#NZLEAD PREVIEW: Attracting and retaining talent through engagement


People work not just for money, but also for a greater sense of meaning in their lives.  Engaged environments are more energetic, more rewarding and much more enjoyable to be part of.  We seek to build engagement because we have a belief that it has a positive impact on business performance.

We decided to team up on this blog, as we thought we may be able to present two slightly different perspectives on how engagement impacts the broader talent agenda. We’re interested to hear your thoughts on how engagement impacts the attraction and retention of talent, and how this is managed and communicated to an external audience.

The External Perspective

In the time I’ve worked in recruitment, I have had the pleasure of supporting a whole range of clients across a broad spectrum of industries and functions.  Not being “part” of my client organisations, I am somewhat reliant on what they tell me about their levels of engagement, that and, of course, what I hear from other sources.  I’m confident, however, that engagement is a component either consciously or unconsciously considered when individuals consider a new employment destination.    You may be able to relate, but I tend to find an almost palpable difference between engaged and unengaged workforces just by “walking the floor”.  The middle ground is certainly harder to ascertain, but the extremes are obvious.  Here are some thoughts (happy for debate) regarding engagement and the attraction of talent:

  • Engaged organisations have better employment brands.  As such, there will be greater levels of demand / interest from potential hires.
  • An increase in candidate supply should provide greater choice; you would think improve the ultimate outcome.
  • Engagement and the perception of the employment brand will determine the sourcing strategies; contribute to the shape of the recruitment infrastructure; and, determine the reliance on external providers.
  • Trade-offs may be required when recruiting for unengaged (unattractive) organisations, i.e. compensating through higher remuneration.
  • The candidate experience is typically more enjoyable (authentically so) when interviewing with a highly engaged organisation.
  • Ultimately all these will have impacts on cost and quality of hire.

Scott Duncan 

The Internal Perspective

I am sure you’ll agree that employee engagement is key to attracting and retaining the best talent. At Chorus we are firmly committed to making the employment experience sticky so we can retain our best people. Our overall HR plan is to ensure our people’s experience of Chorus is exceptional; a fundamental part of this plan is to focus on employee engagement. Having a highly engaged workplace makes it easy to attract and retain the right people and makes it a difficult choice for our people to leave.

Aside from (selfishly!) wanting to work in a great environment ourselves, the HR team are focused on this goal because we know that people don’t just tend to stick to great workplaces, they tell others about it which enhances our reputation even further. Our ultimate aim is to have all out people say: “Chorus is the best place I have ever worked”.

I am confident this strategy is working because over the past two years I have lost count of how many times I’ve been told that one of the main reasons people want to work at Chorus is because they’ve heard about out workplace reputation. When I say I have lost count, I don’t exaggerate – we have doubled our workforce in this time!   We have made significant numbers of these hires by referral as we have found that engaged employees take greater accountability for the organisational success.

Another key part of our strategy is to ensure our people know that engagement is not just something HR does, but something every employee owns. HR plays a critical part in coaching leaders on how to grow and sustain engagement in their teams, and I have noticed that people soon become advocates of the great environment in which we work.

Having ‘Aon Hewitt Best Employer’ status certainly supports our employment branding. And although it is a great achievement, we believe the real test is it what people hear and experience when they talk to our employees, ex-employees, customers and suppliers.  I love it when people say they’ve heard that Chorus is a great place to work – I feel very proud of this because I know it is rare to truly love being at work, supporting our goal of making Chorus a hard place to leave.

Andrew Burner

This week’s questions:

Q1)      Accepting that not all organisations are highly engaged, how have you mitigated candidate perceptions of low levels of engagement through the recruitment and on-boarding process?

Q2)      Why do organisations enter “Best Employer” surveys / competitions?

Q3)      How do you use engagement as an employment branding tool?

Q4)      How do you get every employee to own engagement, take responsibility for sustaining it?

Q5)      What are the levers /tools that you have used to boost engagement in your workplace?


#NZLEAD RECAP: Introduction to engagement

It is entirely coincidental that the same week #nzlead starts talking about engagement is the first week we ask two members of the community to step up and facilitate. Thank you to Zoe Mounsey and Rebecca Smith for going the extra mile for our weekly tweet chat. Shall we now measure how engaged you are in #nzlead and correlate that with your performance? (just kidding).

