#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 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?

#NZLEAD PREVIEW: Adding value to the HR profession

Richard Westney wrote a blog last week entitled Mind the Gap. It’s well worth a read and forms the inspiration for this week’s topic. Richard also received a response from Catherine Taylor, the HRINZ National President.

HRINZ does some awesome stuff, and this is all listed in Catherine’s response, including the avenues by which HRINZ is communicating this stuff. It’s ironic though, communication is one of the banes of an HR professional’s day-to-day work. How do you articulate policy, process, initiatives etc in a way that the general population can comprehend? Communication doesn’t necessarily mean understanding.

I wonder how many people share the same views as Richard but are reluctant to put it out there on social media? It was scary for me, and I’m generally comfortable with this forum. I have several colleagues now who have told me that they struggle to see the value in their HRINZ membership, and even one who prefers to retain her CIPD membership instead because it provides more value for a senior HR professional. How is this feedback getting back to HRINZ?  Tash had given a response to Catherine Taylor and, although she is nervous to provide feedback on such a public forum, she went ahead and voiced her opinion anyway. Feedback should be provided and it should be heard. How comfortable are you in providing this feedback?

This week’s topic is very New Zealand focused. But if you’re tweeting in from the UK, please don’t feel that you should miss out. We would love to hear your perspectives. Not only that, what have you heard about NZ’s professional body? Because, if it’s really awesome, hopefully it has transcended oceans.

Q1) What do you find most valuable for the development of the HR profession (in NZ or the UK)?

Q2) What do you find most valuable for your HR professional development?

Q3) What does NZ’s professional body do really well?

Q4) What would you like to see more of from NZ’s professional body?

We intend this week to have a positive appreciative approach, but we’re not adverse to a bit of anarchic discourse. If you think you’re brave enough?