Innovation

Lunchtime singing and awards for failure: The best perks from Australia’s most innovative companies

Amantha Imber /

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Inventium chief executive officer Amantha Imber. Source: Supplied.

Lunchtime singing, awards for failure and generous leave for new dads are just some of the perks at this year’s AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies.

Not only are these organisations pushing the boundaries on what is possible for their customers, but they are also creating world-class working environments for their staff.

So, without further ado, here are the businesses getting creative with their perks.

Flexible, paid parental leave

Accounting and consulting firm Deloitte topped the Professional Services Most Innovative Companies list.

One of the biggest perks at the firm is for new dads. Dads (and mums) are able to access Deloitte’s flexible parental leave.

The firm provides 18-weeks paid leave that can be used in a number of different ways within the child’s first three years of life.

For example, instead of taking 18 weeks in one go, dads might elect to take two days a week over a longer period.

This flexible approach to parental leave has resulted in a 128% increase in men actually using their parental leave entitlements.

Lunchtime singing and custom-built meditation spaces

International Towers, which looks after three commercial high-rise towers in Barangaroo, took home the Best Property, Construction and Transport Innovation Program award.

If you happen to work here, you can take part in a monthly group singing session.  The benefits of group singing have been well documented. Studies have shown that group singing boosts oxytocin levels, which helps control stress and anxiety.

The firm also offers spaces that have been custom-built for meditation and there are weekly guided meditation classes on offer.

Awards for failure and homemade meals

Custom Innovation Co, which topped the Most Innovative Technology Companies list, describes itself as a global fashion e-commerce disruptor. As a disruptor, one of the key behaviours the company embraces is failures.

“A lot of companies will punish people for making mistakes — we encourage them,” co-founder David McLaughlin said.

“You can’t innovate if you’re not fucking things up. We wrap up the week with a session called ‘Clangers and Bangers’ where we celebrate the mistakes (clangers) and also the wins (bangers) — over a beer of course!”

In addition, staff cook for the entire team (on a rotating roster) twice a week and everyone comes together to share this meal. This ritual acts as downtime for team members to bond while putting the tools down.

Time for innovation

Mining software and hardware company GroundProbe, which topped the Agriculture, Mining and Utilities Most Innovative Companies list, actively promotes staff getting involved in innovation. The production team are given two hours each week to work on innovations that relate to reducing costs, removing frustrations and improving efficiencies.

As an example, one of process engineers built a robotic, remotely-operated radar calibration device during this weekly time block, which turned a two-person manual task into to a one-person task, saving many hours of time.

Similar to at Custom Innovation Co, failure is rewarded rather than swept under the carpet at GroundProbe.

Managers are empowered to give up to $100 of gift cards every month for both successes and fast failures. And every new starter at GroundProbe is given the chance to work in the factory for a week building a product. Because the company’s products are so unique, it was decided that there was no better way to understand the products than to build them yourself. 

Business cards for everyone

Archie Rose is Australia’s most highly awarded distillery, producing whiskies, gins, vodkas and rums and spirits experiences in Rosebery, Sydney. The company topped the Most Innovative Retail, Hospitality, Tourism & Entertainment Organisation list.

At Archie Rose, it is fundamental that everyone is playing on the same team and working towards a common goal.

To help bring this to life, every single staff member, no matter what their role, is given a business card. While this benefit is stock standard if you work in a sales team, it is almost unheard of for a junior bartender to receive their own card, but they are always very excited to receive one.

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Amantha Imber

Amantha is the founder of innovation consultancy Inventium and the host of the podcast How I Work.