How to grow a sustainable business by looking after your employees

Choice Energy
Choice Energy CEO Christopher Dean

By Christopher Dean, Choice Energy CEO

Richard Branson once said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to”. Choice Energy was the fastest growing SME in Australia in FY18. Do you know why? The development of its people. Without its people, a company is nothing more than an ABN and a web domain.

When starting out, Choice Energy was unable to pay the highest wages in the industry, so we took the approach of creating the best working culture in the country. Once pay gets to a certain level, it becomes less of a motivator. This is increasingly the case as more Gen Y and millennials enter the workforce. Don’t get me wrong, Choice Energy is now an established award-winning business, and as such, we pay leading remuneration, but couple that with our company values and staff incentives, and we’re luckily to say we have people queuing up to join our team.

So, how did we build an engaged workforce?

Autonomy

In his book Drive, Daniel H. Pink says, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives”.

We support and train our team, and then leave them to it. We don’t micro manage, but instead encourage everyone to treat their desk as their own individual business, within our greater business.

Team development

Each team member is given $30 per month to invest in areas they want to develop.

In addition to our line managers running bi-weekly training sessions, over the last 12 months we have had six guest speakers and four consultant workshops, with many held off-site to increase engagement.

These workshops have ranged from time management and sales coaching, right through to presentation development and positive and lateral thinking,

Mental health support

One of the most impactful speakers was Martin from the Resilience Project who provided the team with positive and practical mental health strategies they could then apply to their own lives.

Choice Energy also provides staff with mental health support through an external psychologist.  

10am starts in winter

Encouraging staff to get more sleep has a range of benefits, not just for employees but companies too. It can reduce absenteeism, improve productivity and boost staff morale. To minimise sick days, every team member gets a 10am start each week of winter.

Team bonding

We’re also a big advocate of the benefit of team bonding activities on the workplace. We regularly hold company-wide events to build relationships and celebrate success. In the past, this has included a trip to Thailand and the ski fields, as well as dinners at restaurants. As a team, we also regularly participate in sporting events including triathlons and running events.

Giving back

We are very proud to have given back to our community even before we were profitable. For two years we supported The Torch, an Indigenous charity helping previously incarcerated Indigenous Australians earn an honest living via their art. This year, Choice Energy raised over $8000 via company BBQs and trivia nights for Oz Harvest’s CEO Cook-off, which helps reduce food waste by rescuing edible food and redistributing it to those in need.

Our values and standards

By having strong values that people can get behind and support, as well as guide them in their own actions, is key to building a resilient and motivated workforce.

At Choice Energy, we are proud of our ABCD of values:

  • Always accountable: own the outcome of our work and the commitments we make to our clients and each other
  • Bias towards action: we make calculated decisions and take action quickly
  • Candid with feedback: we encourage regular and honest feedback to help is learn and improve
  • Development-focused: we invest in ourselves and our teams to achieve world-class standards.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

Every time we accept the status quo of poor behaviour, we are endorsing it. From our newest recruit to our company leaders, we are all encouraged to speak out and speak up.

As the CEO and co-founder of Choice Energy, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with a team that is constantly aiming to be better than yesterday – in work and life.

Choice Energy won the 2018 Smart Company’s Smart 50 Awards achieving nearly 1000 per cent growth in three years.

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