Using the Find Grow Keep approach to effectively create a great workplace

Karen Kirton, Author of Great People Great Business

A new book Great People Great Business by HR expert and founder of Amplify HR, Karen Kirton, reveals a tried and tested recipe for businesses to improve workplace culture and engagement, enabling lower employee turnover and higher productivity. The methodology has been successful for Australian organisations ranging from 10 to 100 or more employees across different service-based industries, and here Karen shares key secrets to her formula.

What is the synopsis of the book?

In Great People Great Business, Karen writes: “Research consistently shows that if you develop a workplace culture that engages your teams, you will enjoy higher customer satisfaction, loyalty, productivity and profitability, and lower employee turnover. People are the competitive difference.” This approach comprises three key areas:

Find great people: create a compelling employer brand and employment offer, sell your business more effectively, attract candidates even when you aren’t advertising.

Grow great people: Personal development is shown to rate as a top benefit for employees and a reason they stay longer. Having a process in place builds teams of high performers.

Keep great people: Learn how to have great people who are motivated. Meaning the business owner can unstick from the day-to-day and focus on growing the business.

“The great part about putting in Human Resource frameworks for your workplace culture is that they are scalable with your business. What works for a fifteen-employee business will work for 100 or 200 employees. You may have more resources available as you get larger, but the HR structure will grow with you. At Amplify HR, we help companies build workplaces that engage and inspire so your business can scale up and grow,” Karen wrote.

How can business curate a great workplace?

Karen breaks down the nuts and bolts to provide detailed steps. Her top tips are:

Understand external and internal factors impacting your business

External factors: leaps in technology, employee expectations (such as flexibility – with 4-day work weeks gaining traction internationally), generational differences (for the first time, five generations in the workforce), and unforeseen disruption.

Internal factors: being stuck in the day to day (managers unable to let go, leaders not having the right people to delegate to), employee turnover and the pain of great people leaving (SME’s should aim for 10-20%), and compliance (lack of can occur with resource shortages).

Consider the culture you want to build

The four overriding workplace cultures are, purpose; existing for a greater good, such as charity or education, performance; centred around clear performance measures with rewards, such as professional services, innovation; operating in rapid-change industries, characterised by flat matrix-style structures, such as tech and pharmacy, and customer; characterised by the philosophy of the cus­tomer’s always right, often B2C businesses.

Talent Matrix your team and include staffing in Strategic Planning

A Talent Matrix categorises employees’ performance and is a great process to do once a year and review quarterly – useful to consider job roles plus cross training and development.

As part of Strategic Planning, examine triggers for taking on new staff and create an action plan, to hire when you reach a certain: revenue percentage; number of clients, level of profit, or number of products. Avoid overstretching your team – no one should have more than seven direct reports or, where there are multiple people in the a role, no more than fifteen.

Recruiting is marketing

Recruitment is the most impactful way to change culture. A hire can quickly foster or infect a team. Using a marketing lens can help: Create an offer describing the job plus business culture; Research and testing – if your business has a ‘great culture’ how do you prove this?

Conduct research with current employees and include feedback in your ad; Advertising – consider the ad copy and best channels to reach the people you want; Selling – develop your employer brand and sell your organisation as a great place to work.

Onboarding starts with the job offer

When you find great people, make sure both their head and heart are engaged. Prevent ‘buyer’s remorse’ through a personal job offer, sincere congratulations – what actions you take, or don’t, in an employee’s first few days will stay with them throughout their career.

Benefits of struc­tured onboarding include: 70% improvement in productivity; 54% higher employee engagement; 97% increase in productivity from employees assigned a ‘buddy’.

Cement your Leadership Charter

Leadership is of importance, but consistency across managers can be difficult. Bring your leadership team together to determine qualities leaders should have. As a group, cut this down to 5-8 statements defining ‘what leadership looks like at our firm’. Have leaders create action plans to bring this to life: ‘encourage personal growth’ may be supported by ‘encourage others to gain external mentors and bring development ideas to team meetings.’

Empower employees to set their own SMART goals

There are five key principles to consider when goal setting: commitment, clarity, challenge, complexity, and feedback. Combining these with the SMART approach (Specific, Measured by, Attainable, Realistic, Timeframe) is the recipe to empower employees to set their own goals. Feedback commences right from goalsetting and should be a regular and continuous process.

Growth and Development, plus Rewards and Recognition are key

Retaining and developing employees is key to growing a business – especially for SME’s. Growth and development are top priorities when it comes to keeping great people: 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in career development.

Even in small business there are simple growth and development strategies: Structured development plans; Guidance on simple development ideas; Program of workshops.

Recognition motivates people: 80% of employ­ees who quit their jobs say lack of appreciation was a key reason for leaving. The most effective recognition is: Focussed and specific; Timely; Differentiated; Personal, Larger Purpose. Work out how each employee prefers to be appreciated, and a system offering different levels of recognition: shout outs, small gifts, larger gifts, team celebrations, formal rewards and benefits.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Communication is usually one of the lowest scoring areas when conducting engage­ment surveys. Lack of clear communication is also one of the most common complaints by employees. Not everyone listens intently or understands what it means for them the first time something is announced, and communication must always be two-way.

In SMBs, lines of communication can be clear and simple, however the more employees, the more complex – even at fifteen people there are 106 possible lines of communication.

An internal communications plan fosters open communication, cross collaboration and prevents silos. Start with communication milestones – manager one-to-ones; monthly team meetings; lunch and learn workshops; quarterly all-staff meetings; half-yearly team planning sessions; end of year celebration – and develop your strategy around these.

Listen, Measure, Build Momentum and Look to the Future

Establish regular surveys to obtain feedback – a first impression survey for new staff; a yearly engagement and satisfaction survey for all, exit interviews/survey, as well as return feedback in reviews. Make surveys mostly multiple choice and ask for honest responses.

Listen, consider, and create feedback loops communicat­ing back what you are hearing. Measure results, including people and business metrics, and review your programs.

What is the industry expertise of Karen?

Karen said: “We have assisted many Australian businesses to employ this methodology. Often, a year on, own­ers will reflect on the energy their business now has, how everyone seems to be moving in one direction and they are able to just get stuff done.”

Great People Great Business by Karen Kirton is an Amazon Bestseller and finalist in 2022 Australian Business Book Awards. As a free diagnostic tool, Karen invites businesses to complete a quick (less than 5-minute) 30-question multiple choice quiz to receive a free report card considering their areas of focus, view at

Karen Kirton has over 20 years’ HR experience, presents a podcast discussing people and business trends and tips plus a fortnightly blog, and is a regular media commentator. Karen is also Founder of Amplify HR, specialising in assisting small and medium enterprises.