INNOVATION

How Small Business Can Create A Great Workplace On A Budget

No pool table? No worries.

24/10/2016 6:57 AM AEDT | Updated 24/10/2016 6:57 AM AEDT
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How great would it be for all your small business staff to turn up to work feeling like this each day?

Creating a great workplace where staff are excited to turn up to each morning may have something to do with a huge paycheck.

But how do small business do this on a budget and without the flashy pool tables, expensive chillout gaming zones or lavish Christmas parties on a tropical island?

The secret is quite simple says Zrinka Lovrencic, Managing Director of workplace and consulting firm Great Places To Work Australia which recently named the best Aussie workplaces -- employees need to feel at home.

"A great workplace is one where you trust the people you work for, have pride in what you do and enjoy the people you work with," she said.

"You have to give your staff a reason to stay. It's not about the money. It's about making them feel valued and part of the team -- knowing that they are part of the success or failure of the company."

Insentra
Insentra CEO Ronnie Altit got the chance to create his own culture with his small business.

Ronnie Altit, GM of collaborative IT Services firm Insentra which finished eighth in the GPTW list, said as a small business owner he had a unique opportunity to create a great workplace culture.

"The benefit of starting my own business has been the opportunity to create a workplace that does all the things I loved when working for someone else; removing all the processes, behaviours and things I hated and implementing the things I wished for," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Interestingly, the things I love are the same things others love: safety, trust, high achieving, being treated like an adult, having my concerns listened too and addressed, consistency in behaviour from the CEO through to management -- one voice, one culture, one team, one dream."

A great workplace is not just about financial or other rewards, rather it is about creating a safe environment for people to be the best that they can be."Ronnie Altit

Altit said flashy perks may attract some employees, but they are superficial.

"A great workplace is not just about financial or other rewards, rather it is about creating a safe environment for people to be the best that they can be and to do the best they can do," he said.

"Our people are my number one priority and that is not rhetoric -- it's fact. Nothing takes precedence over our team. Without them we would be nothing and would have no clients. We created this culture by being real, consistent in our behaviour (words are just words) and truly caring for our team."

A great bunch of Mofos

Justin Dry and Andre Eikmeier, Co-Founders of uber cool online wine retailer Vinomofo, says hiring the right people in the first place is key -- and being upfront about the kind of culture employees are walking into.

The pair's "no bowtie, no BS" approach to their business as one for wine lovers but not wine wankers has always been upfront. Customers love being part of the cool tribe that eschews the need to talk about notes of pear on the palette and even began the tradition of calling themselves "mofos" and "mofettes" thanks to their unique business name.

And it's from this base that most of their employees have emerged.

Vinomofo
Justin Dry and Andre Eikmeier, Co-Founders of Vinomofo, say workplace culture starts from the recruitment phase.

"Around 90 percent of the people that we actually employ are currently mofos. So they get the culture of the business before they even apply for the job. They know what to expect, they know what we believe in, they know they are going to work hard but it's going to be super fun at the same time," Dry told HuffPost Australia.

Vinomofo's staff have also bonded over the company's philanthropic initiatives -- they became the first workplace to foster a rescue dog and each month they "Vinobomb" around 10 people who are nominated by the public for doing incredible work in the community or globally but who rarely receive any kind of recognition.

Here are Ronnie Altit's top tips for small business to create a great workplace -- without the budget for all the bells and whistles.

1. Hire right

Altit says all employees know the ground rules from the very first interview.

"It starts from me interviewing every candidate and being very clear about the behaviours we recognise and those that we do not tolerate," he said.

2. Constant focus

Altit says managing your workplace culture is all about the execution. Small business owners simply can't take their eye off the ball.

"I truly believe the reason cultures change as organisations grow is because the leaders of the business start to focus in different areas and forget to focus on the most critical aspect -- the people who make stuff happen," he said.

3. Two-way communication

Altit says the company shares the success and accomplishments of its staff, but also invites feedback.

"We encourage all of our staff to let us know if they have 'a pebble in their shoe' so we can shake it out before it becomes a blister -- it's much easier to remove a pebble than to heal a blister," he said.

4. Share and share alike

Altit believes in being completely transparent with his staff, even when others disagree.

"If you want to create a great culture, especially as the business grows, you must remain true to your values and maintain the level of open relationship," he said.

"Over the years I have been told that what I was doing didn't really fit 'best practice' and as we grew would definitely not be sustainable. I call bullshit."

5. Be flexible

Altit says Insentra offers a flexible workplace where the team is measured on their output, not the hours worked or location.

"It's a well accepted system but sometimes you need to remind staff of the boundaries when new staff take off at 2pm and don't tell anyone," he said.

"The lesson we learnt is that whilst you can provide benefits such as flexibility, it is very important to provide the framework and to educate the team how to use the benefit appropriately."

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