Business, Success

The majority of the workforce is not engaged. It’s a well-known, widespread problem around the world.That means most of your employees are not emotionally involved or committed to your company today.

You’ve felt the frustration, heard the complaints and seen the steady stream of statistics: Gallup says a staggering 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. The Canada Human Resources Centre measures disengagement at 60% of Canadian employees, reporting that unhappy workers are costing North American businesses more than $350 billion annually in lost productivity.

In other words, we are facing a workforce engagement crisis. Failure to address this predicament now in an effective way could seriously jeopardize a company’s future.

So, what are most companies doing to stave off the devastating effects of disengagement in the workforce? For the most part, we have seen two trends: 1) The emergence of total rewards programs. These are programs designed to incent and motivate employees through compensation, benefits, work-life, performance & recognition, development & careers opportunities tied to time, talents and results. 2) The increase of motivational coaches. A cavalcade of experts, mentors and consultants are striding in to save the day with their special employee-focused programs, practices and inspirational keynotes.

But what if there was a third approach? What if, we started a little earlier, at the very beginning of the employment journey?

What if a real answer to optimizing workforce engagement and lasting loyalty lay in a brand-new approach to recruitment? Could a shift in perspective during the process of hiring new employees possibly, dare I say, save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in productivity every year? Let’s explore…

Rethinking the interview process and how we view experience

One of the biggest challenges a company faces is attracting the right people. Individuals who will meaningfully contribute to long-term business success. People, however, are unpredictable and complex, and that means recruiting can be a high-risk throw of the dice for organizations. Scanning for mirror image experience and exact-match skillsets on a resume doesn’t always work to successfully fill an open position. So why not take an alternate approach and focus on an applicant’s values and abilities instead? According to billionaire investor and philanthropist Ray Dalio, people are “unlikely to change much” so it’s important we become discerning and not necessarily rank experience over attitude and ‘aptitude’.

1. Focus more on values and abilities
Values and abilities are one of the most important identifiers of great candidates. They provide a rare window into future performance, revealing whether a candidate truly needs or wants the job. Are they passionate about your organization? Can they succeed, even when things might change? Do they fit well within your organizational culture? These are the questions you should be asking yourself before deciding on your shortlist.

According to Dalio, values (meaning the “deep-seated beliefs that motivate behaviors and determine people’s compatibilities with each other”) are the most important thing to look at when picking people for long-term relationships, including employment. Abilities (meaning the “ways of thinking and behaving”) come next — and skills are the least important of all. Yet many of us make the mistake of overlooking values and somehow abilities during the job interview phase.

How Thomas Edison saw spark in an otherwise unqualified job candidate

You may never have heard of Edwin Barnes. But at the turn of the past century he was famous for becoming Thomas Edison’s right hand man – the force behind the launch of the Ediphone. Barnes possessed no skills, experience or special inroads back in 1905 when he boldly approached one of the greatest inventors on the planet, making a brazen pitch to become his associate. He had no sales experience, no credibility and nothing on paper to substantiate his claims that he could take Edison’s business to the next level. But Thomas Edison looked beyond his lack of credentials, instantly impressed by his great ambition and internal drive. He recognized those special values and abilities – and assigned them more weight than what was on his “resume” at the time.

Edison took a chance on Barnes, initially hiring him as a floor sweeper. In less than two years later, Barnes had risen to become Edison’s principal sales associate. He started commercializing the Ediphone, a product that other people from the Edison organization doubted. More than a century later, we still talk about their partnership as one of the most powerful business associations of all times.

The Barnes Edison success story serves to illustrate that work experience is not always “the be all and end all”. While lack of work experience might be considered a “reasonable, logical and legitimate reason” for many employers not to proceed with a candidate, enlightened recruiters today are beginning to look beyond this. A lack of relevant work experience is, after all, not always ‘null experience’ (like the case of Edwin Barnes). This is especially the case when interviewing immigrant candidates who may have plenty of “experience”, but simply lack “Canadian experience”.

2. Flexibility around work experience

Oftentimes, hiring managers will demand something like “at least 3-5 years of experience in the field, and in the country.” This can be a big mistake. There is now a wave of newcomers in the talent pool with less than one year of experience here, but perhaps 5 years of experience overseas in the same capacity. These new Canadians are likely to be motivated, successful individuals simply looking to be given a chance. Don’t miss a golden opportunity to find out more about these dedicated individuals. They might be a good fit for your organization.

Many employers are impeded by a restricted view of who the best candidate should be. Sadly, they miss the opportunity to bring on board the next company hero. For those who can break through from their limiting beliefs, a whole new pool of potential talent becomes available.

Maybe these people lack the requisite skills to do the job they applied for at this time? But, with a little training, could they qualify in a few months? Could there be an alternative role in your company to start them in? With a little investment, could they develop requisite skills and serve your organization proudly, passionately and productively for many years to come?

Recruiting a tech superstar who didn’t look good on paper

Recently, I had a client ask me to help them find a tech expert. The requirements for the job were simple: X amount of years of experience in North America plus the typical expertise and technology skillsets
Bill was a great candidate, so I put him forward. He immediately demonstrated confidence and passion about the work by preparing an animated intro about himself. He knew what he wanted to accomplish and had a “burning desire” to succeed. Bill was undeniably ‘skilled’; however, I knew he did not possess the typical North American work experience that the employer was seeking.
After a quick review of Bill’s profile, my client responded: “Bill seems smart, but It might be difficult for him because he doesn’t have enough experience in North America”
Knowing the greater importance of “fit”, I decided to go to bat for Bill. I pointed out how he was not only smart, but also customer-focused, a fast thinker, data-oriented and someone who really knows what the work is about. How he also appears to be very driven and enthusiastic about the opportunity and the company.
In short, I recommended that they give him a chance because his values aligned with their organization. My client ended up trusting my words. They met with Bill and made him an offer immediately.
After one full year in the role, Bill is now considered a super-star employee. Knowledgeable, creative, well-liked and fully aligned with the organization, he has become a totally engaged and productive member of the team.
What’s more, Bill’s values and drive have helped the company to better serve and retain some of their largest clients. This highly engaged employee is undeniably contributing to the success of the organization and is likely to do so for years to come.
While workforce engagement remains a challenge, with a fresh approach to recruiting it is no longer impossible to achieve. Those hiring managers who take a different view and bring new people on board who share values and abilities that align with the company culture– regardless of their skillsets and direct experience — will likely have the best success.

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