E66 - 'Best of the Best' Workplace Culture - Interview with Shanyn Payne of OES

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.


Shanyn is the Executive Director of Human Resources at Online Education Services (OES.edu.au) where she has been since 2011, part of the start up team. She guided the creation and implementation of all people related initiatives across the business including recruitment, remuneration, leadership development and organisational culture and engagement. All this through rapid expansion and growth. The efforts have not gone unnoticed, and OES has achieved and maintained Aon Hewitt Best Employer accreditation in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2017 they were named “The Best of the Best”.


Shanyn reveals:

  • How you merge two distinct cultures - Swinburne University and Seek - to create a new business that thrives, instead of imploding like many joint ventures. The secret is in defining the culture from the beginning and making a decision to be a people first business.
  • Culture of trust: what they did from the start to set them on track to be the Best of the Best of workplaces. This included discretionary sick leave and no probation period.
  • How discretionary sick leave led to fewer average sick leave days taken.
  • The recipe of fundamentals for creating a healthy workplace culture, and keep it going, even through rapid growth and expansion. These fundamentals include:
    • Remuneration that is benchmarked, market rate, and transparent.
    • Extensive and thorough leadership development for all managers.
    • Incorporate values in to every day practices.
    • Never compromise on values in the recruitment process.
    • The surprising requests from staff that keep them engaged: focus on purpose, make the student experience better, and the occasional perk.
  • How you can make remote employees be even more engaged than office staff with these three key actions:
  1. Create a sense of community with good online platform that has staff rooms, chatter rooms, tutor rooms to swap ideas, weekend chat places.
  2. Flexibility of hours and working arrangements
  3. Ongoing professional development
  • Avoid these mistakes when trying to address culture:
    • Thinking perks will fix things. You need to get the fundamentals right.
    • Not listening to people. Seek input and opinions on engagement, improvements, and ideas.
    • Make sure your actions match words: don’t pay lip service to the values and behaviours you promise to uphold.
  • The number one thing that keeps the culture healthy and accountable: the ability to give and receive effective feedback and create an environment where it is safe to do so.