Every major organisation today in some way measures employee engagement. We know that engagement is important, it leads to greater satisfaction for the individual, a better experience for customers and greater productivity for the business. I don’t think that anyone would debate that engagement is not critical to success.

The 2013 Gallup Engagement Survey collected data from 180 million employees across 142 countries and found that only 13% of employees were engaged, 24% totally disengaged (think of having SEEK as their home page) and the remaining 63% were floating between being engaged and totally disengaged. So 87% of people working in organisations were neither here nor there about doing a great job, 8.7 out of 10 are either thinking about something else or tunnelling their way out of the organisation. Great statistics, but bad news in anyone’s language.

Traditional approaches to post survey results is for a consultant or HR practitioner to get the team together, share the results, establish insights and build an action plan to improve results. All good stuff but based on the Gallup figures most of this effort could be a waste of time, at the very least for the 13% already out the door.

The problem with measuring engagement and then increasing the gym allowance, and putting Krispy Kreme Donuts in the lunchroom is that it’s already too late, the fox is in the hen house. The measures around culture and fit are not strong enough or done early enough, such as on the way into the organisation. Yes good organisations are having existing team member’s interview potential new hires but the let’s face it, we all can bend the truth when we want the role or we need the positioned filled. At times managers can be keen to get started and don’t want to do a deep dive to find the person they have fallen in love with, long term won’t work. And when you think about it, is 2-3 interviews really going to test long term fit and engagement of an individual. At best, short of being clairvoyant it has to be luck.

Now I know that there are some organisations doing it really well, and some individuals are highly rigorous in questioning beyond the brand but what the Gallup results are telling us, most of us have room to improve.

Here’s the 9 things I recommend, looking at this from a manager who is recruiting. If you’re an individual going for a new role, look at these elements from the other side

Be very clear on the business skills you want and don’t want. We tend to identify the skills we want but what about the ones you don’t want? Make sure you’re specific
Describe the organisation easily and clearly. Someone who is ambitious will not last in an organisation bogged down with red tape.
Describe the culture and style within the team, simply and clearly
Describe your preferred working style and what styles challenge you
Psycho-metrically profile the individual, at worst you’re opening the Xmas presents before Xmas.
When contacting referees don’t just ask generic or role related questions. Ask questions you’ve already formed from interviews, use the information from the personality profiles to see to what extent their strengths played out and how they derailed themselves.
Ensure someone who is totally remote and objective sits in on an interview, their insights can be incredibly valuable.
Ensure you conduct a review of their digital footprint. Investigate what they are posting and liking, all these clues go to support personality and character.
Be straight up about the role, the team, the organisation and the culture. It would be better to lose someone up front rather than get them in only to have them ask “where’s the job I applied for?”.

Some of these methods may seem over the top but wouldn’t it be better to know if there is a likelihood of engagement and high performance before you begin? I’m not suggesting these methods replace a manager’s intuition but again the worst case is that it confirms your knowing and expertise, and you may avoid marrying the wrong person.

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