According to a recent Gallup poll, thirty percent or less than one-third of American workers describe themselves as “engaged” in their jobs and committed to their employers. A larger number, 54% percent, describe themselves as “disengaged” at work and not committed to their employers. These employees report feeling trapped in dull jobs and admit that they spend significant amounts of time researching alternative jobs. The final 16% define themselves as actively disengaged, often becoming organizational terrorists who intentionally sabotage other employee’s morale.
A University of Minnesota study of 1532 newly hired exempt employees reveals that “engaged” employees differ from “disengaged” employees from their first day of hiring. From the start, disengaged employees don’t emotionally commit to the organization into which they’ve been hired.
Employers can best ferret out commitment problems with a several stage talent acquisition process. We recommend that our clients initially email applicants fifteen to thirty non-discriminatory questions aimed at job fit, motivation and job satisfaction. Not only does an email questionnaire screen in or weed out great or poor applicants, the email questionnaire process also saves our employers time and effort by avoiding in-person interviews with applicants whose written responses show problems and applicants who lack sufficient work ethic and job-interest to respond to the email questionnaire.
Employees who interview wonderfully yet fail to live up to their promises generally fall into one of three categories – those not well-matched to a job; those who lie well and those who don’t know themselves well and so present a falsely positive picture of their skills and qualities. While interviewing often helps you decipher applicants who fall into the first category, only thorough reference checking helps you avoid the second two categories of poor hires.
Effective reference checking depends on your ability to get through to those who have the information you need. If an applicant offers you references from personal friends or coworkers rather than supervisory references, consider this a red flag. If you plan to supervise this employee and want the real scoop, you need to interview your prospective applicant’s past two or three supervisors.
Once you get the supervisor on the phone, ask questions that go beneath the surface. If you reach a supervisor who won’t talk or says company policies prohibit giving reference information, say ““Okay, there’s one interesting question that isn’t about the applicant but more about the supervisor” and then pause. I’ve never had a situation in which the supervisor didn’t say, “So, what’s the question?”
Then ask, “What type of supervisor would be the best match for this employee?” This question gleans answers such as “someone who doesn’t try to supervise,” “I know I’ve never met the person who might be right” and “Mother Theresa.”
Do you want to hire the right employee? Start with email questions, follow-up with probing in person questions and detailed reference checks. The gain – You find an engaged, committed employee that cares enough about your job to work hard and succeed.