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Brisbane Breakfast: Increasing retention through employee engagement

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Photograph taken during the session of an employee engagement and retention event organised by Xref in Brisbane

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Brisbane was the last Australian stop for Xref’s 2023 event series “Improving retention through employee engagement”, before moving on to New Zealand and Toronto to close out the year. 

The Brisbane session focused on defining what employee engagement is, exploring how it can provide unique insights into challenges facing staff, as well as the role employees play in reaching organisational goals. 

We were lucky to be joined by an expert panel on the day who provided valuable perspectives on the topics, sharing personal experiences and real-life scenarios across a range of questions. UniQuest were also presented with an Xref Engage Change Champion Award

Our Brisbane guest speakers were:

Jenna Barnes - Head of Talent Acquisition ANZ at AECOM: Jenna has spent the last 20 years recruiting globally, initially commencing within agency recruitment before making the transition to internal recruitment. Throughout her career, she has always led with an innovative and strategic approach to talent acquisition which has resulted in building high-performing teams.

Shelby Lindsay - Talent Acquisition Manager Australia, Weir Minerals: Shelby is a passionate talent leader, people enthusiast and advocate with over 10 years of experience within the talent industry. She has guided and led teams across multiple industries and built strong stakeholder engagement. 

Lucy Wilson - Chief People Officer, Gumtree Group: Lucy has over 17 years of experience leading teams throughout professional and financial services, global tech start-ups and scale-ups, advertising, and management consulting. Lucy helps organisations navigate ever-evolving workforces, and strives to create values-based workplaces that empower people to excel.

Vanessa Jeske - Human Resources Manager, UniQuest: Vanessa has close to 20 years’ experience in people and culture roles including organisational development, learning and development (facilitating and developing leadership programs) and HR business partnering. Vanessa also works with the People and Culture Committee, a subcommittee of the UniQuest Board.

Louise Parkes - Principal Consultant, Xref Engage: Louise coordinates and directs Xref Engage's research and development activities, and regularly presents at academic, industry and public forums. With 20 years experience in employee engagement consultancy, Louise enjoys working across all industry sectors with a particular focus on not-for-profit clients from the young in the education sector to seniors in aged care. 

Moderator: Sarah Mulvenna - Group Director - Revenue, Xref

Despite the wide range of industries our panel speakers represented, we found that there were many common elements across various organisations when it came to employee engagement and retention. 

These included the importance of communication and transparency, how beneficial it is to have motivated, engaged employees, and many more. Take a deeper look at the topics covered below. 

How do you define employee engagement in your organisation? 

To start the discussion, we had to look at the question “How do you define employee engagement in your organisation?”. This is a question many organisations are currently redefining, however at a high level, there were plenty of common beliefs. 

Lucy shared, “At Gumtree, we define engagement as deep, emotional connections that bring a big impact. It’s a connection where people love being part of the organisation; they love showing up”. SImilarly, Vanessa from UniQuest also commented “If people are not motivated, it’s hard to hold them. Another indicator is if the employees would refer to the organisation as a great place to work”. 

Louise shared some of her extensive knowledge from years of consulting and helping customers understand what employee engagement is. She explained that Xref Engage defines employee engagement as a combination of elements, including how much employees enjoy their job and find meaning in it, if they align with the values of the organisation, and if they intend to stay with the company. 

Xref branded green graphic with a quote from above on employee connection with the organisation

How to improve retention through employee engagement

Next, we looked at the question “How to improve retention through employee engagement?”. There are many reasons why keeping staff on longer is beneficial, ranging from improved team morale, to retaining and building product knowledge, and minimising the financial costs of rehiring.

Shelby from Weir Minerals shared a scenario specifically around communication. With 1200 employees throughout Australia, it is crucial for information to be shared throughout the business. Employee engagement surveys are a great way to uncover information gaps and find new ways to improve processes, based on real feedback from employees. With the knowledge that some employees may feel left out, town halls and considerations around time zones can make sure everyone feels valued. 

Jenna from AECOM also shared how employee engagement can help improve retention, as it allows you to understand what motivates individuals. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Ensure conversations with staff around talent succession happen; it also tells employees they are valued”. 

What is the impact of increased employee engagement on organisational goals?

“Customers notice the difference when employees are truly engaged”. Lucy talked us through how increased employee engagement can impact organisational goals, saying that “if you’re going above and beyond for a customer, it really shows”, and explaining the benefit of employees who are willing to engage in meaningful conversations. 

Vanessa agreed, stating that engaged staff will put in more discretionary effort beyond the minimum expectation, and Louise commented that “the more engaged individuals are, the more positive impact they have on the team culture”. 

As well as impacting organisational goals, our panel also considered what role candidate advocacy can play in hiring and retaining talent. Jenna shared “it plays a huge role; it's not just the recruiter's job; it’s every employee's job”, and summarised the connection between employee engagement and hiring and retaining talent with the comment “engaged staff become brand ambassadors”.

UniQuest wins an Xref Engage Change Champion Award

Xref was proud to present UniQuest with an Xref Engage Change Champion Award, recognising the impact that employee engagement can have in making real, positive change within an organisation. With an average improvement of 15% across all questions in their 2023 Staff Survey, UniQuest are bettering the workplace for staff and supporting key organisational outcomes. 

When presenting the award, Louise shared "team members have witnessed significant effort by UniQuest leadership over the last twelve months and can see how changes are steering UniQuest in a very positive direction. These practice improvements have led to more positive outcomes for staff (higher engagement and wellbeing) as well as greater confidence in UniQuest’s performance as an organisation”. 

Xref branded green graphic with a photograph of Louise from Xref Engage presenting UniQuest with an Xref Engage Change Champion Award

In Summary

Our Brisbane speakers left us with a wealth of information and valuable takeaways, reinforcing that employee engagement is about really listening to your people, and then implementing change, from the top down. The more engaged your employees are, the more they will also become brand ambassadors, making a positive impact not only internally, but externally as well. Employee engagement is a key tool in reaching organisational goals and success.

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