Is Your Engagement Problem Really a Hiring Problem?

Is Your Engagement Problem really a Hiring Problem?

Your employees aren’t engaged. Don’t get me wrong: they’re responsible and good at what they do, but they aren’t engaged in much beyond what’s necessary. So, you implement leadership development programs and have your employees fill out engagement surveys in an attempt to find the problem. Often when you dig deeper, you’ll find your engagement problem is really a hiring problem.

It’s all about who you let in the door. You’re simply hiring the wrong people to succeed within your culture.

You’re hiring for the wrong reasons

You may be hiring to put a bum in the seat. You’re not hiring a true behavioural and personality trait match to your company.

Managers focus so much of their hiring requirements on education, technical skills, and experience and aren’t putting enough emphasis on behaviours, traits, or soft skills. You generally don’t fire a graphic designer because they can’t draw. In most cases, termination occurs if the employee doesn’t collaborate effectively with others, act and make decisions in line with what’s best for the company, or treat others with honesty, fairness, and respect.

Tips to help you hire the right people:

Define behaviours and personality traits that characterize your work culture

If you’re not clear on what those current traits are, create an interview strategy that includes standard questions that are asked at each interview. To help accomplish this, look around your company and name the success traits that are common to people that do well in your culture or search for competencies that high performing employees share regardless of what position they have. For example:

  • Collaboration
  • Empathy – one of the key drivers of employee engagement.
  • Passion
  • Curiosity – This is a big one. You want an employee that is excited, observant, and constantly seeks new information. 

Build in behavioural based interviewing

Use this for prospective employees so you can extract those behaviours and personality traits specific to your organization.

Consider your referral count

Getting referrals from current employees is an economical recruiting strategy with a high rate of success. Employees who enter a firm as a referral tend to be more engaged, a better fit and show higher levels of retention.

Have a peer participate in the interview process

It can make the interviewee feel more comfortable and will give them an idea what their peers will be like if they get the job.

Get people to take personal accountability for their own engagement

It’s not always about leadership.  It may serve you well to be clear with employees that they are expected to share in the responsibility of their own engagement. That waiting for management or the company culture to do something for them is not a proactive response. Encourage employees to continuously ask themselves what they are doing to improve their situation so the stats shown at the beginning of this post can improve. If an employee is simply miserable at work because they don’t fit, it would serve them well to understand that sometimes you can’t change everything around you, but you can make a decision to part ways with your company.


It’s important that an employee’s behaviour and personality traits are parallel to that of the rest of the company. Technical skills and experience are fundamental but it’s just as important, if not more so to hire people based on their personality traits and soft skills.

You'll save yourself from some costly hiring mistakes if you remember to engage the PERSON and not just the EMPLOYEE.

Sarah Visca
Sarah Visca is the Operations Manager at ConnectsUs HR, a company that provides tools & resources to quickly set up a Human Resources department.  
You can contact her here