Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement Starts Earlier than You Think

While employee engagement is getting plenty of buzz – and it should – many employers’ programs are missing a crucial component. Engagement should begin in the earliest stages of the recruitment process. The recruitment experience influences engagement one way or another, so a strategic approach will make sure that experience sets the stage for a long and rewarding relationship between employer and employee.

If you’re still working to convince colleagues of the benefits of employee engagement, you can share some of these facts. PWC’s 2015 Employee Engagement Landscape Study found that a strong engagement program can reduce turnover and absenteeism, and increase productivity, collaboration, innovation, customer service, quality and safety. According to their research, companies with highly engaged employees have:

  • 33% percent higher profits
  • 51% lower turnover rate with satisfied employees
  • 250% better performance-related business outcomes (yes, two hundred and fifty)

With benefits like that, why not weave engagement into your recruiting practices? There are two key ways to do this: first, hire for engageability, and second, start proactively engaging candidates at first contact.

Engageability: The Drive to Dive In

Engageability refers to traits that candidates possess or don’t. It isn’t about years and years of experience, but rather about a combination of the basic necessary skills and strong motivation to dive in, start contributing on day one, and learn quickly. For instance, a new accountant probably needs a couple of weeks of training before they start making general ledger entries. However, an engageable individual should be willing and able to help out with basic tasks, such as reconciliations, even while being trained.

Common sense tells us that engageability will vary from position to position. An engageable operations supervisor, for example, should have the ability to remain positive and solution-oriented throughout a shift. A candidate who is easily flustered won’t stay engaged for long. But there’s more to it.

Your Best People = Your Best Models

To stay on top of a highly competitive job market, savvy recruiters are borrowing ideas from marketing to attract the best talent. Marketers create buyer personas to help them target their messaging, and this is a great tactic in recruiting. It’s also not as difficult as it may sound . . . just use your top performers as models.

Suppose your best software developers are passionate about taking on new challenges and enjoy getting involved in areas beyond their specialty. With that persona in mind, an interviewer might ask candidates to describe a time they solved a particularly sticky problem.

Based on more than 30 years of engagement research, Dr Jack Wiley, Chief Scientific Officer of Engage2Excel and Professor of Psychology at Manchester University, has determined that almost all highly engaged employees share the motivation to go above and beyond. Another engageability gauge is to ask candidates to talk about a time they took initiative or went the extra mile.

The Call of Culture

In addition to hiring for engageability, make sure candidates are engaging with your company’s unique culture from the first touch. Communicating your culture effectively helps lay the foundation for solid engagement moving forward. It also helps ensure that every candidate has a positive experience with the company, even those who aren’t a cultural fit. They may not become employees, but they could be potential customers or even strategic partners.

A compelling employment brand is important and should be general enough to apply to any position. To truly engage your target candidates, craft a message using the candidate persona. Thinking again about those software developers, your first message shouldn’t be “Join a growing company with great benefits.” Pretty much everyone in the market is pitching that. Differentiate your open position by leading with something like, “Take on meaty challenges and learn new technologies.”

Engagement from CV to Retirement

According to Dr Wiley’s research, an effective engagement program is well integrated across the full employment lifecycle. It also incorporates the key engagement drivers he has identified: Recognition, Exciting Work, Security, Pay, Education and Career Growth, Conditions and Truth – or RESPECT. But it doesn’t wait until after the hire.

The 2017 Trendicators™ Report, based on a survey of 940 active and 507 passive job seekers, provides insight into the perceptions, preferences and behaviors of these two groups. It turns out that active candidates can be turned off if recognition and praise are missing from the hiring process.

We all like praise, but it seems to be particularly important to the largest generation in the job market today, millennials. Of that cohort, 81% consider recognition and praise during the pre-hire phase as being Very Important or Important. Compare that to 55% for Gen X, 39%for Boomers and 31% for Gen Z.

As you interview and interact with candidates, make a point of acknowledging accomplishments. A simple compliment brings a human element into the process, and may make a big difference.

Research Your Audience

All this suggests that the better you understand your candidates’ needs and wants, the more you can optimise sourcing, recruitment marketing and onboarding activities. In fact, misunderstanding can undermine the goals of engagement.

Millennials’ reputation as job-hoppers is a good example. A survey by beyond.com found that 81% of millennials surveyed described themselves as being loyal to an employer. However, only 1% of HR professionals surveyed believe millennials to be loyal to employers.

Could it be that millennials move frequently because engagement programs are based on what is important to Gen Xers or Boomers? It may be time to review your program to ensure it appeals to the wants and needs of multiple generations. No strategy or program can be all things to all people, but you want to be sure you are working with valid information and assumptions.

To Get Respect, Give RESPECT

Most of us agree that a robust company culture and successful human capital strategies address each RESPECT driver. What may be new is the powerful idea that employee engagement starts before a candidate has even read your position posting.


About The Authors:

Kim Shepherd joined Decision Toolbox, a 100% virtual organisation providing recruitment solutions, in 2000 as CEO. Decision Toolbox and its parent company, Engage2Excel, offer the industry’s only recruiting solutions that optimise engagement throughout the talent acquisition process and career lifecycle. Today, Kim is chairwoman and leads the companies’ growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships and alliances, and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources communities. A recognised thought leader by HR organizations nationwide, Kim regularly speaks on topics such as recruitment best practices, recruitment process outsourcing and the virtual business. She authored The Bite Me School of Management, a book journaling her business journey and the challenges she has overcome, and Get Scrappy, a business book that provides a new perspective on personal and corporate growth. Learn more at dtoolbox.com.

Tom Brennan is Manager, Creative Services at leading nationwide recruiting firm, an Engage2Excel company. For more than a decade, he has played an integral role in developing strategic marketing materials designed to attract top candidates for Decision Toolbox clients. Founded in 1992, Decision Toolbox provides cost-effective, high quality and innovative recruitment solutions for companies nationwide. With unparalleled rigorous quality controls and a 12-month candidate guarantee, Decision Toolbox has long set and surpassed industry standards. For more information visit www.dtoolbox.com and find Decision Toolbox on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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