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How to keep your staff engaged

No one wants to lose good staff, especially in times of skill shortages, so what can you do to motivate and retain your employees?

Many business owners believe staff leave because they’ve been offered more money somewhere else. But the real reason is often to do with working conditions.

Ian Hutchinson, founder of Life By Design, says employees don’t leave organisations, they leave leaders, and “good leadership is key to keeping employees engaged and motivated, especially in times of change.”

There are a number of key drivers that engage and motivate staff: leadership, purpose, reward, opportunity, relationships, job fulfilment, and work-life balance.

Ian says managers should not assume they know what motivates their employees, as people are motivated by different drivers. “Rather leaders need to spend time communicating with them and working out what their three top drivers are,” he says.



Incentivise staff by offering flexible hours or the ability to log-in from home so they can work from there.

Engaging and motivating staff

Mark Novak is principal of the real estate firm, Novak Properties, based in Dee Why on Sydney’s northern beaches. He says employee engagement is an important strategic initiative that has helped to ensure his staff stays motivated.

“For the first three years of its existence, the company had a high turnover but now most staff remain for a long time,” Mark says. “I had to change my focus from working in the business to working on the business.”

One way Mark keeps his staff engaged is with the use of a staff trainer. “The trainer works on the business with the staff as well as on aligning their personal goals with their work life,” Mark says. “Often staff are able to have a conversation with the trainer that they may not feel they can have with a manager.”

Other simple but effective ways to engage staff is to hold informal staff engagement activities such as birthday parties, monthly social gatherings, which staff can take in turn to organise, and Christmas parties.

More formal incentives include offering staff gym memberships, flexible hours or the ability to log-in from home so they can work from there.

Another innovative practice is offering incremental leave. This is where an employee is offered an extra day’s holiday per year for each year worked. So if you stayed with a business for five years that would be an extra week’s annual leave.”

There are a number of direct and indirect costs involved when an employee leaves, including the cost of hiring a replacement, the loss of client goodwill if the employee takes a customer with them, as well as the fall in productivity while a new person comes up to speed. When you factor in all these costs, it makes sense to put in the effort to hang onto good employees.

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Gayle Bryant

Gayle has been a financial and business journalist and sub-editor for almost 30 years. She has written for a wide range of newspapers, magazines, custom and trade press and websites. Gayle’s articles regularly appear in the Sydney Morning Herald’s small business section and the Australian Financial Review’s special reports section.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.