Providing 'duvet days' to increase staff retention

Treating staff like his own family has worked wonders for Kevin Taylor, CEO of online marketing services company Gravytrain.

Gravytrain started as a small team of people working closely together on all things digital. As the business grew, naturally, so did our workforce and soon we had an office full of people working across various different parts of the online marketing sphere.

As the emergence of the digital landscape accelerated in the early 2000s, we found the amount of talented, well-qualified individuals was disproportionate to the number of agencies.

Even today, the industry has one of the lowest employee loyalty rates, with 90 per cent of staff happy to leave a company as soon as a better deal is thrown their way. Financially, we couldn’t afford to match the pay scales of the competing global conglomerates so, if we wanted to keep that top talent, we needed to create an offering that set us apart in another way.

We quickly realised the value of investing in our employees and adapted our business model to incorporate tangible employee engagement strategies alongside new business ones.

Among the new initiatives we started were a Friday breakfast club, which involved free bacon and sausage sandwiches and a chance to catch up on the week’s events, and a monthly ‘Gravytrain social’ which saw a tab behind the bar and a chance to mix with colleagues at the local pub.

We also introduced several ‘duvet days’ a year giving our staff the freedom to take time off at very short notice, very handy for any unplanned mid-week nights on the town.

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We’ve also began integrating our approach to existing CSR strategies and encouraged our employees to take a day off a year to pursue a charitable endeavour of their choice. For Comic Relief a couple of years ago we even hired a 24 hour Le Mans circuit simulator and camped out in the office overnight in an effort to raise money.

The implementation of an annual staff survey allows us to continually monitor satisfaction rates and we’ve since used the system to garner collective feedback on various aspects of the company, including new office locations and Christmas party venues.

Treating colleagues the way we would treat family has paid huge dividends for the business; retention rates are consistently high and conversely absenteeism remains low. Five current employees returned shortly after leaving, an impressive percentage when you consider we only have around 25 employees in total.

As the scale of digital offerings becomes more diverse we will inevitably need to grow our numbers to stay in the game. Moving forwards, we hope to continue exceeding the expectations of our staff by offering them more than just a sizeable wage at the end of each month.

We have fostered a culture that can rally round in a crisis and equally celebrates together in new client wins. It is, without doubt, our smartest and most consistently rewarding decision to date.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.