How to keep your best talent without using financial incentives

Recruiting new staff is an expensive exercise costing a business both time and money, not to mention the opportunity costs of delayed projects, overstretching of already limited resources and reduced staff productivity.


It is always a more cost-effective strategy to retain existing talent, and it’s not as hard as many might think.


While it is easy to assume that monetary incentives help to keep good talent, it’s only part of the story.


Hire the right people


Understand what you need to move the business forward and find the best fit and skill. You need to know the kind of person you require at the outset, including their skill sets, cultural fit, drivers and motivators. Hiring the right people enhances your work culture, increases employee morale, and keeps people motivated and accomplishing goals.


Involve your best talent in important business decisions


Although it isn’t practicable to involve everybody in every business decision, it is a well-known fact that employees like to have their ideas heard. This couldn’t be truer than in a start-up business where fresh ideas and input from staff is a daily prerequisite. Involve your best staff in decisions that affect their jobs and the overall direction of the company whenever possible and they will grow attached and committed to helping you achieve your goals.


Be creative with staff development and career progression within your business


There can be a misconception that a small business or start-up can’t and won’t provide the same career opportunities as a larger established business might. This may well be true in some cases, however as a start-up owner and founder you are actually in a good position to provide career growth and opportunity for the right staff. In fact, you have a blank canvas in a lot of respects and can map out career paths as you like.


Look at opportunities to involve your best talent in projects outside the scope of their normal work to keep them challenged and engaged.


Time off and holiday benefits


This doesn’t need to be by way of holiday loading, but could include:


  • Additional annual leave day for every year worked with the business.
  • Special day off on their birthdays.
  • Use your quieter periods (i.e. Christmas) to offer free days off, so employees aren’t dipping into their leave accruals.
  • Reward staff who don’t use their sick leave by offering two additional leave days to use as they please.


To assist with budgets and cashflow, set a timeframe in which these benefits must be taken and ensure they are non-accruable – that is, they can’t be paid out if not taken.


For many people, particularly those with family, time is one of the most valuable offerings you can make, and one a lot of larger corporates aren’t able to.


Create a fun and flexible work culture


Can your staff work from home, have start and finish times that suit their family schedules or wear casual work attire? Outline what’s important in the business but allow flexibility in other areas. This empowers employees and keeps the workplace positive and more enjoyable.


Don’t forget to celebrate success. It is important to keep your key people engaged by setting regular goals and milestones, and then celebrating once achieved.


Talk often


Find opportunities to catch up individually with your people whether within a professional setting or outside of work. This promotes discussion and gives your talent an opportunity to discuss any concerns, challenges or feedback. Get to know them and their inner motivations because that will tell you how you can keep them engaged and performing in the business. This is also an opportunity for you to tell them what’s going on in the business. People like to feel valued, and having this kind of discussion builds attachment and commitment from your key people.


Julie Seletto is co-founder of, a specialist tech recruitment firm and 2012 BRW Fast Starter, which connects intelligent and passionate people in the Australian tech and digital space. Follow on Twitter @Seed_Talent


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