By Dave Ansett, an EO Melbourne member
As client budgets shrink, staff redundancies take hold and the daily perks of working for a dynamic business evaporate, entrepreneurs face the challenge of keeping their staff motivated, positive and bursting with enthusiasm. While there’s no single, simple answer to the challenge, one of the most successful drivers of our company’s positive work culture is our staff incentive program.
Storm is a mid-sized creative brand agency located in Melbourne, Australia. Like any professional services business, our success is directly linked to the effectiveness of our people. After launching in 2005, we established an incentive program with a 360-degree framework that reflects what we value most about our organizational culture and the drivers of the business: happy and profitable clients.
After team and individual goals were set, I met with each staff member monthly to review how they were achieving their goals. Recognizing that we all have different strengths and talents, if a staff member fell behind on a goal, it was their responsibility to work with someone else from the team to catch up. This approach reflected our studio’s “one-in, all-in” philosophy, and it helped when it came time to reap rewards.
At Storm, our incentive rewards are bi-annual. After each reward, we spend three months establishing the criteria for the following incentive program and then re-launch it to the staff to keep things fresh. Some goals are re-framed with new assessment criteria, while others are replaced with new goals. True to the ethos of EO, our staff incentive rewards are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Rewards involve travel and physical challenges, and they must be truly memorable.
Rewards are chosen based on staff suggestions of experiences they would cherish. We run the suggestions through our budget and the whole team votes on those options that meet all criteria. In 2006, we travelled to Fiji where we kayaked through the Yasawa Islands for five days. In 2008, we visited the “Top End” of Australia, where our adventure included kayaking through the Kathryn Gorge, a helicopter flight into Arnhem Land and sunset cruising with crocodiles.
In a creative and deadline-driven environment, these reward trips have a beneficial impact on our company culture. Both trips are spoken about with great enthusiasm and passion. We are also finding that word is spreading across our industry and that potential recruits are aware that working at Storm brings with it some extraordinary rewards.
However, the most important benefit this incentive program has given us is an understanding of the role each employee plays in our business success. I’ve learned that the more you understand the people you work with, the more successful you will be. As our industry feels the brunt of the credit crunch, our business is brimming with health and positivity. I have a sneaking suspicion our incentive program has more than a little to do with that.