Canvas Tips: 5 Ways Recruiters Can Help Solve the Employee Engagement Problem

Free donuts. Soft branded t-shirts. Unlimited beer. Free button sewing. Ping pong. Happy hour. And more unlimited beer. #workplaceperks

While we have come a long way in creating fancy work-homes for our employees, workplace statistics tell us that something is still wrong. Most people still aren’t engaged at work.

According to the Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis as published by Gallup, employee engagement has been stuck at around 30% for over 15 years.  Based on this statistic, we clearly need to start doing things differently.

But wait…. isn’t employee engagement an HR and leadership problem? Isn't poor engagement a result of HR not following up on our employee survey or our leadership team not communicating our strategy? While these things definitely matter, employee engagement is a team sport and we all have roles to play. 

An employee's experience always begins as a candidate. As recruiters, we are uniquely positioned to help a candidate as they formulate their understanding of our company and their potential role. During these early interactions, we are responsible for planting the seeds that will lead to employee engagement. And ultimately, bringing people into our orgs who not only have the right skillset, but will feel fulfilled once they step in the door.

So, how exactly do we do this?

1. Really get to know your company.

Not just what they do and how many employees work there. You need to understand how work gets done, your company's purpose, mission and values, and what about your company is fulfilling to your employees.

Does your company tend to throw people into the fire or is there a lot of training and hand holding in the beginning? Is your work environment hard charging or more relaxed? These and other aspects of your company are critical for you to understand. If you don’t, you may be bringing people into your org that are more likely to be miserable and quit.

2. Build engaging employment brand collateral that actually says something.

Now that you really know your company (see above), you owe it to your candidates to paint an authentic picture of what it’s like to work for your company so they know what to expect and can make a good decision about whether the opportunity is right for them.  It’s critical that your employment brand collateral reflect what it’s actually like to work at your company.  This may lead to a lost candidate in the short term (ouch), but a more productive and engaged workforce in the long term.

3. Get the right brand collateral to your candidates at the right time.

It’s not enough to build your employment brand collateral and just slap it on your website. You need to bring it to life in the right way at the right time so that your candidate has a realistic preview of what it’s like to work there. Video interview their future team and text it to them along with a job description, or woo them with a welcome kit that showcases a unique aspect of your company’s personality between offer and start date.

4. Focus your candidate discussions around the right things.

We can all agree that a candidate needs to understand their future job duties.  But just as important is helping them understand your company’s values and how their role impacts and furthers your company’s purpose and mission. 

Are you asking questions that assess whether a candidate shares your company’s values and sense of purpose?  Are you articulating to the candidate why the role exists in addition to what it is?

Focusing your conversation around these topics will help you (and the candidate) assess whether they will feel fulfilled and challenged in your environment. 

5. Have authentic, meaningful conversation with candidates.

A lot of interviews can feel like first dates. We spend a lot of time getting ready, play Eye of the Tiger to pump ourselves up and really want it to be a good match. So much so that we feel inclined to show only our strengths and do our best to hide any weaknesses: 

Candidate: “Weaknesses? Oh, yes, I work WAY too hard and I am too much of a perfectionist.” 

Company: “Oh, yes, we give employees more feedback than we need to LOL!” 

But we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by having surface level conversations. A new employment relationship is a commitment and candidates deserve to have a real conversation with you about your strengths and weaknesses. They will find out soon enough that your weekly all-hands meetings actually happen biweekly at best and that you always have spoiled milk in the fridge. Better to let them know what they are signing up for so they can opt in to your own unique brand of madness. Who knows, maybe they appreciate a good glass of spoiled milk once in a while. :)