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Don’t make it hard to leave, make it easy to stay

Steve Gilles
Feb 14
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The success of any company rides on the strength of its people, and while building the A-team is every founder’s dream, keeping it is just as important. So, what is the secret sauce to making a company where people want to stay?

In our role, we’re a fly on the wall for some of Australia’s biggest tech success stories. By learning from those who have done it right, we’ve put together a few actionable tips and ideas for attracting and retaining top talent.

Progression opportunities: not just climbing, but exploring

Career growth isn't just about promotions. It's about development and new experiences. Offer various ways for employees to grow, not just up the ladder but in different directions too. As Canva’s Melissa Henley says: “Growth is not a linear path but a rich tapestry of experiences.”

This can include sideways moves, role expansions, or temporary assignments in different teams to keep the journey interesting. Side quests can feel like a new job, and can be enough to dust off cobwebs and keep smart people challenged.

This also applies to managers getting the opportunity to go back into an IC role or explore more hands-on leadership roles. It’s not for everybody, but the engineer/manager pendulum is becoming a more well-trodden path in the ever-changing tech landscape.

Career moves laterally

Understanding career levels in tech

Career progression in tech isn't a one-size-fits-all. From fresh-faced grads to seasoned pros leading the projects, each level brings unique challenges and opportunities.

Create well-defined career paths for different roles and levels within your organisation. This clarity helps employees understand what they need to work on to advance their careers, keeping them motivated and supported.

Check out for various career levels at many notable tech companies.

Employee share options: a sense of ownership

Where talent competition is fierce, offering stock options or equity plans can be a smart move. It doesn’t always move the needle when it comes to attracting talent (share options are hard to quantify, so they’re often discounted or seen as a lottery ticket), but it can be an amazing retention tool.

Employees can feel like they’re truly part of the journey, and it’s usually after a few years that you want them to feel that way. When they have ownership and understand the company deeply, it’s easier to go the extra mile.

Check out our post on understanding employment share options.

Training: investing in their future (and yours)

Investing in your team's education is beneficial for both them and your company. You can sponsor and facilitate courses and certifications, organise and hold tech talks, or budget for and support attendance at conferences and events.

Mentorship programs and opportunities also play an important role in professional development and can be a significant perk in attracting and retaining talent. It also helps facilitate internal mobility and those side quests mentioned above.

Taking inspiration from Google’s “20 Percent Time” philosophy (we checked, they’re still doing it), allowing your team to have some dedicated time to work on projects that interest them or tasks that aren’t in their job description can give them extra room to stretch and think outside the square.

Training and mentorship

Flexibility: the modern imperative

Flexibility in work arrangements is no longer a perk; it's table stakes. Embracing hybrid models, understanding personal commitments, and offering flexible hours, are crucial in today’s work environment.

This might look like:

  • Provide options for part-time work and job sharing
  • Flexible working hours
  • A 4-day workweek model, something that has worked well at Lookahead
  • Working from home
  • Ability to purchase additional leave
  • Phased retirements
  • Leave for significant personal milestones; birthday leave is incredible and something our team members enjoy every year.
  • Paid volunteer leave each year
remote working


Whether it's for rest, travel, health or to pursue personal interests, there’s value in allowing extended time away from work. Paid sabbaticals (separate from long service leave) can form part of their employee benefits, which in turn can lead to increased job satisfaction and employee retention.

  • paid 4-6 weeks off every 4-5 years of employment
  • unpaid leave for up to 6 months while maintaining the same employment status and benefits
  • paid days off each year to enjoy a favourite outdoor activity or to volunteer
  • 12 months of unpaid leave after a certain period of employment for a career break for personal or professional development, travel or spend time with family

Attractive parental leave

While many Australian companies offer up to 12 months of parental leave, including a generous paid portion, it's about more than just the length. Other ways to support your employees during this phase:

  • Allow flexibility for parents to return to work gradually
  • Provide a 'parental leave toolkit' to support employees in transitioning to and from parental leave. Triiyo could be useful here.
  • Flexible working arrangements upon returning to work
  • Offer 'Keeping in Touch' days to help employees stay connected during their leave

Check out Work180 for job listings that include parental leave policies.

Parental leave

Culture and perks: creating a positive workplace

Free food and yoga classes are nice, but they're the sprinkles on the cake, not the cake itself. A culture of respect, diversity and inclusion, and balance is what makes a workplace shine.

Look at how Apple emphasises diversity and inclusion or how Canva champions creativity and fun in its workspace. It's about creating an environment where everyone feels they can bring their whole selves to work.

Simple things your company can do to make your workplace feel more diverse and inclusive:

  • Acknowledge and honour multiple religious and cultural practices. You can start by focusing on holidays and celebrations or making sure the employee feels secure about maintaining their daily prayer routine on company grounds. Pyn’s Open Library is extremely helpful here.
  • Foster a culture where every voice is welcome, heard, and respected regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical conditions, cultural background or country of origin.
  • Open a dialogue about gender pay inequality and be transparent about the policies and the strategy the company is or will be using to address the gap.
  • Welcome a multilingual workforce and reassure employees they should feel comfortable speaking their native language in the common areas.
  • Evaluate your executive team for diversity and inclusion. The makeup of top management (as well as your customers, partners, and other stakeholders) speaks volumes about your culture.
  • Build a multigenerational workforce.
  • Eliminate bias in the evaluation process and promotion opportunities.
  • Personalise one-on-one discussions. Have an “open door” policy making sure people feel comfortable to speak their minds honestly and openly.
  • Words matter so ensure the language used in company documentation is inclusive.

Perks companies use for attracting and retaining the best talent:

  • Health and wellness programs, including mental health support, fitness classes, and free health checks.
  • On-site amenities such as cafes, gyms, showers, bike storage, relaxation areas...and yes, ping-pong tables. These facilities are designed to make the workplace more enjoyable and convenient.
  • Employee discounts and benefits, whether on the company's products and services or external providers.
  • Health insurance and financial advice: some international companies offer private health insurance and financial planning services, which can be a significant drawcard for employees.
workplace perks

Stay interviews: gather valuable feedback

Unlike exit interviews, stay interviews are 1-on-1 conversations designed to gather information on how to improve the current employee's experience. These are usually conducted by an individual’s direct manager or skip-level manager rather than an HR person and can be used to discuss why they like working at the company and what they would change about the business, team, or role if they could.

CultureAmp has a great article on how to use stay interviews for retaining top performers.

Recognition: a little ‘thank you’ goes a long way

Recognition isn’t just about feeling good. It’s about creating a narrative of success and achievement within the team.

Know whether public or private recognition is preferred - personal user manuals can help with this. Public recognition could be awards, shout-outs in meetings, or even a simple thank-you note. Private could be a shout-out in a 1:1 or their favourite treat.

Wrapping up

Keeping your top talent is about offering them growth, a sense of ownership, opportunities for learning, a positive and inclusive work culture, recognition, and flexibility.

By focusing on these areas, inspired by companies known for their great work environments, you can create a place where your team doesn't just stay because they have to, but because they want to.

Looking for a new opportunity? Building your dream tech team? We’re here to help.

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The Lookahead office is located on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded and pay our respects to elders past, present, and future.
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