employee engagement

The Secret to a More Engaged Workforce (It’s Not What You Think)

Tim Sackett Benefits Communication

Since the dawn of time, give or take a few billion years, employers have been searching for the holy grail of employee engagement because at some point they bought into the premise that employee engagement leads to a higher organization bottom-line financial performance.

The thing is? According to the research I’ve come across, that’s just not true.

There is research that shows employees with higher engagement perform better in their specific jobs. But where things get all tangled up is when HR pros and consultants make the leap to saying higher-performing employees must lead to higher performing organizations which then must lead to higher bottom line profits. Unfortunately, there are about a million other factors that come into play between “engaged employees” and “higher bottom line.”

However…even though it’s tricky to find a bottom-line argument for keeping employees engaged, I think we can all agree that working with highly engaged people is better than the alternative. It leads to better end products, whether you’re making a thing, or providing services. And our 9-5’s are way more fun when we’re not hanging with people who have mentally checked out.

So what’s the secret to creating a culture where employees are super engaged and everybody’s a little happier, I’m pretending you asked?

Simply put, it’s this:

Make an extra effort to hire people who are naturally more engaged than those who are not.

Yup, if you go out of your way to hire naturally engaged people, your employee engagement will rise. Hire Eeyores and your engagement will fall.

Turns out most of our engagement is internal and has nothing to do with our external factors. Sure it sucks to have a crappy boss, but if I have a high internal engagement level, I don’t let that bring me down or interfere with my career path. I find ways to overcome those types of obstacles. If I’m not internally engaged, I’ll let a crappy boss make me pout like a 13-year-old. In other words, stop thinking you’ll be able to motivate people with some flashy new program. Or by giving everyone a polo shirt with your companies logo on it, or installing a slide in the lobby. All this stuff has a short-term impact on employee engagement but is very hard to sustain over a long period of time.

What will have a lasting impact is setting up a hiring process that targets candidates how are naturally more engaged.

Specifically, this means:

#1. Asking interview questions that get to the heart of how a person is internally engaged and motivated at work, like:

  • “Tell me what you’re truly passionate about in life.” (The fact is, engaged people are passionate people. It doesn’t really matter what they’re passionate about.)
  • When were you most satisfied in your work life and why? Also, the least satisfied?” (This will help you measure if your position and environment will satisfy what they are looking for. Low satisfaction -> low engagement.)

#2. Adding an assessment that measures a person’s engagement level in a work setting, that includes questions like:

  • “Tell me about the last person you recommended your employer hire?”(People who refer other people to their current employer are engaged, and more likely to do the same for you)
  • “Explain your career path to me, and how this position will help you on your path.” (People who are not engaged in life aren’t on a path. I don’t care where your path is going, I just want to know you’re on one!)
  • “What talent do you specifically have that we need to utilize to get the most out of you?” (If I can use it, they’ll be engaged.)

#3. Actively removing your least engaged employees from the work environment (addition through subtraction)

i.e. Fire them. Quickly. They’re doing more harm than good.

So…to sum this all up: The secret to higher levels of employee engagement has more to do with the people you bring in, and much less to do with, well, you!