I am often asked by some of our medium sized clients on how to retain their staff. Many of them are simply not in a position to compete with the salaries larger organisations can offer. So what’s a small company to do when it comes to hanging on to great talent?

The solution for retaining your workforce lies in understanding what’s truly important to today’s employee. A great deal of time and energy by industry specialists has gone into figuring out what Australian workers are looking for in a long-term position, and I’ve summarised some key findings here:

Greater reward in the form of recognition: This article in Business Insider Australiadescribes an important lesson regarding recognising employee performance. More than 70% of workers surveyed believed their performance at work wasn’t being appropriately rewarded – especially those in larger companies with more than 500 employees.

Work that excites and challenges: The Daily Telegraph pronounced the quest for more challenging work as the number one reason why Australians will leave their current jobs.

Less stress inside the workplace: According to one Workplace Wellbeing report, stressed employees are 2 ½ times more likely to seek a new job in the next year. Meanwhile, 85% of workers ultimately believe employers are responsible for creating a culture that “proactively addresses stress in the workplace.”

Flexible working conditions: More about this one in a minute.

The bottom line is that while any skilled worker is likely to be tempted by an opportunity to earn more, a bigger paycheque is far from the stand-alone factor motivating staff loyalty. In fact, the Business Insider article referenced earlier states that most employees (32%) rank acknowledgement above either monetary bonuses or career progression opportunities in terms of what makes them feel valued at work.

And that’s great news for many smaller companies. Because even if your firm can’t compete on a dollar-for-dollar basis with larger organisations, there’s still much you can do to make your workplace culture more attractive to new and existing personnel alike.

Versatility in the workplace is a good place to start. Examples of this include:

·        providing more flexible working hours,

·        making it possible for staff to work from home at least some of the time,

·        promoting – and personally participating in – more social events and activities, and

·        offering your personnel time off to perform volunteer work – or better still, making volunteer events a regular part of your workplace community

It’s clear that a high percentage of employees are more influenced by how relaxed, appreciated, and inspired they feel at work than they are by the lure of a more generous salary. In other words, your actions as a small business owner or manager speak far louder than your budget when it comes to retaining a vibrant and productive workforce.

I would love you to weigh in on this discussion! Please get in touch and let us know what you think will encourage a more dedicated workforce.


Nitha Coetzer, Director, Synergy Placements Australia