Perspective on people

Watch as Head of People & Culture, and Client Service & Support at Macquarie Bank, Ros Coffey, shares her learnings on creating and nurturing a high-performance culture – and how those learnings are transferrable to Australian businesses. 

Research has consistently shown the link between workplace culture and business success. Ros Coffey, Head of People & Culture and Client Service & Support at Macquarie Bank, shares her tips for creating a high-performance culture. 

The search for talent

As many Australian business leaders are aware, the labour market has experienced ongoing tightness since early 2020. This reached fever pitch in 2022, when the unemployment rate reached its lowest level since 1974 – marking the toughest hiring environment in about 50 years.  

Although this has eased slightly since then, competition for the best talent remains fierce and the strain is being felt acutely across many industries. For example, our research found staff turnover has been particularly high in the real estate industry in recent years, with one-quarter of staff switching roles during the 2023 financial year1.

This rate of turnover can be difficult for businesses to manage, and the problem is being compounded by rising wage costs. In 2023, wages grew 4.2% over the year, the highest recorded since the March 2009 quarter.2 For many, simply increasing wages is no longer a viable way to attract or retain staff. Instead, businesses need to look at the culture within their organisation and how it can be leveraged to attract and retain talent.  

Defining culture: what does it encompass? 

  • Behaviours: The way staff and leaders act with each other, with clients and with other stakeholders.
  • Symbols: The visible signs of culture, from the way your office looks to the clothes employees wear.
  • Rituals: The shared experiences, such as meetings, offsites, and celebrations that bring the team together.
  • Stories: The language and framing used by staff and leaders to discuss clients, each other, and their jobs more generally.

What good culture looks like

Macquarie has focused on creating and nurturing a high-performance culture for many years, and our learnings are transferrable to adjacent industries, businesses and leaders. 

Research found that employees who feel proud of their workplace, optimistic about their jobs and cheerful while working deliver better customer experiences, are more innovative, and more dedicated to their jobs. In turn, customers are more likely to recommend the organisation to friends and family and to work with those same organisations again in the future. This is also reflected in broader industry research and understanding about the markings of a high-performance culture.

At Macquarie Bank, we have defined six key elements of high-performance culture that we focus on and continually assess. These are listed below and many are applicable across a broad range of industries: 

1. Strategy: The business strategy should be clear and well understood by everyone in the team. Most importantly, each team member should understand their role in helping the business achieve its strategy.

2. External focus: Teams should be monitoring the external market and matters, such as clients, competitors and the economic environment, to avoid letting more insular views take hold.  

3. Strength in leadership: This relates to both the quality of leaders of the business, as well as the leadership behaviours that are expected of all team members.

4. People: High-performance environments know how to attract the best people to their team and ensure they work together to drive the best outcomes for clients and the business. A team of individual champions doesn’t make a champion team – it's how they work together that matters.

5. Environment: The work environment should be conducive to high performance. This means everyone has the tools they needed to do the job and feel psychologically safe to share new ideas with the team.

6. Culture: The behaviours, symbols, rituals and stories need to align to and enable the strategy.


“Macquarie has focused on creating and nurturing
a high-performance culture for many years, and our learnings
are transferrable to adjacent industries, businesses and leaders.”

Ros Coffey

Head of People & Culture and Client Service & Support at Macquarie Bank

The demand for flexible working 

There’s a misconception that flexibility means working fewer hours; while in some instances this may be true, it’s not always the case. 

Flexibility means giving your employees more control over when, where and how they work, to provide them with the opportunity to manage their work and life commitments. Particularly post COVID, where people had to work away from an office for months at a time, and with improvements in communication and collaboration technology, offering the opportunity to work flexibly is a way to attract and retain excellent people. Studies have shown productivity can increase through flexible working by removing the stresses of trying to juggle work and life. Importantly, flexibility shouldn’t just be for parents or senior staff, nor can it be offered only to the best people.

To operate successfully, employees need to own the responsibility for demonstrating how their role will be delivered under a flexible arrangement, and how clients and the team will be managed positively.  Flexible arrangements don’t need to be permanent. They can be applied for limited periods as and when employees need them.

Culture is an ongoing process

Good workplace culture is not a ‘set and forget’ process. The culture that you create needs to evolve with your strategy and with market conditions – it requires regular review and nurturing to ensure it is appropriate for the needs of the business, clients and people over time.  

By implementing the right behaviours, symbols, rituals and stories, leaders can attract the best staff and develop high-performing teams that will give their agency an edge in the years to come. 

Five things you can do today

  1. Ensure everyone in your team knows the important role they play in delivering your business strategy.
  2. Take time to understand your team and what matters most to them.
  3. Initiate ongoing conversations with your teams on how to help them deliver their best.
  4. Be mindful of changing market trends and generational attitudes to continually evolve your employment offering.
  5. Consider your impact as a leader – it is felt far beyond your immediate team and can be a drawcard for both attracting and retaining the industry’s best. 

By Ros Coffey

Head of People & Culture and Client Service & Support at Macquarie Bank

To discuss any opportunities for your business, please speak with your Macquarie Bank Relationship Manager or request a call. 


Additional information


This content is issued by Macquarie Business Banking, a division of Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502 (Macquarie). It doesn’t take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs, nor is it intended as a substitute for any accounting, tax or other professional advice, consultation or service – please consider whether it’s right for you. Nothing in this content shall be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any financial product, or to engage in or refrain from engaging in any transaction. 

The information is current as at 9 April 2024. Past performance should not be taken as an indication or guarantee of future performance and no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made regarding future performance. Economic conditions may change.

The analysis provided is based on information obtained from sources believed to be reliable but Macquarie does not make any representation or warranty that it is accurate, complete or up to date. Macquarie accepts no obligation to correct or update the information or opinions in it. Any opinions expressed in this article are subject to change without notice. No member of Macquarie accepts any liability whatsoever for any direct, indirect, consequential or other loss arising from any use of such information.