If you've read Gallup's annual State of the American Workplace report, you know the numbers aren't encouraging: 70 percent of employees are disengaged or actively disengaged from their jobs. Odds are, some of your employees are among them, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Though personal issues may account for some of this disengagement, "When I look at the fundamental cause for disengagement within the workplace itself, the number one reason is that employees' concept of what they should be doing and where they should be in their careers is different from the reality of their jobs," says Josh Warborg, district president at Robert Half International.
The usual solutions may not be that helpful, he adds. "Most of the stuff you see about engagement, there's a stock pattern: Make sure you listen to employees, and thank them, provide competitive perks, be flexible about work times and working from home." While all these things are important to do, he says, the best solution is to make sure right from the start that you're hiring employees who will come into the job engaged and excited and stay that way in the future.
Here's how to do that:
1. Look for those who've been engaged before.
"A lot of successful companies look for people with a pattern of engagement in the jobs they've held before," Warborg says. "Certain people are driven to work hard, no matter what job they do." You'll be able to tell in part by meeting the person, but especially when you check his or her references. "Those people leave a trail of people who are raving fans, and will cite things like their desire and drive," he says.
2. Make 'runway' hires.
That doesn't mean, of course, that you should hire someone underqualified. And it's undeniable that a job candidate who comes with established industry contacts can add value. But while it can give you a sense of security to hire someone who has already spent years doing exactly what you need, that's a recipe for disengagement.
"Often you have people walking in the door with a sense of 'been there, done that.'" Warborg says. "The employers who seem to have a high retention rate and high engagement look at a person's potential, not whether they've already done the job they're being hired for." Thus, instead of hiring someone who's already doing a similar job, consider hiring someone for whom this position is a step up.
3. Ask what they want.
"Listen to why candidates are making a job change," Warborg says. "Ask what they're looking for in the next five years, what they're looking for in a corporate culture, and what will get them excited about the position." In fact, he says, a smart interviewer will have a checklist of these questions to go through during each interview.
4. Be honest with yourself.
Now that you know exactly what the candidate is looking for, will your company and the job you're offering meet those desires? Is your company the environment he or she is seeking? Will you be able to provide the wished-for challenges? And while it's unlikely you'll have a perfect match, can you have a candid conversation about what does and doesn't fit?
"If you can really listen and be 100 percent honest about the opportunities you're offering, then you'll make good hires," Warborg says.