Creating an Inviting Workplace – The Exchange

Potential and culture are more important when hiring than experience, Sara Crowe told an audience of over 75 women at The Pig and Tinderbox on Thursday.

Director of local marketing agency, C7EVEN Communications, Sara shared her career journey from hosting a ‘hippy club’ at age 12 to working for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet at 21.

Recruitment, retention and culture were the focus of The Exchange, an initiative of  HealthWISE, designed to empower women in their careers through the meeting of minds and sharing of ideas.

Sara was joined on the panel by Rosie Bloch, human resources and business development manager of BOSS Engineering Inverell and Armidale Regional Council executive manager of people and culture Annie Harris.

“Why are recruitment and retention strategies so important? If you keep your people, that cuts down on all the resources invested – in hours and costs – in backfilling roles and recruiting new employees. Smart recruitment puts the right people in the right jobs at the right time,” HealthWISE chief executive officer Fiona Strang said.

She noted the difficulties rural businesses face attracting talent. “Do we have the right recruitment strategies for the new generation of employees or do we need to think differently, disrupt the process, turn it on its head?” she asked.

Sara spoke about the policies she believes led to C7EVEN being recognised by Business NSW as the Employer of Choice in 2022. The influence of a supportive manager earlier in Sara’s career shaped her ideas when creating the business seven years ago.

In an effort to create “a safe, diverse, welcoming and inclusive agency,” C7EVEN launched a Culture and Care program in 2021, “to ensure that every employee has the opportunity to feel valued, respected and heard.” Initiatives of the program include free and confidential mental health support, discounted gym memberships, team bonding and professional development opportunities.

“We see how our work has paid off when we look at the team of incredibly talented, strong and dedicated professionals we have across the country,” Sara said. “All who have a great sense of pride and belonging, and who work hard, but celebrate and have fun along the way.”

Rosie joined BOSS engineering when Inverell was in the grip of drought and over the last four years has successfully doubled the number of employees with innovative strategies and flexibility, including shifts operating during school hours and four-day work weeks.

Annie shared the steps Armidale Regional Council has taken in recent years to address issues in workplace culture that affected staff recruitment and retention. She said that recent initiatives involving staff across departments have improved the workplace for all.

The Exchange is part of a series of events run by HealthWISE in our service footprint, and was held free of charge with support from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women.

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