20/10/2014 - 10:58

More than mere wages

20/10/2014 - 10:58

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Small businesses have developed unique incentives to win staff over larger competition.

More than mere wages
STRONGER: Kirsty Danby’s offer of free personal training sessions to staff has helped strengthen her workforce. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Staff attraction and retention strategies developed in a tight labour market are bringing significant benefits to a range of small businesses across Western Australia.

For Kirsty Danby, owner of Platform Communications, attracting quality communications consultants was challenging when competing with larger public relations firms purely on wages.

Instead, Ms Danby recognised that her passion for accommodating a good work-life balance for staff could help attract the right people for the job.

“We did go through a stage of finding it quite difficult … but since then I think we’ve built a reputation for looking after our employees,” Ms Danby told Business News.

Incentives offered at Platform include twice-weekly personal training sessions with former employee Heath Fernance, which Ms Danby introduced about three years ago.

“[Physical training] was something that they had been doing separately and they were struggling to find the time,” Ms Danby.

“We do tend to work really hard and sometimes late hours, and at times they would miss out on their training.”

Employees felt the business was looking after them by providing the training sessions, while the intra-team relationship was also strengthened, she said.

While the personal training sessions were attractive to the younger demographic of employees, Ms Danby said working mothers were also core to her workforce, which she attracted with flexible working arrangements.

She said those employees also felt they had the opportunity to showcase skills that may have been overlooked in other roles with larger companies.

“They may have worked in larger organisations where they may have felt they were just making up the numbers; they weren’t learning, they weren’t stretching their capabilities, they weren’t being showcased … their talent was just going unnoticed,” Ms Danby said.

“When they come to work for Platform and they do an extraordinary job, they get recognised internally with the leadership team here and also the clients and they love it.”

As a result of the incentives, Ms Danby said, she no longer had any trouble in attracting and retaining staff, with people now seeking her out for employment.

Working in the retail sector, Marie Cloughley has seen her fair share of staff turnover; but the WA Cleanskin Cellars director said her business had tried to create a culture that would help retain staff.

Incentives such as staff functions for casual staff and a high level of training were among the incentives offered to employees.

Small Business Centre Stirling chief executive Evan MacRae said sourcing labour was still one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses.

“Finding flexible ways to differentiate yourself from the other competition is the key to it,” Mr MacRae told Business News.

“Small businesses are stuck in the mentality that their doors open at 8:30am and they close at 5pm and that is how they do work.

“If it’s possible, creating the infrastructure and technology to work from home might be a way forward, or structuring the work day so it’s school friendly, or maybe giving an extra week’s leave.”

Owner of the Swanbourne Market, Stephen Carre, has focused his retention strategy on simply making staff feel valued; and it appears to have worked, with some young staff members notching up nine years at the IGA X-press store.

Staff members feature heavily on the business’s Facebook page with a raft of celebratory messages for anniversaries.

Mr Carre also cooks a weekly lunch for employees, which he said helped with staff retention.

“We do other targeted things for staff, but the Friday lunch has been effective especially as staff see me, the owner, taking the time to do something special for them and it engenders goodwill,” Mr Carre said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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