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Why and how to create a top place to work

I recently presented at The 2013 CEO Institute Summit on why we invest significantly in our culture, how we do it and the impact it has on our business, and I must admit, I was humbled to be asked.

Even though we have been listed on the BRW Best Places to Work list for the last four years I’m still a bit surprised every time I’m asked about Kiandra and our culture. It’s an inherent part of the business – it’s just who we are and how we have always been. But in reflecting on the “why” and “how” to put the presentation together, I realised that even though “it just is”, we do work incredibly hard to maintain and build on our culture.


A great place to work has a strong and positive culture, and a strong and positive culture leads to better performance, higher retention and a more aligned organisation.

Kiandra is a customer focused, services based business. We are a creative and innovative business for our clients. If we cannot attract and retain the very best our industry has to offer, then we cannot provide the calibre of solutions and level of service we expect, and our customers deserve.

Naturally people of a certain culture and capability love to surround themselves with peers who challenge and drive them to higher heights. The snowball effect of having a gun team that achieves amazing things is one of the biggest drivers we have around our employment brand.

It’s very easy to justify our spend on culture because happy and more engaged employees are going to be more innovative, passionate and caring about work they do and the results they achieve. This benefits our clients and in turn gives our business a competitive advantage.


My co-directors and I all met in high-school 25 years ago. The foundations of our culture are simply the extension of our friendship and the interactions we have on a day to day basis.

That being said, you don’t have to be best mates with your leadership team in order to create a strong culture, but culture MUST be driven by the business leaders in a genuine and meaningful way. That means you must invest the time to consider what initiatives are relevant to your team that will drive them to excel. You can’t tell them to have fun, get along or be passionate – they need to believe in WHO they work for and the outcomes they will achieve.

Many people mistakenly think that creating a top place to work is based on all the cool things you provide employees such as bean bags, Xboxes and Google slides. But in reality it’s about trust and engagement. At Kiandra we provide the cool perks, but the most important factor in determining a great place to work comes down to the work the individuals do, the people they work with, and the company they work for – the rest should be considered icing on the cake.

Marty for example is the Director of Software Development, and is one of those guys who naturally inspires passion in others. He’s a self-confessed nerd (I’ve seen his massive Star Wars Lego and remote controlled aircraft collection which 100% verifies this!) who absolutely loves what Software Development can achieve. It can be anything from a start-up concept for a new payment platform to a government solution for environmental management – but get him going and he’s almost frothing at the mouth with eagerness as he throws ideas and technology together. It’s that kind of passion from leaders that enables employees to really believe in what we are doing.

The Results

At the end of the day there needs to be tangible business benefits of having a great culture and being known as a great place to work. We now attract top engineers and developers who have come from large international companies and industry names who publish books and present at conferences both nationally and around the world.

We have high engagement and trust, low absenteeism, high staff retention rates, 14 recognised awards over the past 2 years and over 150 media clippings in the past 18 months.

We’ve managed a sustainable period of growth in a highly competitive industry in both top-line and bottom-line figures. I attribute much of this result to the brand we have built, the people we have and the culture we have created.

I once heard someone say “do what you love and love what you do” and this rings true for Kiandra. We certainly do what we love and love what we do – ultimately it’s about building a successful business that the founders and our people enjoy, are proud of and are passionate about driving well into the future.