Tech entrepreneur and CEO Glenn Elliott made headlines in July after it was revealed he would be sharing £6.5m ($10.2m) with his staff after his firm Reward Gateway was acquired by US-based technology investors Great Hill Partners in a deal worth £140m.

The 269 people working below board level at Reward Gateway, an enterprise employment engagement software firm that helps companies reward their staff, received the windfall due to owning a 40% stake in the business.

Speaking to IBTimes UK, Elliott explained why his company decided to enact an employee share plan.

"We did that for two reasons really," he said. "We couldn't afford very high salaries because we were a small start-up at the time and we couldn't afford to pay a fortune for people because we just didn't have it.

"Secondly, in order to build a really great business I wanted to make sure that every time someone picks up the phone, or dealt with a client on an issue, or wrote a line of software, they thought this was their business. So that 5% figure felt about right.

"And some people might look at it and think that's expensive, £6.5m, but I think of it as completely free. Without that we would have owned 100% of a smaller pie rather than 95% of a much larger pie, so it doesn't feel like a cost at all," added Elliott.

Incentivising your staff

Founded in 2006, Reward Gateway has grown to become a global leader and provides over 1,000 organisations worldwide with the tools to reward staff and improve office communication.

Elliott puts his success down to making sure staff are incentivised to achieve the company's goals.

Glenn Elliott
Glenn Elliott founded Reward Gateway in 2006Reward Gateway

"Incentivising your staff is critical for business because it connects your individual employees to the things that matter to your business," he said.

"So if you've decided that improving customer service is a thing that matters to your business at the moment, by incentivising your staff against whatever your customer service metrics are, you're starting to influence their behaviour and you're telling them what's important to you.

"So if you have really good incentive plans connected to the things that you want to happen you're more likely to get them, so incentive them well makes a big difference to business."

Engaging with staff

Along with incentive plans, Elliott also believes that open and honest engagement with staff is another important way to get the best of your employees.

"I found that the best way to engage with my staff is with really open, honest and regular employee communications. So we are obsessively transparent with our communications at Reward Gateway," he said.

"We put a huge amount of time and effort into sharing just about everything we possibly can with our staff. So we have a big quarterly all-staff offsite meeting, we have an in-house fortnightly TV programme. Communication is key.

"The second big thing is a culture of saying thank you via whatever means possible when people do great work."

Elliott also believes that you could keep staff motivated and engaged even if you run a small business with limited resources.

"I think the good news for businesses with a limited amount of staff is you don't need a lot of cash to do great employee engagement and to get your staff on board. Communications cost nothing. It costs some time but it doesn't really cost cash. And saying thank you doesn't have to cost anything either," he said.

"I think a phone call to a member of staff from a CEO, or a letter home, or just a note left on the desk can go an awfully long way and those things don't really cost anything, added Elliott.