In these busy times, attracting and then retaining talent is a continuous challenge.

Losing a valued staff member costs tens of thousands of dollars when you factor in all the unseen costs such as loss of productivity, client relationships and IP.

There are a number of factors that keep employees happy in their work ranging from money, flexibility, job satisfaction and career; through to culture, internal relationships and a sense of belonging.

In recent head-hunt attempts from other agencies, the focus has been on the package, benefits and culture – they appreciate that recruitment is recruitment and they need to differentiate themselves from all the other agencies out there chasing staff.

Here is a range of ideas I have seen implemented by businesses, many are obvious, yet often get overlooked.  Many are also win/win, serving a dual purposes such as encouraging innovation, upskilling and rewarding performance.


When you survey what people want from their job, the top two tend to always be money and work/life balance.

Many roles in project based environments restrict the level of flexibility the employer can offer, but caveats can also be put in place to protect the business.

I know from experience, those with flexibility in their employment, are very hard to headhunt away.  Ideas include:

  1. Day off on the employee’s birthday.
  2. Extra day’s holiday for each year served (capped).
  3. Job share for “return to work” mothers – popular in the UK, where two people share a full-time role and work on different days, sometimes with a day’s overlap.
  4. Flexible start and finish times.
  5. Working from home a day per week.
  6. Time off in lieu if excessive hours are worked.
  7. Option to take a capped amount of unpaid holiday.
  8. Doona Days – extra days holiday which can be taken with no booking (ensuring there are caveats so employees don’t impact operations).



Money is always a sensitive subject, however I see employers continually losing staff over pay and the loss costing them far more.  Money can be used as an incentive, motivator and retention tool.

  1. Bonus at the end of a project for the whole team, develop parameters to reward staff for their performance, you could develop targets and stretch targets based on your business deliverables to attract loyalty and performance.
  2. Annual performance bonus or thank-you gift card.
  3. Profit or productivity related bonus schemes.


Career Development

People often leave a job for career development reasons, giving talent the opportunity to keep moving forwards and learn, means they help your business grow, not your competitors.

  1. Offering formal external training relative to their role and your business.
  2. Offering access to online training and allowing time for employees to train.
  3. Making it easy for staff to move to different roles in the organisation. I have heard of businesses that allow staff to shadow a colleague in another team to understand their roles, this helps build interdepartmental collaboration and respect.
  4. Developing strategic career development plans for those who want to progress, identifying their career goals and steps to upskill.
  5. Master-classes and brain storming sessions – engage your talent to hold a master class with the team on a specific topic to build internal capability.



If staff feel they have a voice and are able to contribute their ideas, you build a culture of ownership and collaboration.  Rewarding staff for their contribution is a great way to attract both innovation and loyalty.

  1. Annual incentive program where staff nominate their peers for going the extra mile, or team leaders nominate a team member. You can have a quarterly award and then an annual award for the overall winner.
  2. Incentive program for staff to contribute ideas to improve performance or efficiency. If an idea is adopted the initiator gets rewarded.
  3. Annual business planning, engage your team in the business vision and goals, get them involved in planning at an individual and team level their contribution to the business.
  4. Competitions, look at a business issue you face and get your employees to brainstorm ideas to resolve them offering reward for the winners.



Teams are often built away from the desk and giving staff the opportunity to engage away from business grows relationships.  When I have met a long-term employee looking to move on to advance their career, they often say their colleagues have kept them there.  One of the key elements to getting this right is to know your audience to ensure events are anticipated, not dreaded.

  1. Annual company conference (make it strategic, business and then reward with an event).
  2. Team building events once a quarter – this could be as simple as a team lunch.
  3. Charity days – whether it be sending teams out to work on Starlight Day, getting people baking for the “Biggest Morning Tea”, or organising teams for “City to Surf”. People enjoy contributing to the community and it helps build teams.
  4. Surveys and providing mediums for feedback – this can be done anonymously and serves the dual purpose of giving people a voice and potentially alerting management of failings and issues in the business.
  5. Dress-down Fridays, we are all a little less-corporate than we were ten years ago, but people still enjoy the casual Friday.
  6. Friday afternoon beers – still a great way to get the team together at the end of the week.


Additional Benefits

It’s easier for bigger businesses to implement benefit schemes, but smaller businesses can still do initiatives such as salary sacrificing for employees to buy computers.

  1. Discounted Gym memberships or other healthy lifestyle solutions.
  2. Salary sacrificing to buy tools, computers, phones, fund tertiary studies etc.
  3. Access to schemes such as novated leasing to purchase cars etc.
  4. Access to preferential pricing that a business gets with their spending power – such as cheaper computers etc.


The key point to remember is that one size does not fit all and getting feedback from the people you employ is a valuable process before you start to implement changes.