It all starts with hiring the right people.

This police officer could be described as "disengaged." Credit: Wikipedia Commons
This police officer could be described as “disengaged.”
Credit: Wikipedia Commons

One of the biggest problems in the American workforce today is disengagement, which means – as you might surmise – employees do not feel engaged at work and therefore aren’t nearly as productive as they could be.

Gallup estimates that disengaged workers cost their employers $300 billion – $300 BILLION – in lost productivity each year. And that’s no surprise, as a recent survey showed that 54 percent of American employees recently described themselves as disengaged – the highest recorded number ever – and another 17 percent described themselves as actively disengaged.

That means that only 29 percent of American employees are really trying hard!

Those stats are nothing that would shock any good human resources professional – they know this problem exists and are looking for ways to fix it. Yet the numbers show, to be frank, no solution has yet to be found. Until now, thanks to some interesting research by Dr. Paul Connolly, the president of Performance Programs, Inc. and a leader in organizational psychology.

The Solution

“The best way to get people to stay is matching the goodie they want to the goodie you offer,” Connolly said at a recent SHRM conference at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

We couldn’t agree more. And therein lies the answer.

The secret to having an engaged employee – not just an employee who stays, but one who stays engaged – is to match what they seek to what your company offers. And the real key is first understanding what your company offers and then finding people who seek those “goodies.”

Identifying What You Offer

So let’s say, for an example, you work at a company where a lot of people work long hours but there is the potential for growth and large raises if they produce. Also, it is a pretty independent environment, where employees are allowed freedom to do what they want – so long as they produce.

The goodies your company offers then are growth potential, the potential for a large income and independence. Now it is time to find people who seek those things.

It is worth noting here that not all jobs within a company offer the same “goodies.” For example, there might be jobs in manufacturing in your company that are very structured, have very precise start-and-stop times and have very regimented compensation packages. Meanwhile, sales jobs will be the opposite, much like the one I described in the first paragraph of this section.

So, for each job or each type of jobs, it is crucial your hiring team identify what “goodies” those jobs offer by honestly assessing each one.

Finding What Candidates Want

Okay, now you know what goodies each job at your company offers. Then, when you have posted a job and built your applicant pool, it is crucial that you ask some specific questions of each candidate to learn what goodies they seek.

This is best achieved as part of a larger screening interview via VoiceGlance or some other phone screening platform, so you have that information before having to waste valuable company time on them for an in-person interview.

Connolly said the best question to find out what motivates a person is a simple one: “What is your greatest accomplishment and why?” A candidate’s answer almost always reveals what they are motivated by.

As an example, if the person says their greatest accomplishment was working as a team to accomplish a goal, you know they probably prefer a more structured environment that allows for collaboration between employees. Meanwhile, if the person describes a time they accomplished something on their own, they probably prefer a more independent work environment.

Or, if they talk about a time they made a lot of money for the company, they likely are more driven by money. Conversely, if they talk about a time where they won an award or were highlighted in a crowd, they are likely more driven by recognition.


It isn’t that once you have hired the right person, they’ll be engaged for life. But it is much easier to engage someone who, again, seeks the goodies you offer than trying to engage someone without any lure to entice them.

Since what motivates a person often isn’t listed in a resume, it is best using the phone screening software out there to find out (along with gaining some other valuable information). By asking a few, simple questions using one of these programs, you can determine what each candidate is motivated by and determine which ones really will be the best fit for your company.