HR

Three ways small businesses can retain staff without blowing out salaries

- October 31, 2022 3 MIN READ

Over one-in-two employees rank salary as more important in a job than feeling fulfilled and having a sense of purpose, as many employees battle inflation pressures. So, what does that mean for your small business or startup? asks Angela Ferguson, Co-Founder of Future X Collective.

For many Australians, the pandemic triggered a reassessment of personal values and wellbeing, and that’s why we witnessed herds of people quitting their jobs in 2021 in pursuit of a greater meaning. However, rising costs in Australia continue to be a struggle for many employees who feel they must choose been salary and purpose.

Small businesses nationwide must attempt to balance salary, purpose and flexible working conditions to drive employee satisfaction and elevated workplace culture without blowing out their financials.

How to retain staff without blowing out salaries

Now is a critical time for small business owners to open the conversation with each worker. Our research shows that most individuals require a tailored response depending on their age, gender, career stage and household living situation.


If you are concerned about losing employees in the inflation battle, here are three essential tips to provide a holistic work experience for employees which can help to boost personal fulfilment and professional purpose.

1. Play out culture in the workplace

Understanding what encourages employees to accept new job offers is a great way to discover ways workplaces can be optimised, whilst increasing your likelihood of retaining and attracting new ones. Many companies, particularly in the technology sector, use their work experience (being a combination of environment and culture) as a differentiator in their recruitment strategy.

Any environment that has not been updated since the pandemic is likely outdated for hybrid working and will therefore need a review. The overall workplace can play a significant role in an employee’s holistic experience of work:

  • Facilitating Social Connections: From weekly lunches to work anniversary celebrations or even wellness programs, organisations need to provide a workplace that is authentically engaging and social. This will create stronger, more meaningful relationships between the team and make staff feel part of a purpose-driven organisation.
  • Professional Development: Using the workplace to host workshops, learning and development, and networking events focused on strengthening industry skills creates the opportunity for staff to learn and continue advancing in their professional career paths. Ad hoc peer-to-peer learning can also not be underestimated.

Happy team high five

2. Define and design ‘purpose’

Employees shouldn’t have to choose between an appropriate salary and work with purpose, as a holistic work experience should offer both. Many people will identify ‘purposeful work’ as meaningful to themselves and others by positively impacting the world around them.


Consider how your small business can work with employees to find meaning in their current positions. Whether that is taking on more pro-bono clients, organising monthly community outreach, or improving your company’s sustainability and climate change practices.

No job lacks purpose, and meaningful work can be as simple as providing individuals with opportunities to make the best use of their natural skills and talents.  However, companies, particularly small businesses, can add additional features to staff’s roles that can further support personal fulfilment.

3. Take a ‘Test and Learn’ approach

We are in an unprecedented period of change and uncertainty, and many organisations are unsure how to navigate hybrid working. Rather than avoiding making decisions, one way forward is to take an experimental ‘test and learn’ approach to supporting employees in a meaningful experience of work.

Many business staff are ‘surveyed out’, so engaging and interactive online workshops can help capture sentiment and hopes for the future in real time. The findings of these workshops can be implemented as experiments or ‘pilot’ areas in the existing workplace, so that people can test what will work best for them, provide feedback and often adjust in real-time.

The workplace will thrive by balancing what the business needs to create revenue and drive growth, and what employees desire from their working experience.


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