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Melbourne Xref Event: Engaging Your People to Increase Retention

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Photograph of Xref team with speakers at an event in Melbourne organised by Xref

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On Tuesday, 17th October 2023, we delved into a morning filled with insights and strategies on employee engagement and retention in our second Xref Melbourne Event of the year, at Rydges Melbourne.


  • We uncovered strategies to improve retention through employee engagement. 
  • We explored how to harness employee feedback to drive meaningful change. 
  • We discussed the impact of enhanced employee engagement on organisational outcomes.


Anne Harvey, Strategic HR Consultant: Anne, a distinguished HR Professional and Executive Advisor, has dedicated her career to enhancing business performance through people enablement. Her expertise spans both Talent Acquisition and Human Resources, having held significant leadership and C-suite positions.

Michael Cookson, Talent Delivery Manager at DXC: Michael, a seasoned Talent Leader, brought to the table a track record spanning over a decade. He shared his experiences across various industries, shedding light on the intricacies of engagement and retention for internal talent teams.

Lauren Shoecraft, People & Culture Manager at Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia: As an organisational development and learning specialist, Lauren spoke about her strategies designed to boost organisational capability and nurture a sense of belonging.

Fiona Santolin, General Manager: People and Culture at TABCorp: Fiona touched upon topics from Employee Experience to Talent Acquisition and HR Systems, she emphasised the importance of crafting unique experiences for every individual, tailored to their specific roles.

Guiding us through the discussion was Sophie Pereira, Senior Account Executive with Xref, who served as the moderator.

Thank you to all who joined us for this enriching morning of insights and networking!

In today's business landscape, employee engagement has risen to the forefront of organisational strategy and culture. 

Employee engagement goes beyond job satisfaction, it dives deeper into the holistic experience and empowerment employees feel within their roles. 

Engaged employees don't just perform tasks; they're invested in the company’s vision, direction, and outcomes.

Photograph taken at an event in Melbourne organised by Xref on Engaging Your People to Increase Retention

Why is retention crucial? 

The relationship between retention and fostering a strong organisational culture is key for creating a climate that promotes high levels of engagement. 

High turnover rates disrupt the harmony of the work environment, often leading to a fragmented company culture. 

A consistent turnover reflects poorly on the brand, affecting the customer experience and, subsequently, the bottom line.

Engaged employees contribute to satisfied customers, creating a positive cycle that benefits the organisation.

The members of the panel explored the nuances of employee engagement and retention, and this blog will take you through the key points shared by our guest speakers at the Xref Melbourne event. 

Redefining training and onboarding

Robust onboarding processes are essential for retention. A fresh perspective on training brought to light by Michael Cookson, from DXC, is the concept of a tailored academy for juniors with transferable skills.

Instead of the traditional onboarding processes, this academy aims to seamlessly prepare these individuals for the company integration within 2 to 3 months.

Fresh approaches like this one highlight the importance of the onboarding phase, crucial to set the tone for an employee's entire journey.

At Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria, the onboarding and induction processes have been improved with an investment in e-learning, which contributes to new employees feeling welcome.

The power of engagement surveys

The panel agreed that surveys offer a tangible way to capture employee sentiments, concerns, and aspirations. Engagement surveys measure and boost employee engagement if utilised correctly.

By being transparent with survey results and comments, and allowing all staff members access to them, companies can foster an environment where feedback is valued and acted upon.

Employee engagement surveys, such as those provided by Xref, are also instrumental in making data-driven decisions, ensuring that the pulse of the organisation is always aligned with it’s strategic goals.

Fiona Santolin from TABCorp explained that to create better survey questions it’s important to understand what you want to find out from your people.

Creating a nurturing environment 

The modern workforce, especially with the shift to remote and hybrid settings, requires a supportive and safe environment. 

Addressing personal conflicts, ensuring psychological safety, and providing platforms for open communication are no longer optional but essential. In this context, leadership plays a pivotal role. 

Leaders must be actively engaged, receptive to feedback, and proactive in addressing concerns to ensure a thriving and collaborative work atmosphere.

Nurturing environments can be created in remote and hybrid spaces, Lauren from Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria, shared that flexibility has been crucial in the transition to return to the office. 

Lauren from Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria shared that creating nurturing environments is possible is remote and hybrid spaces, and that flexibility has become a crucial element to the ‘back to the office’ transition.

A symbiosis of branding and candidate experience

There is an important connection between employee engagement and branding.

 A company's brand isn't just a logo or tagline; it's the collective experience it offers to its customers and employees. 

A robust, positive brand doesn't appeal only to customers; it also attracts potential talent. 

A candidate's positive experience during the entire talent acquisition journey isn't essential for hiring alone; it also has an impact on the company's reputation. 

Anne Harvey emphasised the impact of candidate advocacy; a seamless, respectful, and transparent recruitment process can bolster a company's image, affecting its market standing and profitability.

Regular touchpoints: The heartbeat of engagement

Consistent engagement is key for employee retention. Our guest speakers emphasised the significance of regular and transparent communication with employees. 

It’s not about flooding inboxes with newsletters, but meaningful touchpoints that keep employees informed, involved, and invested. Fiona from TABCorp delved into the power of Town Halls with the CEO where values and strategies of the organisation are shared.

 "Stay conversations" offer insights that can reshape company strategies. These are proactive dialogues that look into an employee's experience, aspirations, and potential roadblocks.

Leaders as role models

Leaders aren't just decision-makers; they set the cultural tone. Their approach to feedback, their transparency in communication, and their commitment to the company’s vision directly influence the engagement levels of their teams.

An approachable leader who champions open dialogue and continuous improvement can be the catalyst for heightened employee engagement.

Concluding thoughts

Employee engagement is not a standalone initiative; it's an intricate ecosystem of experiences, feedback, actions, and continuous evolution. It's not just about making employees happy; it's about enabling them, empowering them, and aligning them with the company’s overarching objectives.

By championing retention, innovative training methods, nurturing environments, and visionary leadership, businesses can craft a culture where employees become invested in the success of the organisation.  

In a world dominated by change, there's one constant – the human need to feel valued, involved, and engaged. By tapping into employee engagement, organisations can unlock a new strategy for retention. When your people are engaged, involved, and invested, organisational results improve.

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