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Inside three of Australia’s coolest companies

What do you look for in a workplace? We used to be happy with friendly colleagues and a light-filled office, but today’s top organisations are offering employees so much more. From meditation pods and inspirational speakers to virtual desks and flexible hours, employers are doing a lot to attract the right people.

The best companies are vying to secure the best and brightest, and once they’ve got them, they work to hold on to them. Having happy staff who stay long-term bolsters a company’s competitive advantage because it costs time and money to replace people, turnover is disruptive to workplace culture, and it’s fantastic for business when workers are committed, happy and hungry to succeed.

We spoke to three organisations that pride themselves on putting employees first, and asked them what they look for when hiring and how they keep staff happy.

Mecca – fostering an energetic culture

Jo Horgan, founder of high-end cosmetic retailer Mecca, says she has always looked for people with ‘shiny eyes’. These people have more than the ability to apply the right lipstick – they exude positivity, enthusiasm and passion. As a result, she’s built an organisation that has a happy, energetic culture.

But it’s not enough to hire happy people – she works to keep them satisfied. Three per cent of Mecca’s annual turnover is spent on training (which is high for the retail sector). In addition, employees receive a generous quarterly product allowance, in-store discounts, subsidised personal training, yoga and pilates. Horgan holds frequent ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, featuring speakers on topics from financial management to mindfulness and business inspiration.

Mecca is a flexible workplace, but because culture is important, the preference is for staff to work in the office if they don’t require flexible working arrangements. Women returning after maternity leave can choose to work three or four days a week until they’re ready to work full time, for example.

Despite the many appealing qualities of life at Mecca, and the swag of desirable workplace awards they’ve collected, Horgan is realistic about what’s not working. ‘We run engagement surveys where staff are given the opportunity to anonymously provide feedback on our culture, management and offer suggestions,’ she says.

Envato – flexibility to work your way

When Collis Ta’eed, Cyan Ta’eed and Jun Rung were setting up Melbourne-based digital marketplace firm Envato, they focused on creating a place where they’d want to work. Thanks to their strong ethos, the workplace accolades are now rolling in. Last year Envato placed 12th in the BRW Best Places to Work study and took out top honours for JobAdvisor’s Coolest Company for Women competition.

Envato isn’t just focused on employee perks and cool office fitouts – although they also have those. Their priority is making sure people enjoy their work and being part of the team. James Law, human resources director at Envato, says a big factor in their ability to retain staff is the fact they trust their staff to work when and where it suits them. ‘Flexibility is key, as everyone works differently, and that’s why we have complimented our office fitout with the option to work from anywhere, anytime,’ he explains. The 180 staff members (and contractors around the world) are invited to negotiate their ideal working conditions, provided they’re able to work remotely.

When they are in the office, teams have access to collaborative working spaces and quiet spots to focus. Law believes that a business is only as good as its talent. ‘If you cannot provide an environment that inspires, allows people autonomy and development opportunities, they will go somewhere else,’ he says. And because they attract and keep talented people, the business is going from strength to strength.

The Envato team in a break out space
'Flexibility is key, as everyone works differently, and that's why we have complimented our office fitout with the option to work from anywhere, anytime.'

James Law,

Airbnb – an inspiring environment

AirbnbAccording to a study conducted by US-based job and recruitment company Glassdoor, Airbnb is the best place to work in 2016, which makes it even more desirable than Google. The results were based on employee reviews that included the pros and cons of working for a company, career opportunities, benefits, culture and values.

A big part of what makes Airbnb a great place to work is its physical office spaces, which they aim to make a pleasure to work in. Sam McDonagh from Airbnb Australia explains that ‘our new Sydney office captures what we value as a company: creativity, travel and thoughtful design’. The workplace is designed to reflect the way the company connects people with unique accommodation spaces.

Employees are encouraged to work in different parts of the office – including cosy rooms that are kitted out like an exotic apartment in Havana or a rustic residence in Kangaroo Valley. McDonagh says these rooms ‘not only celebrate our global community, but also let everyone who visits truly experience a different place’.

For staff, being able to change their surroundings on a regular basis helps to keep them inspired, motivated and do great work.


'Our new Sydney office captures what we value as a company: creativity, travel and thoughtful design'

Sam McDonagh,

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If you have your sights set on a certain industry, check out what the businesses in the sector offer employees to retain, satisfy and inspire them. To land a role with a coveted company, you’ll need to make sure you have a strong competitive edge. To stand out from the crowd, follow these tips for landing your dream graduate job from Professor Dineli Mather, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Graduate Employment) at Deakin University.

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