Employee retention 101: creating a great working environment on a tight budget

Lets face it: new-age corporate culture is reshaping ordinary offices into vibrant communities that are driven to preserve their assets: the individuals they employ. Many companies are adopting new-school HR culture, and not just to retain employees; encouraging playfulness and creatively rewarding hard work also helps drive innovation and effectiveness. You don't have to turn your office into a Google playground to fortify your team and encourage innovative-thinking in your company.


There's no real reason you should be enforcing a strict dress code especially if your staff are not client or customer-facing. Professionalism doesn't begin or end with tights and top buttons, and a strict dress code can be stifling to your office atmosphere, having an adverse effect at times. Some companies are even going as far as to declare their office a “no shoes zone”.

Does your workforce include students or parents? Unless your work absolutely relies on constant communication amongst your team, consider allowing flexible work schedules. If your employees have to work a standard 9-5 week and pay for childcare, for instance, they might seek out other career options that put more focus on the quality of their work.

Cultivating Culture

Unless your business is on the Forbes 500, it's almost universally impractical to employ a full-time massage therapist or hire a corporate box for an entire football season. Creating and cultivating culture in an office can be done without spending (much) money.

Lets look at examples of companies that have thriving office cultures. At Mailchimp, employees are treated to guest speakers on a weekly basis for “Coffee Hour” - the topics range from educational to downright silly.

On a limited budget, your employees themselves could take the opportunity to impart a lesson of their own (no lessons on spreadsheets, please!) or you could invite other local business owners to play the guru on a specialist topic.

The team at Red Ventures have many indoor and outdoor work spaces to migrate to, as well as meeting spaces with walls made of glass for scribbling brainstorm notes. Companies that hire competitively do well to encourage playfulness and rapport in the workplace. On a limited budget, take your brainstorms and meetings to a public park or a coffee shop.

It had to be said. Google, with its free haircuts and its napping pods, gives all employees an allotted five hours per week to spend on their own projects. It's anyone's guess how many Google tools began as a pet project.
On a limited budget, you could donate a certain portion of petty cash to funding web domains for your employees' side projects per month.


All the free snacks and costume contests in the world can't hold a candle to actual recognition in the workplace. However, it's difficult to know which incentives are going to motivate whom. An extra day of paid leave for x-amount of sales might be more enticing to some than a cash bonus.

If your line of work is conducive to competition amongst staff, divide them into teams. Outline the rules and goals, make the stakes exciting, and regroup teams regularly. Keep a leader-board to maintain a lively atmosphere of positive peer pressure.

There's something to be said for unexpected rewards, too. When someone makes a breakthrough at work, maybe after putting in extra hours or skipping a few lunch breaks to make it happen, let them know their contributions are noticeable and appreciated. Know their currency and reward them accordingly.


In addition to basic benefits, there are other meaningful steps you can take that show your employees that your company genuinely cares about its staff. Consider putting one of your employees in charge of a wellness program, and give them a couple of hours of paid time per week to manage it. This person would be in charge of researching and coordinating workplace wellness by way of:
• arranging daily group walks, runs, or bike rides
• coordinating sponsorship for and participation in athletic events for charity
• seeking out group discounts for yoga lessons and other exercise opportunities
• regularly buying healthy snacks for the office

Some of the above suggestions are excellent opportunities for team-building, too.

Talent Management

Recognising someone's talent and applying their skills to your company's advantage are two very different things. Find ways for your employees to infuse their passions into their work within relevance. Let’s say you have a film-making graduate in your office, or a keen writer. Could they put those skills to use creating video tutorials for your company blog? Give them the autonomy and ability to do so.

If you're not asking for input for social media and brainstorms from your entire staff, try it! You might be surprised by the dynamic, unique perspectives extracted from all pockets of your work force. Don't just listen – put their skills to good use and their passions to practical application – then reward your team members for going above and beyond the daily grind. You're more likely to connect with quality hires and referrals through workers who truly feel valued.


Rae Alton is a content specialist, brainstorming fool, and a zealot for online project management. Her favourite thing in this world, aside from her four year old daughter, is creating enormous and colourful mindmaps with co-workers

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