The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

Recruiting Engagement

Recruiting Engagement

Mar 23, 2011

So, I used to write this blog for me.  Honestly, I could have cared less that anyone was reading it.  It has been a great exercise for almost 6 years – forcing me to continuously thing and read and research.  I’ve enjoyed writing over 1000 posts and think of it as a fairly significant achievement.  But I’m quite honestly tired of it.  I no longer do it for me, and I don’t have the time or energy to invest in doing the twitter thing, or networking with other bloggers – all the things that seem to make for successful blogs these days.  It’s just not fun at the moment.

I was watching a recent HBR video1 that did talk about emotion as one of the critical drivers of success.  He pointedly asserted that “working harder” was in no way a meaningful path to achieving higher performance.  Instead, the right people in the right jobs who were emotionally invested would create success (note that he didn’t call it engagement, but that’s what it is).  He also noted that this involvement of emotion in the equation seemed to have a balance between work and play.  That is not to say that people “play” at work, but that emotionally, the work was fun.  I’ll admit that I often do have fun at work.  I enjoy my projects and I enjoy creating.  But I think that many of us have people in top positions in our organizations that are not truly having fun.

This is an interesting departure from prior discussion of engagement.  Where before we could always create engagement, in this scenario, “fun,” emotional investment seems to be created more from within than anything we in HR can do.  What HR can do is put people in the right jobs in the first place, and then our employees have a chance at this concept of fun and play.  That the significant part of the engagement equation actually lies in selection and job placement before any of our engagement surveys or tools is deployed is a bit troubling.  After all, we don’t measure our recruiters on engagement or fit to position.  We’d like to think they are thinking in those terms, but we are measuring our recruiters on fill rates and time.

I do genuinely love what I do.  I think I’m good at it, and I find the work quite interesting.  My clients generally like me with the occasional exception.  I think I may be one of the lucky ones.  In my last 2 jobs, I’m pretty sure there weren’t positions open for me.  I happened to finagle my way into chatting with the right person, and they’d find a way to get me into the organization.  Most people tend to interview for jobs, have to take the job that they are offered that matches what they need to get paid.  The hope is that their skills, compensation threshold, and interests all collide at the same time, but realistically that’s unlikely, isn’t it?  Our gatekeepers are our recruiters.  We need to do a better job of not only measuring fit from a skills and income perspective, but also from an emotional interest perspective.  Our employees who are going to succeed are going to do so not because we figured out how to engage them, but because we got the right person in the right job and gave them the best opportunity to inspire themselves.


  1. Harvard Business Publishing Videocast, The Path to Peak Performance.  Dr. Edward Hallowell. [back]

3 comments

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading this article very much. It transpires honesty and passion for what you do and the need to do it in the best possible manner to allow “the right person in the right job to inspire themselves”. It’s something admirable as you do have a mission and I truly hope you accomplish it with all your projects. By the way, you started off saying you’re tired of blogging, are you going to stop? Hope not! Regards, Laura

  2. Bill Kutik /

    Kenexa says they have an assessment test to measure a candidates potential to become engaged! Isn’t that amazing?

  3. I think it’s about time we as an industry took a more critical view of engagement – not rejecting it but instead understanding the inherent limitations.

    A few thoughts, not prioritized in any meaningful manner:

    1) There is little agreement about what comprises ‘engagement’. I think it’d be pretty uncontroversial to note that it’s a construct but what are the key underlying variables?
    2) Given we can’t agree on what it is then measurement becomes difficult
    3) Current measurement – mainly broad surveying – isn’t terribly sophisticated
    4) There is painfully little academic research into the subject. It’s practitioner led with arguably the most vocal proponents the survey firms (Gallup etc) who sell surveys. Even they don’t seem to hold a consistent view on the construction
    5) There is little research that shows causal links. There is some evidence to show associations – many in HR seem to have concluded that correlation indicates causation
    6) Different people are engaged by different things, but rarely have I seen needs-based segmentation on survey results which would seem a natural thing to do given the presence of clusters
    7) HR realistically has little influence over the majority of the drivers. Staking it’s value on such a wooly concept seems foolish.

    After over a decade of crunching data and trying to measure employees’ relationships and perceptions of/between their job, employer and career my own personal conviction is that we would be better focusing on employee experience and applying well defined and resilient customer experience management techniques (there is here significant association and again strong links with financial performance). Of course if you create great experiences you probably create ‘engagement’ but experiences can be measured and therefore managed far more concretely. (I wrote recently about HR-related employee experiences: http://www.organizationview.com/multi-channel-experience-in-HR-delivery.)

    The framework that I personally use is based around a broad-based utility curve (including, for example things such as identity economics) where employees try to optimise a variety of trade-offs. Techniques such as discrete choice are important for understanding why employees behave as they do. The whole area of personnel economics, especially the writings of folk like Van Reenen at LSE and Bloom at Stanford I find hugely appealing.

    Way back when we both started blogging (2004) I wrote a post called ‘how people come to leave’. I would certainly refine it with more recent perspectives but the core point is good (http://resourcingstrategies.blogspot.com/2004/12/how-people-come-to-leave.html). Whilst not explicitly engagement related the dynamic nature of engagement over time can be seen from this.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Recruiting Engagement - [...] was watching a recent HBR video1 that did talk about emotion as one of the critical drivers of success.  …
  2. Engaged? Let’s get married « West : People Matters - [...] my uneasiness with how engagement is currently constructed and measured on the SystematicHR site (http://systematichr.com/?p=1816). Many of my concerns …
  3. Talent Acquisition Strategy Engagement - HR Tech Central - [...] HR MARCH 23, 2011 Recruiting Engagement Instead, the right people in …

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