Employee engagement an essential consideration in talent retention

Pictured at Shannon Chamber HR Forum meeting (from left): Erin Hooban, Group HR manager, Enva and Forum chair; Sarah Fagan, managing director, Adare Human Resource Management; Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber; John Kennedy, head of HR organisational development, Iarnród Éireann; Amanda Finnegan, head of retained services, Adare Human Resource Management; and Maria Frost, vice president HR, Engine Lease Finance. Photograph by Eamon Ward


A review of the impacts, challenges, and opportunities in the human resources (HR) landscape in Ireland by one of Ireland’s leading employment law, industrial relations and human resource management consultancies in Ireland, Adare Human Resource Management, points to an increasing focus on employee engagement to support talent retention.

This was but one of the many insights shared with Shannon Chamber member companies when the key findings of the Adare’s recent HR Barometer Pulse Series 7.1 were presented at a Shannon Chamber HR Forum meeting earlier this summer, attended by human resource practitioners.

The meeting included presentations by Sarah Fagan, Managing Director, and Amanda Finnegan, Head of Retained Services with Adare Human Resource Management followed by a panel discussion with John Kennedy, Head of HR Organisational Development with Iarnród Éireann and Maria Frost, Vice-President HR with Engine Lease Finance.

Adare’s Managing Director Sarah Fagan said that employee engagement, retention, and talent development rank highly as priority considerations for companies today, although the projected level of employee turnover in the Munster region in 2023, at 9.8%, is lower than the 2022 actual figure in the same region of 12.5%.

“In this challenging working landscape, the retention of employees and the development of their careers is critical to the success of any organisation. Employees need to feel valued, motivated and challenged. This is best achieved through investing in career planning and learning and development programmes that align with both an individual employee’s career progression and the future skillset requirements of a business.”

Given this fact it was not surprising that career progression was cited as the second most common reason why employees in the Munster region left organisations in 2022, with just under five in ten (41%) citing is as the main reason for leaving employment.

“Prioritising career progression for employees will support business goals to stay competitive and also foster a culture of continuous improvement and career enhancement opportunities internally,” added Ms Fagan.

Employee expectations are also increasing, and this is reflected in the fact that 89% of organisations in the area, versus 50% in 2022, are planning to offer increased salaries in 2023, with the average expected salary increase of 5.18% versus an actual 4.67% increase in 2022.

In the panel discussion that following the main presentation, Iarnród Éireann’s John Kennedy also focused in on employee engagement stating that HR professionals need to understand the importance of keeping employees committed and connected to the business.

“Employees are at the forefront of all organisations and must be given number one priority. People don’t leave jobs; they leave managers, so it is important that leaders set the example,” he said.

Emphasising that the cost of hiring people is phenomenal, he stressed the importance of investing in retention policies, developing internal expertise, mentoring, job rotation and building trust at all levels in an organisation.

Engine Lease Finance’s Maria Frost contributing to the panel discussion added: “High levels of engagement promote retention of talent, foster customer loyalty and improve organisational performance and stakeholder value.

“Engaged employees go beyond job descriptions in, for example, service delivery or innovation. Engaged employees feel focused with a sense of urgency and concentrate on how they approach what they do, whereas satisfied employees, in contrast, feel pleasant, content and gratified. The level of employee job satisfaction in an organisation often relates to factors over which the organisation has control, such as pay, benefits and job security, whereas engagement levels are largely in direct control or significantly influenced by the employee’s manager, through job assignments, trust, recognition, day-to-day communications, etc.

“To foster a culture of engagement, HR should lead the way in the design, measurement and evaluation of proactive workplace policies and practices that help attract and retain talent with skills and competencies necessary for growth and sustainability,” Ms Frost added.  

The Shannon Chamber HR Forum, facilitated by Adare Human Resource Management and chaired by Erin Hooban, Group HR manager at Enva, is member-led and enables HR professionals to address common issues and to keep abreast of developments in the HR environment. The Forum meets quarterly.