Gayle Watson, V.P. Of People Ink answers questions about employee engagement and organizational culture.
Employee Engagement and Management Practices.
Question: Lately I’ve been reading about employee engagement at work and strategies to help promote employee engagement. To me some employees seem more motivated about doing a good job and it’s not really a management issue. Do you think an engaged workforce is up to management or is it that some people are just more engaged because of the innate personal qualities they have such as integrity?
“Fundamentally, you have to have the right people working for you”
Gayle: Well, it’s both, but most importantly employee engagement comes down to hiring the right people, the people that reflect the Values of your organization. Of course you can do things to reinforce employee engagement, but fundamentally you have to have the right people and if you don’t have the right people, then you won’t be able to engage them. There is a saying, that you can teach a squirrel to fly, but it’s easier to hire the eagle. Hiring “A” players is one of the most important things leaders can do. “A” players not only have the technical skills required but also demonstrate company Values such as integrity that you mention. When you start out seeking to fill your organization with “A” players the job of employee engagement gets much easier compared to trying to re-train workers or introduce new engagement strategies.
Leaders are also important and must be first to live the Values because they are the ones who drive the values. Once you understand that, and hire the right people you are on the way to creating your organizational culture by design.
Question: Is employee engagement a simple matter of hiring the right people?
Gayle: As I mentioned, hiring “A” players is the most important single thing, yet leaders also need to reinforce the culture by appropriately recognizing and rewarding employees who consistently demonstrate the Values and Behaviors every day. Leaders must “walk the talk” and make managerial and business decisions based on the Values. The best companies take an active and visible role in employee engagement.
How do you spot engaged employees?
Question: How do you go about finding engaged people from a brief job interview?
Gayle: It can be done through a process called behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interviewing has been around for a long time and is based on the principle: past behavior predicts future behavior. We advocate that you must incorporate hiring for Values. But first you define your values behaviorally, and then you incorporate the search for people who have those values and behaviors into your interview and recruiting process. Behavioral interviewing involves asking very specific questions about how a candidate handled certain situations. What we look for is actual behaviors not theoretical ones. With a little training in asking questions and digging for examples you get a much better understanding of a candidate’s history than relying only on technical skills and gut feel.
As an example: If one of your Values is “Integrity”, then you would ask behavioral questions around integrity and around the behaviors you expect. For example a behavioral question might be “Give me an example of a decision you made where you put your job on the line”. The answer to that question will reflect a real life example of how this person acts on integrity.
I’ve only briefly touched upon this topic today but if you’re interested all of this and more is contained in the book, Built on Values: creating an enviable culture that outperforms the competition, by Ann Rhoades.