Should recruiting be more like online dating?
Assessment alone does not lead to Engagement!
By Theresa Kinney, Regional Director, PNW, Colorado, Western Canada
I recently was asked a really good question: Instead of worrying about engagement in organizations, why don’t we just hire people predisposed to being engaged? After all, there are articles that advocate using assessments and hiring based upon the results. And, as with online dating, people are either predisposed to being engaged or they’re not, right? So the solution is clean and simple—hire people who tend toward being engaged. It makes perfect sense!
On the surface, it seems like an easy answer. Yet, the more I pondered the concept, the more it troubled me. My primary concern was this—by focusing job recruitment on an assessment that predicts predisposition to engagement, engagement becomes a “check the box” criteria where no further thought to its continued nurturing is needed. Do you know Excel? Check! Word? Check! Engaged? Check!
The flaw in the logic is that the ability to be engaged is not a characteristic that can be measured. Rather than being a job skill or personality characteristic, engagement reflects the relationship between an individual and his or her work. There are very few bad individuals, bad jobs, or bad cultures. It is typically a question of fit. When people experience job fit, they achieve maximum satisfaction and maximum contribution, which is how we define full engagement.
Since engagement is a question of fit, I believe that everyone has the ability to be engaged at work. It is a personal choice, based upon finding one’s right mix of workplace elements. Each of us individually manages our own engagement by looking for a tight cultural fit, interesting work, and supportive management, then taking the necessary steps to remain engaged. It is my responsibility to know what I need to be engaged, to communicate those needs to individuals whose assistance I require, and then take action to achieve great days at work.
Of course, no one intentionally pursues jobs that make them feel miserable, demotivated and unexcited. Yet if individuals are not clear about their personal engagement drivers before the job selection process, they run the risk of using outside markers—salary, job title, the “corner office”, etc.—to gauge whether an offer is a “good job.” External markers of success are not lasting satisfiers. They won’t fuel engagement with the first role or any others that employees pursue in the organization. Disengagement is inevitable. Personal satisfaction—what I am “getting” from the job—goes much deeper. It speaks to how my job and the organization I work for align with my personal values.
I spent 15 years in the outplacement world and worked with hundreds of job seekers. On occasion, people would tell me they had no enthusiasm or excitement for the job they were being offered. They wondered what they should do. I replied with a simple question: if you are not looking forward to your first day on the job, how are you going to feel about your second day? And beyond? Then I encouraged them to explore what was getting in the way of excitement and anticipation for the new role. They would usually come back and tell me they realized there was a mismatch of their skills, interests, values and personal mission with the job and organizational culture. And, they always ended up turning down the role because they wanted to feel great about their job. In reflection, I see that they were using job fit as their selection process, which positioned them to be fully engaged.
So, I believe recruiters shouldn’t focus on assessments to predetermine engagement. Instead, they need to focus on hiring people who are self-aware of why they want to work at the organization, what they want from their work, what they offer employers and how the organization and the job match their interests, values and skills. Then once you’ve hired that candidate, give them the tools to be productive in reaching the organization’s goals as well as their own. Because after all, the strongest and most successful unions usually begin with good engagement.