Is Hiring the Key to Employee Engagement?

July 10th, 2012 by

Can it be that the only thing that matters in regard to driving employee engagement is hiring people with the right attitude?

That may be the case according to a new study that shows that 99 percent of highly-engaged employees say that they take personal responsibility for their engagement.  The study comes as part of the research that Timothy Clark did for his new book The Employee Engagement Mindset.   Clark and his team analyzed 150 highly-engaged employees in 50 different organizations representing 13 different industries.

In addition to taking personal responsibility for their engagement, the 99 percent also stated that they believe they, not their employer, hold primary responsibility for their engagement.  In contrast, a vast majority of disengaged employees believe that their employer is primarily responsible for their engagement.

So there it is in plain language, the key to employee engagement is finding and hiring employees who are willing to take responsibility for keeping themselves engaged.  It has been said that employers should “hire for attitude and train for aptitude.”  Nothing makes the case for this better than the findings of this study.

Too often hiring managers and HR professionals get so wrapped up in qualifications and demonstrated experience.  They choose the candidate with the track record over the one with the great attitude and the thinner resume.  Instead of playing to win, they are playing not to lose.  Sure, there needs to be a baseline skill level to qualify for a job, but does it have to be so high?

In these days when we can bounce from articles on the importance of employee engagement to the scourge of unemployment to the skill gap between available jobs and talent, it seems to me that a statistic like the one above just screams for a different approach.  If employers start focusing more on finding the right types of teachable people instead of demanding high levels of experience, won’t everybody win?

Of course, I’m not saying that employers should get a pass on creating a positive work environment and culture that encourages employees to excel and recognizes them for their success.  That’s an important element, as well.

Nor am I saying that tomorrow you should get rid of everybody that you think may have a bad attitude.

However, I am encouraging you to ask yourself during every hiring process you are a part of, not “Who has the best qualifications for this job,” but “Who will bring the best attitude to this job?”

Photo Source: Victor1558

5 Responses to “Is Hiring the Key to Employee Engagement?”

  1. Doug Blizzard says:

    Great article Martin! Another way to put it, Recruit for skill, Hire for Attitude…

  2. Persis Swift says:

    Thanks for the comment, Doug, and that’s a great way to put it! I’ll Make sure Martin gets your feedback!

  3. You nailed it! Gallup and Blessing-White tell a similar story, and leading positive psychology researchers like Martin Seligman agree. In fact, when Seligman consulted MetLife to improve sales performance, he didn’t change the sales training program: he changed the hiring model. Specifically, he suggested that MetLife abandon its practice of hiring experienced sales professionals in favor of hiring OPTIMISTS! Why? Optimists take responsibility to stay engaged, even when the job has more than a few elements of rejection!

  4. Martin Morgan says:

    Scott – Thanks for the comment and for adding more value to the conversation. That Seligman study is fascinating.

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