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Unlimited holidays and reviewing your boss: How Aron Ain transformed Kronos

Mr Ain said starting at the bottom has helped him on the way to the top.

“Nobody is more important than anybody else,” he said. “Everyone has a role to play and everybody contributes.”

Kronos chief executive and chairman Aron Ain at the Grand Prix with customers.

Kronos chief executive and chairman Aron Ain at the Grand Prix with customers. Credit:Joe Armao

After taking over as chief executive from his brother in 2005 Mr Ain made the decision to take the business private again, after going public in 1992 which he said allowed more focus on innovation and for Kronos to invest in mobile and cloud based solutions.

However Mr Ain attributes Kronos’ success mainly to its people, who are referred to as ‘Kronites’ and has written a book on the topic, Work Inspired: How to build an organisation where everyone loves to work.

“Great companies are driven by great people, great people have choices as to where they work and you can’t deliver great products or services without great people,” he said.

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“The magic of our success is our focus on our people that is what differentiates us that is what allows us to recruit great people and retain great people.”

That focus on people includes the unlimited annual leave policy which Mr Ain said in the first year resulted in staff taking an extra 2.65 days off on average.

“I see no evidence that people abuse it,” he said. “It’s not an issue of how much time they took off, it is an issue of how they get their work done.”

Staff are asked to rate their managers twice a year and Mr Ain said the most effective managers have the lowest turnover and highest engagement.

“People join organisations because of the organisation, they leave because of who they work for,” he said.

Australia’s award system

Kronos launched in Australia 20 years ago and now employs 200 staff and turns over around $30 million a year with clients including Coles, Woolworths, Merivale, Hilton and Toll.

However Mr Ain said the journey was not entirely smooth.

“We thought ‘Where should we go in the world? People speak English in Australia so that will be easy’,” he said. “We got here and ran into the awards and said ‘Holy cow’ and we worked really hard to have our products built for this market.”

Kronos’ Australian head Charles DeWitt said Australia is “one of the toughest countries in the world” for Kronos to operate in due to the complexity of regulations and awards governing wages.

Nevertheless Mr Ain is enthusiastic about Australia and said it is the most innovative country Kronos does business in besides the United States.

“I think people here have an orientation to want to be innovative and move things forward and embracing new technology and just have a forward thinking,” he said.

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Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne

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