When Hiring Top Talent is Critical, Employee Engagement Should be, Too

There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon for workers to hop into a manufacturing job in say, Flint, Michingan, work in the same organization for years or even decades, then bow out and enjoy a generous retirement package.

However, times have changed. Massive technological and economic shifts have dramatically impacted the job landscape over the past serveral years. Not many things look the same as they did a few decades ago, and there is intense competition among organizations to draw in top talent, especially among the Millennial crowd. In order to stay competitive, many companies have now shifted the focus in hiring top talent to employee engagement to draw in skilled workers and increase retention.

Millennials, who now comprise a sizeable portion of the workforce, demand inclusive and empowering work environments, fulfilling work experiences, and learning opportunities at every stage of career development.

It has become unequivocally clear that, unlike in decades past, the secret to hiring top talent no longer lies solely in a golden parachute or great company perks – especially since most organizations have dramtically overhauled the way benefits are done as a whole. Employee engagement has now become a focal point for both canddiates and organizations.

In fact, according to the LinkedIn Talent Solutions’s Global Recruiting Trends of 2016 report, 32 percent of respondents stated employee retention is a top priority over the next 12 months. However, unlike the volume of calls handled or number of tickets closed by workers, employee engagement cannot be instantly or even easily quantified.

What is Employee Engagement?

Perhaps Deloitte University Press puts it best in the Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report by defining employee engagement as “How employees feel about how things are done around here”. It’s a simple, functional definition that helps demystify the concept while communicating the basis of what ultimately keeps employees around (or drives them away) from an organization.

The report highlights employee engagement as an ongoing challenge for many businesses, with 48 percent of respondents citing it as very important, and nine in ten executives citing it as important.

As something that touches all levels of an organization, many companies have begun the conversation of how to create, foster, and improve engagement.

Why Employee Engagement is Taking Priority

A good engagement strategy comes with a myriad of advantages for both a company’s ability to drive revenue and the health of the workforce itself. Engaged employees perform better, are less likely to have health problems, and are also less likely to make an early exit or display counterproductive behaviors like stealing, negatively influencing co-workers, driving customers away, or missing work (Gallup).

However, engagement can be tricky for a number of reasons. The workforce now is more diverse than it has ever been, and includes five generations of workers comprised of a wide variety of genders, cultures, and sexual orientations who are working remotely, in-house, part-time, full-time, and contract positions, and coming from an array of different backgrounds. While engaging every single employee in a company probably isn’t a realistic goal, finding ways to include this diverse workforce takes creativity and well-thought-out strategies.

Additionally, in recent years, employers have been contending with an increase in the volume of unqualified applicants for vacant roles at a time when companies need workers with specialized skills to contend with the continual digitization of business. In many roles, the ability to multitask and navigate a variety of software programs are necessary to perform a job well, and this requires attracting and retaining talented workers with the right competencies. Drawing in quality workers requires not only a creative and detailed talent acquisition strategy, but an emphasis on keeping employees engaged.

The Dangers of Employee Disengagement

Job engagement is essential to workforce health and wellbeing. Disengaged employees oftentimes leave the company or worse, stick around and potentially destabalize the company. Research shows disengaged employees cost the U.S. between $450 billion and $550 billion each year in lost productivity.

The Deloitte University Press highlights that “engagement, in many ways, is the temperature gauge of a company’s ability to proactively address all these issues on behalf of the workforce.” When the wellbeing of the workforce isn’t a priority, employees notice. And today, employees can define a company’s reputation for them – whether they like it or not – via Glassdoor reviews, Facebook, and other social media, and let their network know whether or not it is a good place to work.

Simply put, if a company’s priority isn’t the development of its employees, then the company probably won’t be a priority in the job search of talented prospects.

Creating Engagement Among Workers

High performers lead companies forward, and these days, candidates are more empowered and demanding than ever. With access to information regarding everything from the average salaries of their industry peers to what others are saying about a certain company, recruiters and hiring managers can’t afford to not be transparent with candidates.

Taking steps to ensure high performers are interested, challenged, promoted, and encouraged to succeed can help ensure they stick around. One way companies can begin to create and foster engagement is to define it. What does it look like for employees to be doing the work they love to do? There are a many factors that comprise employee engagement, and just as many strategies to create opportunities to keep top talent engaged.

Give Workers Safe Ways to Speak Out

When it comes to employee engagement, sometimes even the rock stars might be afraid to speak openly about issues with management, or other problems preventing them from becoming fully engaged with their work. Creating an open, anonymous way for employees to provide feedback gives leadership an opportunity to keep their fingers on the pulse of how their workforce is feeling, and what can be changed to make it even better. Everything from suggestion boxes to employee engagement apps can be utlized to help ensure voices at all levels of the organization are being heard.

The Engagement Gauge: Core Competencies

Finding workers who are likely to become and remain engaged starts long before an employee’s first day of work. Employee engagement begins with the interview process. However, fewer than 40 percent of hiring teams use any type of formal pre-hire assessment to measure a candidate’s core competencies.

Creating engagement involves more than simply designing jobs workers will find meaningful; it means finding the right person for the job, which means utilizing a talent acquisition strategy that aligns an organization’s values and goals with the skillset and values of the candidate. After all, if a candidate’s skills do not match those required for success in the role, he or she likely won’t experience success or engagement with the position.