Anneli Knight
Smarter Writer

Anneli Knight is a journalist, writer and academic with a background in law and finance. She lives in Byron Bay

Anneli Knight
Smarter Writer

Anneli Knight is a journalist, writer and academic with a background in law and finance. She lives in Byron Bay

Happy people lead to happy customers which leads to happy shareholders, says top ranking businesses in BRW’s Best Places to Work 2014 survey.

woman holding cardboard saying i love my job
If you have seriously motivated team members that care about the environment and care about each other that will translate sincerely into client service.

- PETER CLEARY, ZINC

Foundations of Greatness

“It sounds simple,” Cleary says, “but you ask your people what they want in a great place to work, and they’ll tell you.”

This process led Cleary to add a gym to the organisation and bring in a financial planner to advise staff. “Then they have a certain degree of self-determination, which sets a great culture, and a great culture attracts great people, great people do great work, and if they’re doing great work you’ll have very happy clients, which in turn leads to enhanced profitability.”

Zinc also supports the charity, Cambodian Kids Foundation by sending team members to Cambodia twice a year to volunteer for the organisation, while others who prefer to stay at home can invest their skills remotely via marketing or web design. “We didn’t want to just donate money, we wanted to use it as a team building exercise. It’s a two-way street, we need them as much as they need us,” reveals Cleary.

Cleary says it is crucial that companies move away from the rhetoric of people being the greatest asset of the business and actually take steps towards doing something about it. Cloud-based accounting service company Xero, was another top listing in the Best Places To Work 2014 survey, coming in at 16th in over 100 employees category.

Australian managing director, Chris Ridd has grown the national team from seven staff to 165 in three and a half years.

Chris Ridd's 5 tips for creating a great work environment
 

1. Strong purpose

Ridd says every business has goals to increase revenue and customers, but what is exciting for a team is having a strong purpose to strive towards. “For us it’s transforming the lives of small business owners. Because they can spend less time on their books, we give them more time to have their life back,” says Ridd.

“That’s what motivates our people to do their best work − knowing their work is achieving greater good in the market place.”

2. Set core values

Core values are only meaningful if you live and breathe them every day, says Ridd. Xero’s five core values are being human, being champions of change, challenging the industry, ownership and beauty in design. “This provides a great compass for staff in terms of behaviours and decision-making.”

These values are clearly communicated across the business with regular staff awards, says Ridd.

3. Hire great people

Hiring great people is relevant to every point on this top five tips list, Ridd says, because it is your people who bring the culture of the business to life.

“I still get involved with every interview when it comes down to the final tick,” says Ridd.

4. Transparent communication

Every Monday morning the Australian team at Xero gets together for 30 to 45 minutes. “We will cover whole range of issues, from good to bad, to anything in between. It’s about making sure people know exactly what’s going on in the business, and that everyone is on the same page,” says Ridd. There is also a fortnightly global hook-up.

“Transparency eliminates rumour and innuendo when people are trying to speculate what’s happening. People know that I and [CEO] Rod [Drury] will be completely open and honest as much as we can and it earns respect. People trust what we’re doing and what we’re communicating.”

5. Keep it fun

When you spend two-thirds of your waking hours at work, it’s important to be doing something that you’re enjoying, says Ridd. “I want to come to work and enjoy the people I work with. We work hard, there’s no doubt, but you want to be able to have a laugh, and we’ve done that successfully.”

Ridd says Xero’s success has arisen by following the first four tips (above) cultivating a team that is passionate, motivated, has a sense of ownership over their work and enjoys what they do. There is also a social committee that arranges morning teas, weekend ski trips and footy outings.

“They want to have that social interaction and fulfillment in the work sense.” This culture extends to the partner bookkeepers and accountants in Xero’s networks, says Ridd. 

“The Xero Band at our annual event was made up of musicians from our staff, accountants and book-keepers that played in front of 1300 people. We’re about making accountants and bookkeepers rockstars,” Ridd says with a smile.

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