Gallup's "State of the American Workplace" report doesn't paint a pretty picture of employee engagement: Only 33 percent of employees are engaged at work, and a whopping 51 percent are actively looking for new employment. Worse, a significant number of employees are so unhappy at work that they're willing to sabotage their employers through active disengagement. Given that companies with low levels of engagement earn 33 percent less in operating income, employers should take these abysmal engagement numbers seriously.
In an effort to fill employees with a renewed sense of satisfaction, many organizations have undertaken amazing initiatives, including reevaluating performance management processes, implementing real-time feedback, and establishing employee appreciation programs.
While these initiatives are important, the truth is that some of the responsibility for engagement falls on the shoulders of employees. Not every engagement problem is management's fault. Sometimes, it's simply a case of the wrong employee in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Talent acquisition can play an essential role in increasing employee engagement by using recruitment tactics to find and hire candidates who have the potential to be highly engaged on the job. Here's how we do it at my company, Red Branch Media:
1. Create a Candidate Experience That Reflects Your Company Culture
As I mentioned above, engagement is a shared responsibility. For example, it is up to the employee to do their best work, communicate challenges with leadership, and choose the appropriate attitude for approaching various situations. However, in order to set that expectation for new employees, you must communicate how your company works during the hiring process.
At Red Branch, hiring is a step-by-step process that allows me to add a personal touch to each communication with my candidates. In the first few stages, I'm looking at resumes and considering where each individual could potentially fit in at the company. Next, we do phone screenings, and from there, we invite candidates into the office to meet the team. We try to get this all done in 1-3 weeks. If it at any point the candidate doesn't seem to be a fit, we don't hesitate to say so. Leaving a candidate in limbo for fear of giving a little negative feedback hurts the candidate's ability to find the right job — not to mention my ability to sleep at night.
Our fast turnaround time and back-and-forth communication primes candidates to be engaged. When you're quick to schedule interviews and team meetings, candidates have no time to drag their feet. This sets the pace for how things work at our company, too. If candidates can't keep up with the hiring process, chances are they won't be able to keep up if they join the company.
2. Take Time to Understand the Candidate's Attitude
I'm a firm believer in hiring for attitude and training for skill. Doing so allows me to hire people who are right for my organization and my processes.
In other words: I find hires that fit my team, my company, and the way I lead. I hire people who have temperaments that can bring some necessary element to my organization. Personality and work ethic are major factors in our hiring decisions.
Employees with the highest engagement levels are usually doing jobs that inspire and intrigue them. At the very least, they are working alongside a team or for a cause they care about. If you want a new hire to be excited from day one and onward, you need to take the time to consider whether they fit the position in all aspects, not just in terms of skill set.
All that being said, finding the right attitude can be difficult. Here are a few tactics to consider:
- Include identifying words in your job descriptions that allow job seekers to self-select and remind hiring managers what a successful hire would be like.
- Create "day in the life" videos that showcase the office environment, customer/client base, and/or the daily activities of someone in the position.
- Ask candidates to identify the aspect of the organization that resonates with them most (i.e., the mission, the audience, the daily work tasks, etc.)
- Discuss the candidate's professional aspirations and how those align with the job.
- Establish a pre-hire assessment that follows the same process as a typical internal project would.
To find candidates with attitudes that match your company culture, think about your company's values and the kinds of personality traits each department requires. Focus on soft skills like communication, patience, honesty, etc.
3. Continue Onboarding and Training Your Candidates Once They've Joined
Recruitment doesn't actually end once a candidate accepts a position. The days and weeks that follow will decide whether or not this is the right hire for your company. After all, 20 percent of employee turnover occurs during the first 45 days of employment. This is why taking the time to welcome new hires with an onboarding program is so pivotal.
Within two months of each new hire's start date, I sit down with each newbie individually and give them a mini-performance review. I ask what they've learned, how they think their time would be best spent at the organization, and whether there were any new departments or tasks they were exposed to that they'd like to try. This assessment gives employees a chance to settle in, understand their duties, and figure out what they'd like to work toward
One of the reasons why Red Branch Media has been able to develop into a well-established full-service agency is our dedication to continued learning. If it weren't for my employees including their personal interests in their work, we wouldn't have a comprehensive approach to some very important offerings like SEO and PR, to name just a couple. Allowing employees to bring their personal interests into their jobs will also help keep them excited and engaged!
How you handle recruitment and onboarding for one candidate can directly influence how the next string of applicants behaves toward your company. If people have heard great things about your organization from friends, family, and forums, you can bet they will apply. Of course, the opposite is true, too. People talk, and they value the opinions of outsiders more than your own word about your own company. Call it cynical, but workers expect employers to promise more than they can deliver.
A lot goes into finding the right hire and keeping that hire engaged throughout their career at your company. There is no one formula that works for all organizations or industries. Your best bet is to assess candidates based on their ability to thrive in your environment. You might get it wrong a few times, but more often than not, your diligence will lead to amazing hires who get stuff done.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.