workplace, according to McCrindle.

As we look ahead to the next chapter for ourselves, our teams and our organisations, nurturing our professional relationships and fostering a healthy team culture will ensure we have sound foundations to build from.

Tips for building social capital and team culture

  • Start with trust – this is the foundation for healthy conflict, commitment, accountability and ultimately, results within a team
  • Proactively plan informal, social interactions with key colleagues and set aside time to connect – dedicating time to building strong relationships will lead to improved efficiencies and results down the track – and they can make work so much more enjoyable!
  • Allow time for team dynamics to be re-established after significant changes to a team – like a new team member starting, a change in responsibilities, or even returning to the office.


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