Engage Before You Hire: Recruitment Strategies to Improve Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a key organisational metric. However, some businesses don't know how important the recruitment phase is in achieving a high employee engagement rate.

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Business leaders understand how critical employee engagement is to their bottom line. In a 2021 Employee Experience Survey, 92% of organisations surveyed said they're making employee experience enhancement a top priority in the next three years.

However, companies commonly institute employee engagement strategies during or after the onboarding phase of the employee life cycle. Most neglect the impact of recruitment on employee engagement.

In reality, an organisation's recruitment processes can drive employee engagement. Therefore, if a company's goal is to boost its employees' emotional commitment to their work and the organisation, it must devise hiring criteria and candidate assessment methods that will yield this desired outcome.

How recruitment affects employee engagement

When companies hire a highly engaged job applicant, they will get a highly engaged employee. It's garbage in, garbage out. Let a highly engaged applicant in, get a highly engaged employee on the other end. Hire a disengaged applicant, get a disengaged employee.

It is true that employing a highly engaged applicant doesn't guarantee lasting commitment. However, this should still lead to better employee engagement scores. Someone who feels a deep connection with your company and their role in it is much more likely to feel engaged than someone without the same attachment. One might argue that a company can simply implement strategies to raise new employees' engagement scores during or after onboarding. However, maintaining already high engagement scores should be easier than increasing the workplace engagement of disengaged employees.

To summarise, fine-tune your recruitment process to yield connected, attached and committed employees if you want higher employee engagement.

What can you do to boost your job applicants' engagement rate during recruitment? Here are a few strategies you can implement:

1. Write precise job descriptions

Do not look to generic job descriptions or copy other companies' job posts for similar roles. Look inwards, and describe the position as it is, not as it should be.

Ideally, your job description will contain the following sections: job title, company's vision and mission, competencies, responsibilities, skills, education and certifications, salary, benefits, and perks. Be clear about your must-haves and nice-to-haves instead of creating a list of qualifications that have no actual bearing on the role.

Some companies get so carried away with writing their job descriptions that they include qualifications the employee would never actually need to fill the role. A mismatch between the advertised qualifications and the skills the job actually requires will cause dissonance, dissatisfaction and, ultimately, disengagement in the employee hired for the position.

Likewise, don't over-promise in your job descriptions, and don't list perks you don't offer. For instance, don't say your company allows flexi-time just because your employees can take their lunch hour at any time during the day.

2. Hire for cultural fit

An employee must not only have the skills and competencies you need for the position. They must also fit in within their teams and the larger organisation.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't hire people who look, talk and act differently from you or your existing employee. It simply means that you must find someone who is likely to stand behind your company's core values and adapt to and conform to how your company does things.

New hires who fit in with your people and company culture are more likely to be happier in your company, adapt faster and start contributing sooner. On the contrary, culturally ill-fitting candidates are likely to feel dissatisfied with their position.

How do you screen applicants for cultural fit? Your job advert and description can reference your company's core values. Then, in the job application, candidates can answer questions that reference these values so you can assess the candidates' responses and attitudes towards them.

The initial interview is also crucial to assessing fit. Most companies talk about fit pretty late in the recruitment process. Instead, why not consider cultural fit early in the process?

Between a poor-cultural-fit candidate who ticks all the must-haves and nice-to-haves boxes and a good-cultural-fit candidate with all the must-haves but not all the nice-to-haves, choose the latter. You can train highly engaged employees and teach them the skills they don't yet have. However, someone who doesn't feel he fits in is unlikely to make the best use of their qualifications for the sake of your organisation.

Of course, the person doing the cultural fit assessment must be clear on the company's values and how they translate to actual behaviour. You must also have a set criteria against which you can evaluate candidates. This will minimise the impact of biases and ensure that your cultural fit assessment doesn't come down to whom the interviewer got along with the most.

3. Evaluate your assessment criteria

You should also assess your hiring criteria and your candidate assessment methods. To start, monitor the employees you hired using your recruitment procedures.

Are your new hires engaged with their work and workplace? Are they happily contributing to their team, and are they performing and productive? If the answer is yes, then your hiring criteria and assessment methods are working beautifully.

To drive company engagement, you must ensure your recruitment process and strategies are correctly calibrated to select committed candidates. If your recruitment process is ineffective at improving employee engagement, you must revise and refine it.

4. Outsource staffing to domain experts

Can outsourcing recruitment to a staffing agency drive engagement for your organisation? If you outsource to a staffing agency with deep knowledge about your job opening, yes, it can.

If you are looking for tech personnel — say, a project manager, security application engineer, solution architect, and a front-end developer — outsource to technology recruitment services. Their specialisation in tech verticals will ensure they can craft precise job descriptions and have effective criteria and assessment methods.

What if you have in-house recruiters? Will outsourcing to a staffing agency still help? It depends. If you are hiring for a role your HR department is unfamiliar with, it will be better to outsource staffing to a company that specialises in it.

For instance, if you're a finance company looking for a systems application and products developer, your HR department probably doesn't have the expertise required to assess SAP developer applicants effectively. In this case, you can increase your likelihood of finding the right person by leaving recruitment to a staffing agency with SAP specialisation.

In Summary

Your recruitment process drives your organisation's employee engagement. Thus, you must incorporate measures to improve employee engagement during the recruitment phase. Such measures include:

• writing a precise job description;
• hiring for cultural fit;
• evaluating your recruitment criteria and assessment methods, and;
• outsourcing to a specialist staffing agency.

If your recruitment process is skewed to favour highly engaged candidates, you will improve your company's employee engagement rate and reap its associated benefits.

Author Bio

Jinky Elizan is a content writer for SEO Sherpa. She has more than 15 years of experience in producing content for SEO, inbound marketing and link building as well as in creating copy for web pages and social media. She also develops WordPress websites.

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