Why staff engagement has never been more important

Why staff engagement has never been more important

Lessons from Bec Gravestock, Director of People and Performance at Xero, Australia and Asia

BY Business Chicks, 7 min READ

Thanks to our friends at Xero

This year has challenged us all to think about how we connect and work together, especially when we’re not in the same place. In a recent Masterclass Online, we were joined by Rebecca Gravestock, Director of People and Performance at Xero Australia and Asia, the global small business platform. Bec shared how Xero is creating an environment where people can thrive and genuinely do their best work – whether at home or in the office. As well as unlocking the secrets to rallying an engaged and empowered workforce, she detailed how you can measure staff engagement (because we can do much better than the traditional annual survey).

So, what exactly is employee engagement?

The term ‘employee engagement’ has been used since the 1990s, and is often linked to employee satisfaction and experience. Employee engagement describes someone who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic towards their work, which speaks to both their emotional connection and their experience within the workplace. For this reason engagement is twofold: it’s about how an employee feels about the workplace and what they give back to it in return.

There are countless benefits to ensuring that your employees are highly engaged, including:

  • Happiness and satisfaction – improved motivation, better health, better home life and less stress.
  • Retention and loyalty – low absenteeism, increased employee advocacy and pride.
  • Productivity and performance – more diligence and increased discretionary effort, increased sales and profitability, less mistakes and less safety issues.
  • Satisfied and loyal customers – enhanced customer experience, increased customer loyalty and referrals.

These positives are not just limited to the workplace. Without the emotional baggage of a negative work experience to take home (or into the next room, if you’re working remotely), your engaged employees are likely to be happier in their home lives as well.

How can you increase engagement?

  • Create a clear and meaningful company purpose, one that each employee can connect with.
  • Know your people, and ensure your workplace is set up for them to thrive, develop and feel valued.
  • Communicate and encourage two-way conversations where you really listen to your team.
  • Enable trust and safety by being honest, vulnerable and transparent in your communications.
  • Embrace flexibility so your people can perform at their best.

Research shows that purpose-led companies are more likely to have high employee engagement and loyalty. People stay in their jobs because they believe what they do matters. It’s not enough for people to know what the company’s purpose is; they need to know how they’re contributing on an individual level.

It all starts with people

First and foremost, you want everyone to feel like they belong. Encourage a culture of bringing your whole self to work by allowing your people to share what’s going on in their lives. In this digital age, separating work from homelife can be murky, and it’s totally fine to acknowledge that. Providing flexibility and trusting employees to manage this balance is key.

It’s important to understand what motivates your people at an individual level. Try and play to their strengths when assigning projects – research shows people are six times more efficient when working on a task they are ‘good at’. Bec shared that during COVID, members of the Xero team were moved to temporary new roles to leverage their skills for priority projects. This opportunity not only helped meet a need in the business, but increased engagement and impact of the employees as well, and the positive sentiment carried over to the customer experience too.

Other tips for increasing engagement include:

  • Run anonymous surveys to check in with your people and make them feel heard.
  • Host virtual drinks or virtual morning teas to offer light-hearted fun.
  • Encourage your team to share parts of their home and personal life – their music, their pets, what they’re cooking.
  • Encourage senior members of the company to drop in on team meetings as a way of bringing office hallway chat to our new virtual way of working.

How do you measure engagement?

Measuring engagement is not a tick-box exercise, it’s a way to improve the happiness and satisfaction of your employees. However you choose to measure it, you need to do it frequently. Whether you measure engagement with an off-the-shelf product or your own methodology, it’s important to be transparent in sharing the results and clearly communicating how you will take action.

In Bec’s view, annual employment satisfaction surveys are a waste of time. Xero measures engagement fortnightly, sending ten questions out to all employees via Officevibe. This allows the Xero leadership team to spot trends and respond in (almost) real-time.

Your team members are your most valuable asset, so whether they’re working from home or transitioning back to the office – keeping them engaged amongst a shifting “normal” is the answer to happiness, wellbeing and business success.


Check out our small business hub for more info on mastering the ins and outs of small business life – now, and into the future.

This helpful content was brought to you in partnership with our pals at Xero. Whether you lead a small team or are going at it alone, you’ll find the support you need on Xero’s dedicated resource page – complete with free tools and guides to help you run your business smoothly. Online accounting software that’s designed to let you do business beautifully and simply, nab a free 30-day trial over at xero.com.


©2020 Business Chicks

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