As the employment marketplace continues to heat up, and as companies increasingly struggle to find key talent, I’ve been contemplating the issue of “employee engagement” – and more specifically, what employee engagement means to those of us in the wonderful world of recruiting and talent acquisition.

First, an attempt to define employee engagement:  The simple, Paul Siker, definition of employee engagement really amounts to the degree to which someone is happily connected or immersed within their current employer and work environment.

According to Gallup, the large survey and public opinion company, and leading research company on the issue of employee engagement, an Employee who is truly engaged, is someone who is both “involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. Day after day, they are passionate about their jobs and feel a profound connection to their company.  Gallup goes on to highlight that, “They are more productive, drive innovation and promote organizational growth.”

Now, it’s important to understand that a large segment of the workforce is anything but engaged.  In fact, it may surprise you to know that many people fall into two other categories – Not Engaged, or Actively Disengaged.  According to Gallup, in 2014, 51% of US workers were not engaged, which means that they were essentially logging hours at work, but with little real enthusiasm or energy.  And, 17.5% of US workers were actively disengaged, which means that they were unhappy, unfulfilled, and had a greater tendency to undermine those around them.

So, when you do the math around Employee Engagement, you come to realize that a whopping 68.5%, or more than 2/3 of us are either sleepwalking through our day or are actively dissatisfied with the work we are doing or the employment environment in which we reside.  The prospect of over 2/3 of the workforce being not engaged or actively disengaged has serious consequences on a company’s bottom line, and, among other things, impacts morale, productivity, innovation, turnover, and customer satisfaction.  One word comes to mind:  Yeeeeeeeech.  Only 31.5% of us are truly engaged – wow, what does that say about corporate America?

So, why should you care?  Well – from my vantage point, the talent acquisition landscape is going to get ever more competitive in the coming months.  In fact, I suspect that you are already witnessing a bit more constriction within the very market sector in which you reside, and perhaps you sense that things are going to become tighter.   Barring something unforeseen, they very may well.

But, take heart – If you are a recruiter who has cultivated solid networking skills, if you are comfortable and thoughtful about how you communicate with passive candidates, you have a much greater ability to tap into this massive vein of workforce discontent and help talented individuals secure happiness in a new employment situation – YOURS!!  If 68.5% of our workforce is   If 68.5% of our workforce is truly not engaged or actively disengaged, as Gallup suggests is the case, well, that’s a whole bunch of folks who might be induced to consider making a job change – provided that a new environment offers the hope, the potential, the promise of a better future.  Now, clearly some of these individuals are likely to be actively seeking new employment, but I expect that a good number are passive candidate prospects who toil within a work setting that is neither magnificent nor dreadful, who work within environments that are terrifically average, but that are woefully unengaging.  This is one of the reasons that I genuinely enjoy networking and cold-calling.  I regularly get to talk to individuals who have great skills, they just don’t happen to work within a great (or engaging environment).

So, I leave you with this thought, which paraphrase’s Emma Lazarus’ famous words from the New Colossus, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:  Give me your not engaged candidates, your actively disengaged candidates, your candidates who yearn to breathe free (in a new employment environment), and I will place them into a job where they can be happier and more fulfilled.  Oh yes, oh yes I will.

This is Paul Siker wishing you ongoing recruiting success!

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