Employee engagement is a topic that comes up regularly and many companies conduct surveys in an attempt to measure employ engagement.

Unfortunately, it is reported to be low.  Per Gallup, the majority of U.S. employees are not engaged despite ....  They measured employee engagement at 31.5%.  Supposedly, this is the highest it has been since 2000.  Per “The Employee Engagement Mindset” by Timothy Clark, only 25% of employees are highly engaged.

We know that highly engaged employees have more productivity, lower turnover, more innovation, etc., and so many companies survey internally to measure their employee engagement and take steps to improve it.  Yet, it has not been enough to increase the numbers within our companies.

I believe part of the problem may be that we are not hiring employees within our organizations prone to engagement or who understand employee engagement.

Huh?  What do you mean? (you may ask.)

I recently read “The Employee Engagement Mindset” and it said it best…the primary responsibility for employee engagement lies with the employee.  Secondary responsibility is with the company.  Basically, you could give an employee everything and they still might be disengaged or at least not highly engaged (just moderately engaged).  Fundamentally, employee engagement starts with the employee.

Many employees are waiting for their companies to engage them, waiting for their managers to provide feedback, waiting for to be recognized to do something new in their jobs, etc.  These employees do not know that employee engagement starts with themselves.

This rings true for me, because I have done this myself for most of my career.  I was probably a moderately engaged employee…I wanted to be engaged (and I was engaged to an extent), but for much of my career I was still waiting for the company to engage me, my manager to engage me, etc.  I learned later that it starts with me.  All highly engaged employees do not wait on anyone and they initiate it themselves.

Of course, the recruiter mind kicks in and then asks – if the primary responsibility for employee engagement is the employee’s AND highly engaged employees remain highly engaged almost anywhere (per the book)…then would we not want to hire people who were engaged in their pasts so that we know they have a predisposition for employee engagement.

How do we identify potential employees who are tend to be engaged?

A recruiter might ask applicants the following questions:

What is your view or understanding of employee engagement?


Do you want to be a highly engaged employee?

Yes / No


What does being a highly engaged employee mean to you and how does it happen?


Where does the primary responsibility lie for employee engagement?

A. With executives

B. With managers

C. With the employee


I see from your resume that you have been doing X for a long time.  Why do you do X?  Why do you get up every day and continue to do X?

Not only do highly engaged employees typically care about what they do, but you also might want to delve into the applicant’s background to see if you can identify some or all of the six drivers of high engagement (per Timothy Clark):

  • Connect – have they had many great relationships and/or deeper connections with others at the companies they have worked for.
  • Shape – have they shaped their jobs and customized them a bit in the past to fit their own interests and passions.
  • Learn – are they always learning and gaining new skills.
  • Stretch – have they left their comfort zone to push the limits in their skills.
  • Achieve – do they have achievements that they are proud of.
  • Contribute – have they impacted other people’s lives and given of themselves to help others.

The more of these drivers you can identify, the more prone the candidate is for high employee engagement.  Typically highly engaged employees will usually know it starts with them.  But some employees are just not aware where employee engagement starts and they need to be coached.

Many people simply exist in organizations, but we should be looking to hire the people who have engaged in the past.  Those are the people we need to recruit in order to raise our own employee engagement.  Perhaps their current companies are messing up and not taking on the secondary responsibility of employee engagement, because it does take the company’s efforts as well.

With no support from their current employer, I believe people prone to high employee engagement will leave that employer for a company that understands the company has to work towards employee engagement as well.

As recruiters, we should watch out for the applicants who in their pasts seem to have been chronically disengaged and who don’t seem to care about it (or what they do) and are pretty much uncoachable in taking an active role in their employee engagement.  Hiring those applicants will only lower our companies’ employee engagement and nothing a company does will make them highly engaged (they just are not prone to high employee engagement and don’t realize it starts with themselves).

For companies struggling with employee engagement, I do recommend that they start passing around copies of “The Employee Engagement Mindset” by Timothy Clark.  It may inspire employees who always wanted to be highly engaged, but did not realize it starts with themselves.



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