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When the Sunday Times announced the 100 Best Small Companies 2015, I was intrigued to see which architecture firms were listed and what made them stand out. Congratulations to Assael (36), Ryder (42) and Robin Partington & Partners (new in at 93), who all had some common factors that made them top notch employers.

Top of the list for Ryder was training, capitalising on the self development and the personal achievement value of its staff. But equally important was the 'giving back' factor, with three paid days to volunteer per year. There is nothing better that fosters team spirit than a common goal, some light competition and a charitable cause.

Assael joined Ryder here, giving £16,250 to charity last year, and also gave staff paid time for charity and community work. However, rather than training, Assael's incentives leaned towards balancing work and home life - leave converted to holiday time, weekend breaks and paid for sabbaticals (I can feel my shoulders relax just writing about it!).

Robin Partington & Partners (RPP), shy on the community side, preferred to give back internally, investing in their staff by giving Partner status and dividends after one year. And the expectation to deliver is invested by way of twice-yearly performance appraisals, trips, flexible hours and "annual training, including financial support for both professional and non-work-related qualifications, external coaching and internal skill-sharing."

Overall, the three have a strong focus on developing and incentivising the staff. Perhaps it is only my background that has me thinking "and not one word about technology" (or BIM, despite Ryder's BIM academy). RPP are possibly in the minority, an architectural company that has experienced coaching (I'm suspecting that Ryder's use of the word coaching is more akin to training). But that might be expected; with RPP placing the dividends in the hands of the staff, personal growth is the top priority - and it definitely paid off this year.

Want to know how coaching can incentivise your staff personally and professionally? Contact me today to find out how.