Generally speaking, engagement is about wanting to go the extra mile for nothing in return. Engagement is contributed to by respect, feeling that you are involved and listened to and that someone, generally the powers that be, are genuinely interested in what you do and say. But, and that’s a big BUT, Engagement means different things to individuals and companies. It is therefore difficult, and entirely subjective, to pin down what engagement really means. Therefore, as Simon Jones asks, does the fact that we struggle to define it mean that it doesn’t mean anything?

If you can’t define it, how do you measure it for comparison and correlation? Then, how do you consistently correlate engagement with performance? Employees can be engaged, but not necessarily performing. Performance is more likely to be a consequence of a great culture but geesh, that’s another can of worms, how do you measure culture? And should you?

Instinctively we know that when people are engaged they are more likely to contribute discretionary effort, but this instinct just validates that it’s all about a feeling. Great cultures FEEL good, and you FEEL like going the extra mile. How one person feels and what causes this might be quite different from someone else. What came up consistently throughout the tweet chat was the notion of tailoring engagement to the individual because every individual is going to FEEL differently about it.

To further complicate things, measuring engagement is often a lengthy and once yearly process. How can you get value from that? And if we’re talking about individual perceptions, wouldn’t we get more value from having regular conversations with employees instead? As Neil Morrison pointed out, you shouldn’t need a survey to know what your people think. However, if you do use an engagement survey, it’s what you do with that information that really makes the difference. As Daniel Harrison suggests, use them as a starting point for a conversation.

Honest conversations and authenticity appear to be the cornerstones here. Much more so than throwing around HR terms like ‘engagement’ and one size fits all quantitative surveys that don’t necessarily capture individual motivations.

I liked the way this article by Matt Monge spoke to the authenticity concept; “the challenge is to engage your employees in authentic ways that spark in them the desire to create, innovate and push your organization and our industry forward”.  You can also find one of the most comprehensive summaries of engagement by Michael Carty here.

Over the next few weeks we are going to explore the engagement topic further. We will delve into how culture and values shape engagement, hear from a consultancy who works on engagement (in the interests of a rounded argument), and talk about what this ubiquitous term ‘engagement’ means from a talent attraction and retention perspective. So whether you agree with the term or not, please join us to continue the discussion.


#NZLEAD RECAP: The Sourcing Summit


I find the #NZlead session on #sourcing was boisterous, useful and fun, perhaps a bit like sourcing itself. Based on the views shared it is clear that the way sourcing is defined and performed, and what’s effective, varies widely. But there is a common theme that sourcing is becoming increasingly important. Rather than summarise by own point of views, I will highlight some tasty morsels from the discussions.

Q1) Do NZ organisations take sourcing/sourcers seriously? If not, why not?
The fact that sourcing is rarely strategic, but mostly reactive is a pointer that sourcing by itself is not the main priority for many NZ organisations. It appears sourcing is taken seriously only when a requirement arises; it’s reactive and rarely strategic. From what I can gather this is typical of sourcing in other countries. At the moment those who do strategic sourcing are enjoying the fruits and wanting more of it.

Q2) In your organisation what is the biggest hurdle to effective sourcing?
A large of part of sourcing today is having a go at new tools and channels. A culture shift is required as is training for all stakeholders. For some organisations it is the fear of the unknown. Budget restrictions can also be a huge hurdle

Q3) What is your best source of talent or most effective sourcing tool?

Effectiveness varies according to size of organisation and industry. Linkedin is popular, so is the traditional telephone and referrals are clearly one of the most effective sources of talent.

Q4) What sourcing tool are you tinkering with? What works? What doesn’t? Why?
A wide range of tools were discussed. New tools are ever emerging. Identifying and following early-adopters is fruitful.

Q.5 Candidate engagement
In the end, candidate engagement is paramount. Everything else pales in comparison and this is reflected in the discussions.

In conclusion, I have a strong sense that the dominant opinion is that NZ organisations are starting to wake up to the importance of sourcing. One great trait of sourcing, abetted by advances in technology, is that it can be a fascinating exercise and rarely boring, and this bodes well for its future.