HR and Recruiting

How to improve your employee engagement

Written by Eric Titner

Today’s corporate HR teams have a lot on their to-do lists—in addition to staffing and recruitment tasks, they’re often responsible for addressing a broad range of employee needs and maintaining strategic branding initiatives, all while working towards achieving a wide array of critical performance goals. Among the key metrics that are used to determine an HR team’s success is employee engagement, which measures how you’re sourcing and attracting potential candidates and whether or not you’re able to keep them engaged and interested throughout your HR pipeline. This includes both passive and active candidates, as well as new recruits and veteran employees.

Why is this so critical? Easy—in today’s hyper-competitive job market, which is full of aggressive and agile companies who are upping the ante and willing to do whatever it takes to attract top-tier talent to their teams, it can be a real challenge to break through the noise in your industry and get candidates interested in the idea of joining your team.

Bottom line: your company needs to develop a reputation for providing a great experience to potential candidates at all hiring levels and for maintaining it throughout their employment tenure. Also, it’s not good enough to focus all of your energy on initial engagement—if you want to keep potential candidates interested and get them to actually consider joining your team, you must keep them engaged throughout the entire process.

Your HR team should commit now to making sure that its entire recruitment marketing strategy is firing on all cylinders—that is, if maintaining a talent-rich HR pipeline is important to you. In today’s job climate, transparency matters, and nothing dulls your company’s sheen for a potential new hire quite like hearing about a disgruntled former candidate or employee who has chosen to be vocal about her or his poor experience.

Let’s take a closer look at the concept of candidate experience. For some seasoned or fledgling HR professionals, this may be a relatively new and abstract concept, but nonetheless it’s a critical one to master in an effort to get the best available industry talent for your team. The candidate experience comprises your EVP (Employee Value Proposition), which includes all of the benefits and incentives you offer current and prospective employees—from salaries to bonuses and additional compensation and every additional perk both big and small, as well as your employer brand, which includes your company’s mission, goals, purpose, culture, and attitudes and behaviors toward candidates and employees.

Your employer brand and EVP are your company’s “dynamic duo” when it comes to retaining (or losing) industry talent, so take them seriously. Like a magnet, a positive candidate experience will attract talent, and a negative one will repel them.

So, now that you’re aware of the importance of effective employee engagement, are you ready to take your company’s efforts to the next level? Great—let’s take a closer look at some proven strategies.

Organization is key

We’ve all been on the candidate side of the hiring coin at one point or another in our lives, and we all know the difference between a company with a cohesive and seamless hiring process and one that’s closer to disorganized chaos at every step—and it isn’t difficult to determine which one is better poised to offer positive employee engagement. Make sure your hiring process is an organized and well-oiled machine. This starts with clearly defined position requirements and well-executed and clear procedures for guiding candidates through the vetting process, and includes dedicated and helpful HR professionals to guide folks along the way. Remember, in many instances an HR representative will be the first point-of-contact and initial impression makers for your organization, and we all know how important and lasting first impressions can be. If a potential candidate gets a whiff of disorganized “red flags” behind your company curtain, she or he may decide that it’s not worth the effort to take your organization seriously.

Don’t waste time

There are two general philosophical approaches to the application and hiring process: 1) make it a dizzying, maze-like experience and see which candidates can survive it and make it through the other side in tact, or 2) make the process as easy and transparent as possible, saving time and effort on both ends. Which approach do you think will more effectively engage a top-tier candidate who may have a pick of jobs in their industry?

You guessed it. Keep candidate fatigue and attrition rates low and positive impressions of your organization high by making every step along the way as efficient and pain-free as possible. Your company career page should be clear and easy to find. Application instructions should be clear, direct, and to the point—aim to avoid an awkward and complicated application process with too many pages, clicks, and file restrictions. After you initially contact a candidate, don’t send them into a vortex of confusion by passing them from one person to another (to another). The bottom line here is that a candidate who isn’t frustrated by a difficult hiring process is much more likely to have a positive impression of your company. Bottom line: do whatever you can to keep candidates happy and interested.

Be transparent

In addition to eliminating the confusing hiring maze, help “keep the lights on” during the process by making things as transparent as possible. Don’t make staying engaged and updated during the application and hiring process similar to crawling through a dark tunnel.

Keeping candidates fully updated with helpful information throughout the hiring process will leave them engaged and satisfied, and will help reduce the number of email and phone questions your HR team receives from confused potential hires. In an ideal world, even if they’re not a perfect fit for a current open position they’ll remain in your HR pipeline and have goodwill toward your company if and when a new and more fitting job opens.

Showcase your company culture

A strong brand identity and culture is not only valuable in today’s job market, it’s also essential if you want to stand out in your industry. Today’s candidates care as much about the mission and philosophy of the companies they choose to work for as the individual perks and benefits, so you should strive to make sure that your corporate brand is designed to attract the level of talent and ability that you want in your pipeline.

And you can’t just fake it—savvy candidates will see right through false “marketing flavored” efforts and head in the other direction. Your company’s culture can’t just live in its marketing collateral or as a bullet point in a job ad. If you want to attract top-tier talent, your reputation and brand should be well-known throughout your industry and to potential hires (who will use this as a determining factor when deciding about whether or not to join your team), and should be backed up by evidence (photos and video are fantastic vehicles for telling your company’s story). Candidates who feel good about your mission and culture will be more excited and engaged, and will also be more eager to join your team.

Companies that are dedicated to attracting and retaining the best available talent know the secret lies in an effective employee engagement strategy. Use the tips and advice presented here to make sure your organization is doing everything it can to turn today’s talent-rich candidates to tomorrow’s team members.

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.