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4 min read

Yesterday, over 100 HR professionals gathered for Engagement Excellence Live to learn how to be changemakers and move the needle on employee engagement in their organisations.

The Establishment Ballroom at Merivale in Sydney was absolutely buzzing with energy! It was great to see people from different sized businesses and industries meeting other HR professionals seeking to challenge the status quo, and discussing the projects they’re working on to make their corner of the world a better place to work.

Our four speakers had the audience hooked, each sharing their unique approach to improving employee engagement within their organisations:

  • Jennifer Bass, Employee Experience Manager, walked through how the financial firm Cuscal transformed its recognition strategy and used it to drive connection and innovation as the business grows and market changes affect the company’s focus and direction.
  • Fiona Murphy, Director of Culture, Capability and Wellbeing, shared how Charles Sturt University used feedback from their people to align the organisation’s mission, values and strategy and have used recognition as a driving force for uniting people, encouraging excellence and strengthening a sense of community.
  • Michael Kim, Head of HR JAPAC, Spotify, got everyone pumped with a visually and mentally inspiring people strategy that has evolved as the business has grown – and grown up – including it’s renowned generous parental leave policy and innovative benefits offering.
  • Joy Adan, Content Journalist, Reward Gateway, walked through recent research from Gartner, PwC and Reward Gateway about what motivates and engages employees, and how different organisations have used these principles to design impactful recognition and reward strategies.

Here were our key takeaways from our speakers. If you were there, I’d love to know your key takeaways too!

Disrupt or be disrupted

While Michael was candid about the "brutal" war for talent and the risk employers have in losing great people to their competitors, Jen shared how changes in the fin-tech industry have influenced Cuscal’s focus, and as a result, their people strategy. External forces can either encourage or hurt innovation. A proactive approach that engages employees under a common mission and clear values can help improve retention through times of change.


Don’t fear tech! Leverage it to create connection

All speakers have teams located in different branches or continents. You can create a consistent people experience that crosses borders by using technology that brings your employer brand to life, and also the capability to amplify important messages.

Some of the speakers shared examples of how they do it through their employee reward and recognition and communication hubs, where employees can like, comment and interact whenever a colleague posts a blog, or receives an eCard or reward.

Managers and employee ambassadors are your not-so-secret weapon

Michael’s advice is to leverage the reach and improve the visibility and communication of leaders within our organisation, and focus on building their capability and focus on having frequent, open and open discussions with their team members. If communication is a key focus for all leaders across your business, they become a beacon instead of a road-block, and the programs that support people become something owned across the business instead of just by HR.


Employee engagement is always a work in progress

Every speaker reiterated the idea that revisiting and revising current initiatives is key to their ongoing, long-term success. We can leverage the data our HR systems give us to gain business insight, using it to highlight opportunities for improvement.

For example, usage stats for a specific program can give us insight into which teams are on board and can become ambassadors, and which leaders or areas of the business need more encouragement and communication. Data from recognition programs can also spotlight talent within the business and opportunities for professional mobility.

Using recognition to reinforce mission and values can create a strong community

Fiona shared some great images from CSU’s 30th anniversary celebrations, where employees came together to celebrate everything the university has achieved, and some of its exceptional people who have been nominated for rewards. As a regional and rural university, CSU has a strong sense of place and community, which is reflected in its culture program and the way it celebrates and recognises its achievers.


Recognition can be an everyday thing – and it’s better when it is!

CSU’s reward and recognition program, Recognise Excellence Daily (RED) encourages a link between everyday achievements and the university’s ethos and values, by enabling employees to send eCards and nominate each other for awards based on these key elements. Sending a “RED card” or nominating someone for “RED excellence” has become part of the everyday language, which has helped the organisation reinforce a culture of appreciation and high engagement!

A strong employer brand creates excitement inside and outside the organisation

Michael’s opening video included Spotify employees talking about the things they love about working for the company, which was a fantastic way to generate excitement! Michael weaved in lots of Spotify-isms in his presentation - calling the company-wide values workshops they held in 2014 Spotify's “Passion Tour” and showcasing his “Top 10 Takeaways Playlist”.


It was another example of a fun and effective way to weave in the company’s mission for creativity and music into a presentation, and reinforced the strong employer brand that has made its way into every element of how the team lives and breathes its brand values. It was a great benchmark for those of us looking for ways to showcase our company’s personality in different ways.

Engage your people early

Don’t know where to start? Go with listening to and really trying to understand what your people are craving for. Joy walked through six of the key millennial motivators, and how these can shape effective and impactful engagement strategies. Michael’s approach to redeveloping Spotify’s parental leave program came from listening to what their employees wanted.


Dare to be different and speak up

It’s tricky being the person in the room to knock back a proposal or program that you know will negatively affect your people - but as HR rebels, that can be a crucial part of our job! Standing up for what your people need, want and deserve – and having data from employee surveys and feedback to back you up – can pay massive dividends not just in your own business but outside it too. Michael shared how Spotify’s parental leave benefit launched conversations with congress about the national parental leave policy in the US! There’s definitely a ripple effect to employee engagement!

You are never alone in this!

During the Q&A session, Michael spoke about the heavy burden HR leaders bear of knowing and fighting for the needs of employees within their organisation. It’s important not to carry that burden alone, and to encourage leaders within our organisations to take ownership for what they can. It’s also important to reach and share our progress, learnings and success stories with other HR leaders, because we can energise and inspire each other on our engagement journeys!


This parting message, which was one of the final points covered during our Q&A session, was a great affirmation for our event series. Having a forum to share ideas, connect with other professionals and discover new, exciting ways to take on a challenge, is what Engagement Excellence Live is all about.

Want to join us for the next event? Head to rg.co/auevents

Gemma Matthewman

A Brit living down under who is passionate about travel, food and all things Marketing. What really makes Gemma tick is experimenting with new ways to connect the community of HR Changemakers and educate people about our mission to make the world a better place to work.

Head of Australia Growth Marketing

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