I got my LinkedIn update the other day, and I noticed that Travis, one our Account managers, had answered a question.

“It’s difficult for small companies to hire and retain top talent. How does a small company position itself to attract the best? What retention strategies do you suggest other than cash and stock options?”

While I didn’t reply to this question at LinkedIn, I will give my opinion here. In order for any small / medium company to attract and keep top performers, two key things should be brought to the table:

1- Promotion
2- Perks

Promotion – I think for any company to keep staff, promotion is a must. I know when I was working for my previous company, the rule was: you must stay in a role for a minimum of one year in order to get promoted. This rule was so a staff member fully understood how an area functioned before he/she could move on within the company; also, to learn to serve his/her clients and colleagues better with more knowledge and hands-on experience. Great system and it worked. In the 11th month of each year, I continued to be extremely motivated; actively seeking out opportunities in other areas of the company. During my 5 years with eircom I received 4 promotions. The sad thing was that the position I had desperately worked so hard for, came up as I was leaving for America. That being said, I am happier now than I was then.

Perks – At eircom, they offered us Globogifts as bonuses.

  1. We didn’t have to pay tax on these gifts.
  2. We could use these gifts for anything that was available on the Globogifts website–from restaurants to shopping to flights.

Eircom would also offer “nights out on the town” and pay for university degrees (if job related.) Upon reflection, however, receiving a cash bonus is sometimes preferable in order to pay bills etc–it is all personal preference.

So, if you’re thinking that these “perks” may be rather costly, let us consider the alternative.
For example, assume replacing a staff member costs about 30k based on the following:
1 – The exiting employee may have anticipated his/her departure leading to a lack of motivation and poor work performance. (Personally, I think a person should be asked to leave straight away upon turning in his/her notice. Much time and money can be lost in the following weeks).
2 – Lost sales from empty position.
3 – Interviewing and hiring new staff.
4 – Training new staff.
5 – New staff learning the ropes and getting settled in.

Also, lost staff can lead to intangible losses. For example, team morale may be lowered with staff having to pick up the slack.

What is it worth for you to retain your best staff and avoid losing money in the process of obtaining possibly lower quality staff? Offering extravagant gifts to the highest achievers or most-improved staff members is one suggestion. Companies can reward their staff by giving them the opportunity to create wonderful memories and experience things they might not do otherwise:

  • Two days of golf school
  • Wine Tasting – Group session for friends and family
  • Tennis lessons for kids
  • Team deep sea fishing trip
  • Stunt school experience
  • Overnight luxury spa break
  • Personal shopping experience
  • Fighter pilot for the day
  • A trip on the “VSS Enterprise” zero-gravity flight (it’s pricy but my personal favorite)

The key here is to offer these perks to provide your staff a tremendous incentive to stay with your company and, at the same time, strive to provide top quality work. If one staff member is always at the top, this person should not be overlooked; however, consideration should be given to provide more than one great memory.

Offering luxurious gifts to your staff (even if they could afford it) they might not consider purchasing for themselves and involving their family and friends can be invaluable. In the end, you are setting the building blocks for a great company to work for that can retain staff and have people banging on your door to work for you. Think Google.

I, personally, want to take a “red eye” to Queenstown, NZ and jump Nevis (8.5 seconds of bungee goodness) or travel to Angel Falls in Venezuela and BASE jump from the top (this, too, is a great viral tool – brand the chute with your company logo, video it, and put in on You-Tube.)

That my friend is a memory that nobody can take away from you.


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