Searching for the holy grail

Dec 02 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Hiring engaged and motivated new employees is critical to the success of any organisation. And yet identifying these qualities often eludes managers during the selection process.

So how does engagement impact the bottom line – and what is it that differentiates candidates who come across well in interviews from those who will actually excel on the job?

While engaged employees are proactive and have pride and ownership in their job, disengaged employees take less initiative and offer a significantly lower contribution than their engaged counterparts.

Their reduced commitment to the job and the organisation will lead to faster turnover - which means increased hiring costs for the company and a reduction in productivity.

"Measuring and selecting an engaged candidate is like hiring the caterpillar who turns into a butterfly - not the moth who eats away the fabric of your organisation," said Doug Reynolds, Vice President of HR consultants Development Dimensions International (DDI).

But as research by DDI has revealed, the interview process tends to place a high priority on exploring candidates experience and skills while overlooking their motivation.

Almost half of managers said their biggest surprise was that the candidate's personality in the interview differed from what they are actually like on the job
Little wonder, then, that in a study carried out by DDI in 2004, almost half (44 per cent) of managers said their biggest hiring surprise was that the candidate's personality in the interview differed from what they are actually like on the job.

To reduce the number of these surprises - especially those linked to personality - DDI advises that companies take a closer look at a candidate's potential for engagement to predict what they'll be like on the job.

DDI conducted a study of 3,800 employees spanning a variety of industries and roles, and identified six personal characteristics that, when combined, will predict a candidate's likelihood to be an engaged contributor.

The characteristics - which can be measured in pre-employment tests - include traits that are attractive in any candidate: adaptability, passion for work, emotional maturity, positive disposition, self-efficacy and achievement orientation.

Candidates with a combination of these characteristics are 14 times more likely to be highly engaged employees, the study suggested.

"Looking at this set of characteristics lets the hiring manager see a whole new dimension-like using 3D glasses, they can see a side of the candidate that wasn't being assessed before this," Reynolds said.

So why such a focus on a single aspect of hiring? Simply because, as Reynolds pointed out, a cache of engaged employees stacks the deck in the company's favour, since engaged individuals are willing to put discretionary effort into their job.

"Engagement is a holy grail for managers," Reynolds added. "Engaged employees contribute to stronger revenue growth, increased customer satisfaction and reduced turnover."

But critically, engagement only begins in the hiring process. Once the employee is on the job, their boss has a lot to do with maintaining and increasing an individual's level of engagement.

DDI's has also found that employees with engaged supervisors were more engaged, and were almost 20 per cent less likely to leave the organisation within a year.

"Leader engagement has a cascading effect on employee engagement," Reynolds said. "This demonstrates the important role the boss plays in an individual's level of engagement and their happiness in the organisation."