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Xref live in Toronto: Strategies to increase retention through employee engagement

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Photograph of speakers at event organised by Xref on employee engagement and retention

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Xref’s Breakfast in Toronto showed that, while different industries have different needs, when it comes to retention, improving employee engagement is vital, and often the approaches are consistent despite the differences.

We couldn’t think of a better way to end the year than by inviting our customers and friends to a free breakfast event at our Toronto office to help finish the year on a high note.

One thing we’ve learned this year through talking to Xref’s customers, not just in Canada and North America but across the globe, is that reducing staff turnover has been an increasingly important focus for HR specialists. As a result, those in the know are looking to increase employee engagement as a strategy to reduce churn as well as make the most of the top talent they do hire.

These are some of the reasons Xref introduced our Engage suite of surveys combined with expert consultants.

The Xref breakfast was the perfect opportunity to close the year out, listening to some of the best minds in the HR industry illustrate why employee engagement is important and no doubt setting up many with confidence moving into the new year.

Guest speakers on the morning:

Amy Davies, CEO, First30

Amy enjoys learning about what motivates professionals and employees to succeed. For two decades, her professional focus was surveying people to inform employee and market strategies for organizations. Amy developed First30’s onboarding and outplacement programs so that businesses could retain their workforce and save recruitment costs, and out of a genuine interest in seeing people succeed.

Elaine Daniels, Founder, Oakdale Consulting

Elaine Daniels is an independent human resources and recruitment consultant with 25+ years of experience in the engineering consulting industry. For the last 15 years, Elaine has focused on human resources management and recruitment.  Elaine has shifted careers three times through various economic conditions, allowing her to build a personal cache of resourcing experience from diverse industry perspectives.

Rajat Chopra, Manager, Talent Acquisition and Attraction, George Brown College

Rajat has over ten years of work experience in Human Resources, Talent Acquisition, and Recruitment. Rajat aims to develop his team and the people he serves by collaborating, coaching, and mentoring employees, managers, and leaders. 

Moderator: James Lord - Director of Client Development, Xref

With the guest speakers coming from varying industries within the human resources and talent management landscape, there were plenty of insights on offer right from the start, where the question of what employee engagement is being the first consideration.

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

  • Employee engagement is not one-size-fits-all, and to ensure each employee feels valued, it has to start with management.
  • Employee wellness isn’t just about having programs like “Wellness Wednesdays” when your talent is still stressed out the other four days of the week. Benefits have to ensure wellness across the broad spectrum of work.
  • There has to be follow-through. You can ask teams what they want, but they won't feel engaged if they don’t see any action. 

Why is retention necessary?

There are many reasons keeping staff on longer is essential, and though the reasons may not start with cost, they ultimately can impact the bottom line.

In the first instance, employee morale is easily affected by a constant staff turnover, and when this is the case, many organizations are endlessly playing catchup with a merry-go-round of onboarding and knowledgable team members exiting.

Continuing growth and specialty within the business as the longer employees stay, the more team members understand the specifics of an organization and can more easily drive toward the overall business objectives.

Hiring a new employee can cost as much as 50% of the salary they are replacing, not to mention the cost of losing knowledge and the years over which that was built.

What are some ways an organization can improve engagement and retention?

One issue often mentioned is job-hopping, which is perceived to occur particularly among younger generations. However, one suggestion is that this isn’t necessarily the result of restless generations; it may be important to look at where the organization may impact this. Often, employees who move on quickly have skills which are not being fully utilized, or the role ends up being not as described. 

It’s easy to make generalizations about generations, but it’s crucial organizations and leadership look within themselves for opportunities to improve.

Take action on feedback. Conduct stay interviews and learn from exit surveys.

Another suggestion is to keep teams small and limit the number of direct reports.

In summary…

There are several approaches organizations can take to improve retention related to addressing issues around employee engagement. Employee engagement is not one-size-fits-all; it must be sincere and spread from the organization's top.

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