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Auckland Event: How employee engagement can increase retention

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Snapshot of HR professionals attending Xref's event in Auckland on employee engagement

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The final stop on the ANZ Xref employee engagement and retention tour was Auckland! And just like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, it was a sold-out event. The best part: it was free, there was breakfast, and most importantly, a wealth of information from some of NZ’s most accomplished HR and Talent experts!

The wealth of knowledge that’s been on display across all events was true to form in Auckland–Every event there’s been something new to learn which is what has made these events such a joy, as well as valuable to all who attend.

With many organisations trying to find ways to improve employee retention, addressing and increasing employee engagement is becoming an increasing priority.

As with all things, especially where people are involved, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. This is why it was so great to have experts from such a varied range of industries on hand to talk and walk through their experiences, sharing successes as well as failures and lessons learned.

Our expert panellists on the day:

Alix Hancock - GM People & Culture, Wise Group: Alix is a passionate and energising HR professional with over 10 years of generalist HR experience with expertise in employment relations, performance management, change processes, coaching and HR strategy. A maximiser at heart with a passion for supporting and developing others to recognise and work to their strengths.

Sarah Caunter - Director of People & Culture, Corys Electrical: Sarah has helped well-known brands achieve undeniable results by empowering companies through people operations, programme development, and organisational design. She has led large-scale organisational transformations with great success that are both people-centred and data-driven.

Rachel Stuart - Director of People & Culture, Aroa Biosurgery Limited: Rachel works with organisations leaders to provide strategic people advice and coaching. Developing people roadmaps as well as company culture in order to achieve improved performance across organisations

Dr Peter Langford - General Manager, Xref Engage: Dr Peter Langford is the founder and General Manager of Xref Engage (formerly Voice Project). Since 2003 Peter and his team have delivered workplace surveys to over 4 million employees and clients across 4,000 organisations. In previous roles, Pete was the Director of the Organisational Psychology program at Macquarie University and a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management and was earlier a change management consultant at Accenture. 

Moderator: Charlie Manyweathers - Director of Client Development, Xref

Among many thoughtful and insightful pieces of advice, the main takeaways included:

  • "Measure it, even if it’s ugly. Shine a light on it, unpack it, only then can we start to understand how to improve." Sarah Caunter, Corys Electrical.
  • It's important your people see changes in response to their feedback and this needs to be led from the top with positive support from leadership.
  • Looking after your people follows through to looking after your customers/clients.

How does poor retention impact organisations?

High staff turnover is one of the more wide-reaching areas of talent management, from losing specialised talent that is not always easy to replace or requires added costs associated with onboarding and training to the effect it can have on customers, particularly with frontline and customer-facing staff who often develop important relationships with clients.

When it comes to the bottom line, Xref’s employee engagement tool has identified that 5% higher employee engagement is worth 10% of payroll.

To give an example, for an organisation with 1000 staff and payroll costs of $100 million, having 5% higher employee engagement is associated with around $10 million in value through lower employee turnover, higher productivity, lower health and safety claims and costs, higher customer satisfaction and higher innovation.

Communication and transparency are fundamental across industries

Whether it’s a sales organisation such as Cory’s Electrical, mental health and wellbeing services such as Wise, or cutting edge biotech companies such as Aora Biosurgey, all the panellists agreed being transparent with regard to the organisations goals,  available and creating a connection with employees and fostering a positive culture from the top down, are the foundations upon which employee engagement can be built with lasting, positive impact.

It goes without saying, more recently, there has been an additional emphasis on employee wellbeing and psychosocial safety which organisations should not implement merely because it is increasingly legislated but because it’s good for your people.

What to measure and how to improve employee engagement

All agreed that it’s important to measure and ask questions that align with the organisations’ goals, culture and values via surveys and, just as vital to ensure outcomes can be achieved, employees need to see their responses actually affect change and feel they’re listened to.

It’s not just about seeking positive feedback but also being open to problem areas and actively addressing concerns in order to build better teams, productivity, collaboration and, ultimately, retention for positive economic and social outcomes.

In summary

Employee engagement requires a holistic approach to an organisation’s people, their wellbeing, culture and commitment but the benefits are clear and are seen in both employee satisfaction as well as more concrete business outcomes.

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