How to retain your employees and keep them engaged and productive in your small building design business

Research clearly shows that money alone doesn't make employees happy. Wisely chosen non-monetary rewards, on the other hand, will help you keep your employees engaged over the long term.

“There is unfortunately a fairly widespread belief in business that employees are paid for their work, and that’s enough,” says Diane Bazire, a BDC  Senior Business Advisor specializing in human resources.

To boost employee engagement, she encourages businesses to set up a structured program of non-monetary rewards. “Establish the behaviours and results you want to reward and determine your budget.”

A non-monetary rewards program produces many benefits. Employees are happier and more productive; absenteeism goes down; the work atmosphere is more positive—and all without having to spend a fortune and your employees are with you for the long term.

Some examples of inexpensive and non-monetary rewards you can offer your employees to boost engagement.

1. Recognise and appreciate

Recognising the efforts of employees—especially publicly—is one of the main motivational tools you can use, and it doesn’t cost you anything!

“A thank you is worth its weight in gold,” Bazire says. “Recognition can take the form of a thank-you card, or simply being congratulated in front of colleagues.

TIP:   Strive to be transparent, objective and fair to avoid the perception you are favouring some employees over others.

2. Offer the opportunity to make a difference

Employees become more engaged when they feel they work in a team where their voices are heard. Strengthen your employees’ sense of belonging by communicating with them on a regular basis. Listen to their opinions; they have great ideas.

Have employees participate in activities that matter to them. A building design firm as an example gives their employees time off to donate blood to the Red Cross another they all work in a soup kitchen to feed the homeless as a team.

TIP:   Identify issues that your employees care about and can help to resolve.

3. Target continuing education (CPD)

Providing employees with the opportunity for development through continuing education is highly motivating and engaging. Courses, seminars and coaching are essential for the development of your employees.

Send them off to a Design Matters CPD or Seminar or better still pay for them to do a webinar. Remember the more you invest in your people the better they are going to be at their jobs and the more satisfied your clients are going to be. Think long term not short term. Your employees are an asset to your organisation. If they are viewed as “

TIP:   Memberships to professional peak bodies such as Design Matters will help your employees remain current in their field. Salary sacrifice their annual membership to Design Matters or other membership organisations.

4. Offer flexibility

Working from home, personal days and reduced work weeks allow your employees to balance work and personal obligations. It is proven that a flexible work force gives a business efficiencies a high quality of work and a deeper engagement with employees. It increased employee retention.

TIP:   Be flexible and create an IT infrastructure that allows full flexibility not only for your employees but for yourself. Leaded in flexibility by example.

5. Small gestures go a long way

Gift certificates, top up a Myki card, shout lunch via Deliveroo or Ubereats once a quarter, give flowers and gifts to highlight work anniversaries, birthday cake for birthdays. Take time out and celebrate special successes as this recognises an employee’s contribution.

TIP:   Please check with your accountant re FBT implications

6. Organize team activities

Get-togethers, celebrations and group outings or group learnings where you invite your suppliers to talk about a new product will help improve team cohesion, work climate, engagement and beef up your CPD points.

TIP:   Do something together as a team once a quarter at least and do it in work time so that it is not onerous for your employees.

7. Create a succession plan for your business

If you have a building designer who has been working for you for a number of years, support them through the journey of registration. Engage them in your business so that your business can be passed onto your employee via a planned succession plan. Do not view your employees as a threat to your business. Embrace and nurture and support their growth so that your business thrives and it’s a business that can be taken over by the next guard. Succession planning through employee engagement has many positive benefits for a small business owner. It is income to fund your retirement as well as passing on a legacy of good building design to the next generation. It makes good business sense.

An example of this is Building Designer worked out a succession plan with his employee whereby he would work a 4 day week than, 3 day week than eventually to 1 day week to now a mentoring role. Today the retired Building Designer works on “special projects” only and his business is thriving under his employee’s ownership. There are many ways to craft a succession plan.

TIP:   Talk to your financial planner and be transparent with your employee as to how long and what the succession plan could look like.

8. Renumerate your employee a little more than the award rate or find clever ways to salary package

We all know that the award rates are pretty ordinary for graduates and Building Designers with little experience. Pay a little more for those employees who are high performers. This way you will get loyalty, greater quality of work and someone else will have no reason to poach your super star building designer.

TIP:   If you are unable to afford a higher pay rate, try roster days off, time in lieu, work a day from home a week, an extra few days holidays. There are many ways to build a remuneration package for your star employees and it doesn’t always have to be dollars.


Lastly, be attentive and remain flexible. The most important thing is to find a balance between the needs and expectations of your employees and the rewards you are offering—the health of your business depends on it.

It sort of should go without saying -- and it's surprising that it still doesn't go without saying at some companies -- if the person who works at your company is 100% proud of the job they're doing, if you give them the tools to do a good job, they're proud of the brand, if they were looked after, if they're treated well, then they're gonna be smiling, they're gonna be happy and therefore the customer will have a nice experience. If the person who's working for your company is not given the right tools, is not looked after, is not appreciated, they're not gonna do things with a smile and therefore the customer will be treated in a way where often they won't want to come back for more. So, my philosophy has always been, if you can put staff first, your customer second and shareholders third, effectively, in the end, the shareholders do well, the customers do better, and yourself are happy
Richard Branson

This article was written from the following sources: www.inc.com, Smart Company, bdc