What are the best employers doing to keep top talent? (Fin review Feb 2013)

Submitted on Tue 12 Feb 2013

Every second professional and executive will look for a new job this year, an employee intentions report by recruiter Michael Page shows. So what are the best workplaces doing to keep top talent and grow?

Structured career planning and employee training, as well as increased remuneration and flexible working arrangements, rank top on employees’ wish lists, Mr Page’s survey of 1500 workers shows. But rather than trying to meet whims and fancies of staff, some small companies have thrown their energy into inculcating a culture that motivates, and ultimately retains, employees. Business telecommunications services provider IF Telecom was formed in 2005 by managing director Andrew Branson, and has been listed in BRW’s Fast 100 and the Deloitte Fast 50. It’s a small ship, with 13 full-time support staff and a host of sales people, but no single full-timer has ever left the company.

“It’s very much about getting that recruitment process right in the first place,” Mr Branson said. “We always encourage people to come and speak to us since the business can always be improved.”


The team’s average age is below 30, and staff must fit within the existing culture and have the capacity to manage themselves. Table tennis, table football, music and the occasional sporting match are office staples. On an employee’s anniversary with the company, a spinning wheel offers the chance to win prizes including a day off, free lunch or movie tickets, and the value of the prize rises with longevity of employment.


Annual team events such as go-karting and weekends away, as well as a free day of leave on your birthday, make IF Telecom a place where people want to work. But it goes both ways. Operations manager Nick Holden said that in return for the laissez-faire approach, staff were expected to manage their own workloads. At any rate, creating a fun working environment with a relatively hands-off management approach is only part of the secret. Staff are kept in the loop about business performance, including margin and sales information.


Revenue of $10 million is expected in the next 12 months, and Mr Branson is aiming for $15 million by the end of 2014, with an aggressive growth strategy. “We’ve got a real camaraderie where staff motivate each other. We want to keep going as far as we can. We’re not happy if we plateau,” he said.


TRC Group managing director Simon Moss has helped create an environment that saw BRW name the recruitment firm one of the top 10 places to work in 2012. The 35-strong team is young – the average age is 31 – and diverse, with 11 nationalities and a near 50:50 male/female split, but the hiring process is solely merit based. Mr Moss describes the office layout as the “Googleplex” style: there is table football, a beer fridge, wines selected by a specialist and a sound system on which staff choose their own music. The perks include half-price work attire, a new suit once a year and health insurance, but the add-ons are only part of the appeal.


“Most people think it’s all about the benefits, but where we saw the most impact was around creating a community,” Mr Moss said.


That includes family days, when staff get to dump their kids on their colleagues, and Valentine’s Day presents sent to all staff members’ partners. National days are celebrated for each nationality in the office, with management cooking relevant food, which staff eat together.


“We outline opportunities for individuals and what’s expected of them to get the company where it wants to be. People know why their role is important,” Mr Moss said.


A genuine company culture, employee engagement and a bit of fun may be the secrets behind a happy workforce.

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