Employee Engagement Starts Long Before You Make the Hire


Employee Engagement Starts Long Before You Make the Hire

You probably have employee engagement strategies in place, such as providing professional development opportunities and recognizing accomplishments. However, you may not realize that engagement begins well before the employee's start date.

We all want to build teams of passionate employees who are motivated to contribute to our organizations' success. To achieve that, engagement should be woven into your recruiting practices.

On the outside chance that you're still on the fence about employee engagement, it has multiple benefits. PwC’s 2015 Employee Engagement Landscape Study found that quality engagement programs can reduce turnover and absenteeism, and also boost productivity, collaboration, innovation, customer service, quality, and safety.

You can incorporate engagement into recruitment in two ways: hiring for engageability and proactively engaging candidates from first contact. Hiring for engageability focuses on the candidate – an engageable candidate has the experience, skills and motivation to start making an impact in short order.

Characterizing Engageability

Engageable candidates don't need years of experience, and you can't expect them to come in fully trained. Rather, a highly engageable candidate has the experience along with the soft skills to learn quickly and start contributing, at least to basic tasks, on day one. For example, it may take an inside sales representative a couple of months to master the product portfolio, but an engageable rep should be able to help with appointment setting right away.

Engageability factors will vary from position to position, as common sense suggests. To be a good customer service representative, for example, a candidate will need the ability to maintain a calm, solution-oriented approach over the course of dozens of calls a day. Someone who is easily rattled won't remain engaged in that role. But there's a little more to it.

You Know What Great Looks Like

Wouldn't you love to clone those top performers? Next best thing: use them as models. Identify the traits that make them stand out, perhaps using a personality assessment. Maybe it's a goal orientation or a competitive spirit. Now look for those same characteristics in new hires. 

According to Manchester University Professor Jack Wiley, who has been researching engagement for 30 years, one characteristic that most highly engaged employees demonstrate is a willingness to go the extra mile. When interviewing, ask candidates to tell you about a time they identified a potential process improvement or went above and beyond to help solve a customer's problem.

Now Get Proactive

In addition to assessing engageability, you should take a proactive approach to engaging candidates in your company's culture and vision during the recruitment process. For one thing, candidates who don't make it through the process may become engaged customers. Start with your general employment brand, but take it a step further. With your ideal employee in mind, craft a strong story that will appeal to that kind of person.

Plenty of postings talk about benefits and career growth and, while those are important, they're pretty generic. To engage the right candidates, customize the story to the position. If you're looking for a goal-oriented and competitive spirit, don't post, "Grow your career and enjoy great benefits." Instead, hit them head on with something like "Bring your competitive spirit to a company that rewards accomplishments." That way you're not only attracting the right people, but you're also warning the wrong people away.

Laying Solid Groundwork

Hiring for engageability and proactively engaging candidates are part of the strong foundation for your larger employee engagement program. Professor Wiley recommends you develop a well-integrated program that spans the entire employment lifecycle, from first contact to retirement. The program should incorporate the things he has found to drive engagement: recognition, exciting work, security, pay, education, conditions, and truth – or RESPECT.

As in other areas of your business, numbers are important to understanding engagement. There's plenty of data out there, and some of it is surprising. For example, the 2016 Trendicators Report indicates that the majority of employees aged 25 to 34 consider length-of-service award programs to be effective and make people feel valued.

Employee engagement is emerging as a competitive edge in the war for talent. You and your employees deserve RESPECT, starting from the first stage of recruitment.

Kim Shepherd is CEO and Tom Brennan is a senior writer at recruitment firm Decision Toolbox.

Edited by Alicia Young
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