#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: Engagement and Performance

AlisonnzleadWeek three of July’s spotlight on engagement saw our focus move to the link between engagement and performance.

After three weeks of discussion there is still a lack of consensus as to what it actually means to be ‘engaged’.   It clearly means different things to different people and subsequently, is perceived to be more or less valuable by different people.

Does it matter if we can’t agree on the definition of engagement? Provided that organisations that measure the concept have a solid understanding and definition of what engagement means to them, what they hope to get out of it and most importantly that they do get outcomes from going through the process, perhaps not?

Experience tells us that pursing anything without having a clear idea of what we are trying to achieve and what it will look like when we get there is likely to result in lessor outcomes than if clarity and purpose was defined at the beginning. Which leads to the link to performance.  Once we have defined what engagement means for an organisation, surely one must then define the outcomes that can expect to flow from achieving it?

There is oodles of data and insight out there that prove the link between engagement and performance, an example of which was kindly provided by Scott Duncan  here  but as Richard Westney pointed out, “do any orgs ever measure engagement alongside productivity? Doubt it”.

So do these lack of performance metrics within organisations make the measure of engagement redundant? Absolutely not, but certainly there is the opportunity for organisations to get clearer on what internal performance metrics they link with engagement to better target interventions and demonstrate true ROI.

Organisational performance metrics are one thing but performance at the individual level opened up another debate.  In response to Andrew Burner’s comment that “people with the capability to perform do when engaged, and don’t fulfill their potential @ work when not”, Neil Usher asserts that “its quite possible to perform to your max for yourself, you don’t have to be “engaged”.

Is engagement a prerequisite condition for good performance, or is it more about your individual motivation and work ethic?  While the latter can certainly be true, as Amanda Sterling points out “it would take a boat load of intrinsic motivation”.  And, while high performers may perform at their best regardless of climate or culture, how likely is it that they will be able to maximize outcomes that involve collaboration with others in a low engagement environment?

Finally, as a follow up to this energetic discussion Perry Timms contributed his Motown blog, his take on a highly successful organisation where people, he asserts, were rarely engaged with the organisation itself.

To my eyes Perry actually makes a strong case for engagement  – enabling employees to be part of something bigger than themselves, in an environment where they can be brilliant is what creating highly engaged organisations is all about. The organisation then reaps the rewards of having invested in creating a place where people are energized, committed and contributing more.

Agree or disagree, it’s a great read and rounds off what was a great discussion on engagement and performance.

#NZLEAD PREVIEW: Engagement and Performance


We are now into week three of ‘engagement month’ and  slowly peeling back the layers of the engagement onion; and it hasn’t been without tears. As week one proved, people have strong views on the value of engagement – both positive and negative. The less favourable views seemed to reflect a frustration with a lack of meaningful action. The consensus was that it is what you do with survey data that really matters.

Week two  explored the theme of action; focussing on the imperative for organisations to communicate effectively and for senior leaders to lead authentically. Without these critical pieces in play the role of HR, in enabling a highly engaged workforce, is made more difficult if not impossible. Prematurely, we found the conversation move to the link between engagement and performance – this week’s topic. The consensus of the group was fairly clear, that engagement is a prerequisite for sustainable high performance. So to re-mitigate this point seems less important than really getting under its skin.

Now for my disclosure – I work for Aon Hewitt. I have the pleasure of working with organisations to, not only measure engagement, but improve it.  I work with organisations with high engagement, low engagement and everywhere in between. I can tell you a story of my own (anonymously of course!) about the link between engagement and performance. This involves correlation data for a large retail client at the store level. The data showed customer satisfaction was 6% higher for high engagement stores versus low engagement stores, and sales growth was $205,000 higher.

Also, organisations with high engagement just feel better. You can tell just by walking in the door that people are excited, aligned and willing to go the extra mile. Not because of their personal work ethic of bias, but because they genuinely want the best for the organisation they work for.  And this is simply good for business. It is harder to put metrics around this but, for those of you who work for or with a highly engaging organisation, you are likely to empathise.

So this week’s questions:

Q1) What do we actually mean when we talk about ‘performance’ and its link to engagement? Are we talking individual, team or business performance?

Q2) What metrics do we use to measure the link to engagement? How does this validate (or not) the links between engagement and performance?

Q3) What evidence do we have (research or actual experience) of the link between the engagement and performance?

Q4) What do highly engaged, but under performing teams look like? Do they exist? Why?