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Today is an exciting day for RedBalloon – we have been named one of BRW’s top 10 Great Places to Work. I have been asked today by the media about ‘how did you do it and why?’ The answer is simple – it makes commercial sense and I too love working in a place which has fun – it is a great place to be. According to Gallup organisations with an engaged workforce are 27% more profitable and have 50% higher customer loyalty.. (if you want to read more statistics on this get a copy of the Little Red Book of Answers – pg 28).  As I said this morning we are just practising what we preach to our clients about the results of reward and recognition programs.

I’ve mentioned before that no amount of money (or perks) will keep people long term if you don’t capture their hearts and minds. It is a question of having a shared sense of purpose, that each person here knows what it is that they’re here to do, that they are noticed for their contribution and ultimately they go home feeling like a winner because they know how they have made a difference.

But don’t take my word for it….We recently had an intern from the US join us for 12 weeks -here is an excerpt from his trip report (very humorous too)

Internship Essay:
Cultural Analysis of My RedBalloon Internship Experience

During my internship, I have encountered differences in social nature, humour, and work atmosphere between Australian and US workplace cultures. Australian workplace culture appears to be more social and interactive; teamwork is promoted heavily at RedBalloon. I was initially perceived by some as being more of an individual worker; however, through repeated group tasks and projects I have proven to my co-workers my ability to work and interact successfully with others. The social nature is frequently taken further, with many co-workers dating, going out for lunch, and socialising after work; I have been asked to meet outside of work on many occasions. Prior to my internship, I would have described the US workplace culture as being group oriented and social but now I consider it more individualistic compared to the culture in Australia. Humour also plays a stronger role in Australian workplace culture. It is woven into the day, making work seem more fun and less intense. RedBalloon illustrates this aspect of culture through its tagline of “mix business with pleasure.” Furthermore, the overall cultural atmosphere in Australia is less intense and more open. Employees at RedBalloon regularly take breaks to unwind, enjoy long leisurely lunches, and work in an open air space with no restrictive cubicles. At RedBalloon, these aspects of work foster a more cohesive team, creating company loyalty and success. This atmosphere is in sharp contrast to the intensity I have encountered in the US workplace. While I thought of US workplaces as productive and hardworking, I now view them as overly intense and stressful; unfortunately, US workplaces often fail to truly promote employee satisfaction. There are strengths and weaknesses between the two cultures; ideally, a balance must be struck between social, lighthearted culture and a workplace characterised by intensity and pressure to produce. RedBalloon has successfully struck this balance.

I have also noticed a cultural divergence between the countries in terms of company hierarchy and structure. My internship experience has reinforced my opinion that US companies are overly structured and have too much separation between hierarchical levels. I experienced the less stratified workplace culture in Australia my first day at RedBalloon. I was surprised yet impressed to discover that I, as a new intern, was sitting next to the CEO, the most powerful member of the company, with the same size desk and in a room with the other employees. This approach allows for more interaction between different levels of the company as well as higher employee morale. This setup is in sharp contrast to the separation between higher level members and lower level employees in most US companies; CEO’s and higher level executives have become accustomed to secluding themselves into large, separate offices. The Australian culture allows many company leaders to have a more direct connection with employees, having a pulse on what is happening. The differences in the hierarchy are combined with a difference in organisational structure. The flatter, team approach in Australian workplaces fosters a collective mindset as opposed to an individualistic one encountered in the US. The promotion of group culture by the team structure is demonstrated by how challenges are addressed. When I encountered a perplexing problem when preparing a report, my supervisor and co-workers acted as if it were a challenge for the whole team; we worked together to resolve the issue to get the desired final product. Through this challenge, I realised that a culture that promotes team results can often better deal with challenges.

While many similarities in workplace culture between Australia and the US exist, the overall cultures are distinctly different. It is critical to understand that no cultural characteristic is absolute and embodied by every company or business in the respective country; furthermore, the cultural characteristics are present in varying degrees. While RedBalloon’s workplace contains cultural components discussed above in a clearer manner, I believe that the cultural workplace attributes at RedBalloon are generally present in other Australian workplaces. Ultimately, through my internship, I have learned a significant amount about the Australian workplace culture and, consequently, by comparison, enhanced my understanding of the US workplace culture. My internship has been an enlightening window into Australian workplace culture.

Daniel Allon
20 April 2009

Reader Interactions


  1. Congratulations to all the team at RedBalloon – WOW!!!!
    It’s so funny reading this blog this morning as I was just thinking about "the good ol’ days" at RedBalloon and remembering when we were all sitting on top of each other in the original RedBalloon office – the upstairs room of Naomi & Peter’s house! I wonder what Daniel Allon would have thought of that as his Australian work experience?! So I’m now living and working in the US – admittedly, I do live in an exceptional place in the world and am very lucky to have found another amazing and great place to work, but I do think Daniel’s comments about the great Aussie knack for mixing business with pleasure do ring true.
    Keep on doing (and loving) what you are all doing!

  2. Hi Naomi! I’m really happy you connected. How’s RedBalloon? I recently founded a startup that makes it easy for our community of adventure-seekers to discover, buy, share, and experience exciting activities and tours – similar to RedBalloon’s mission. We’ve adapted online group buying to fit the adventure space and are incorporating an online community. I, in many ways, was and still am inspired by RedBalloon and my time in Australia. Interning at RedBalloon was truly an incredible experience for me. It’d be great to run some of my progress and vision for the future by you, get your valuable insight, and be updated on how RedBalloon is doing

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