Small Business

Motivating Employees

Offering employee benefits & boosting morale as a small business owner

When Seek published the top 5 employment perks Australians value most, none of the benefits on the list would have come as a surprise to any employer - Aussies value worklife balance and in some cases, this is more important than higher salary. Perks which were once considered ‘bells and whistles’ are now simply expected by many employees, and large global employers have started offering some particularly interesting perks in their attempt to retain employees, including unlimited holidays and egg freezing! 

This is an area that small business owners are often challenged in, as you simply might not have the budget to offer many non-monetary benefits, making attracting and retaining quality talent a significant challenge. This doesn’t mean you’re eternally wedged into a cycle of high turnover and low employee morale. Even as a small business, there are gestures you can make as an employer to make your staff members feel valued; boost employee morale and in turn help increase your retention rates and company results. 

Below, we discuss 3 of the key areas small business owners can focus on to help boost their employee morale. 

Mental Health
Career Progression

Mental Health

Mental health has become a big area of attention in large organisations, as well as society overall. As a small business owner, this should not only be a concern for your staff, but yourself too. Large organisations have traditionally had the resources for full service Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) where staff can access counsellors and psychologists anonymously, and the good news is that now there are also affordable options available for small business owners. 

However, in addition to an EAP, small gestures can help you create a workplace where everyone is considerate and ensure mental health is an area of focus.

  • Be on the lookout for staff members acting unusually – particularly if you notice performance slipping
  • Treat your staff members on busy days – even if its simple treats like ice creams or pizza.
  • Offer your staff ‘mental health days’ – a day off once in a while with the commitment that they spend the day doing something for themselves
  • Value inclusion; ensure you have an environment where everyone feels valued and included. There are now studies proving the link between civility and inclusion and employee performance and overall business results. Again as a small business it may be easier for your employees to see the impact of their contribution.

Career progression & development

In 2020, no one can really deny the benefits employee autonomy can bring, with morale and retention being some of the top advantages. As a small business owner, you may find yourself naturally inclined to watch over or become closely involved in the work your employees perform, especially if you work in close proximity. However, if you resist the urge to micromanage and allow your staff to work independently you may find your employees are more willing to take ownership and be more engaged in the work they do. Small business owners may also struggle to offer career progression due to the nature of how your business is structured. However, career progression doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘promotion’ – sometimes high-performing employees may simply need more variety in the work they perform, and the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. Small businesses may have an advantage over larger organisations in their flexibility to change roles to fit the skills and interests of their employees. If you have an employee who appears to have outgrown their existing role, consider asking them to assist on other projects, for example, an administration assistant who has demonstrated creative flair may want to start managing your business’s social media account.

Career progression doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘promotion’ – sometimes high-performing employees may simply need more variety in the work they perform, and the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone.


Flexible working has also become a popular term used in the workforce these days. The challenge with trying to offer ‘flexible working’ is that it can have different meanings to everyone, and every employee will have different needs. However there are a few ways you can try to accommodate your employees’ lifestyles with flexibility and in some circumstances, certain employees will have a right to request flexible working arrangements under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth):

  • If the nature of your business and technology allows for it, consider allowing your staff to work from home once on a while. This has also been a way for large corporations to cut back on their office space rent.

  • If your operating hours allow for it, consider letting your employees start and finish at a time they’d prefer rather than traditional business hours.

  • Break times are one of the simplest ways to introduce flexibility in the work day. By allowing your employees to take breaks at a time that suits them, and works for you, you can not only plan for busy times of the day, it will also give you a chance to plan your own day.

Big wins from small gestures

It is widely understood that treating employees well will bring positive benefits to businesses regardless of their size. Yes, larger corporations may have the upper hand when it comes to offering extra benefits, but your small size can also be your strength when it comes to offering flexibility, extra development and connection to the business. Often it’s a combination of small gestures which can help foster employee loyalty and improve retention.

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This information is intended to provide general insurance related information only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, nor does it, or should it (under any circumstances) be constructed as constituting legal advice. You should seek independent legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content of this information. Aon will not be responsible for any loss, damage, cost or expense you or anyone else incurs in reliance on or user of any information contained in this article.