When does employee engagement begin?  Does it grow slowly over time, or is it a product of the developing relationship between employee and employee?  Does it start from the moment you step over the work threshold as an employee or does it emerge fully fledged once you have completed your induction? 

In this second article in a series looking at the way HR can influence organisational culture and employee engagement I’m going to be focusing in on the start of the recruitment process.  The way in which recruitment is handled can make the difference between a job sitter and an engaged employee who will enhance the organisational culture.  And HR is in that process every step of the way. 

Looking back at my original question, the answer I believe is that employee engagement starts way back at the beginning of the process.  From the first moment when the decision is taken to fill a vacancy the clock starts to tick.  And in those first few moments the role can be made or broken.  Anecdotal evidence says that employers are getting better at defining roles but in far too many instances they still don’t spend enough time in scoping personal qualities, reporting lines, what the employee is expected to bring to the role and the development of that role.

And here we come to the subject of hiring for cultural fit.  Much has been written about this area of recruitment but there is still a basic misunderstanding in many firms.  Hiring for cultural fit does not mean hiring a clone, someone with the same personality and qualifications and outlook.  Indeed, studies have shown that the richer and more varied the workforce mix, the better the organisation can innovate and serve its customers.  Hiring for cultural fit simply means choosing people who have the same values and beliefs, who can embrace the belief and behaviour model of the organisation and enrich and enhance it in the process.

This is where the HR team can strongly influence the process.  The accounts department may be crying out for a qualified x who can start immediately but it is up to HR to moderate their demands and instead work with them to define the type of person who would bring the most to the role.  There is absolutely no point in taking on the most qualified candidate if they are going to upset others in the team and ride roughshod over the carefully nurtured customer care programme. 

This brings us on to the next step in the process, the job advert and selecting candidates for interview.  Now is the time to be creative.  If you want someone social, advertise in social media.  If you want someone who will fit into the team, ask the team if they know anyone who may be suitable.  And if you want someone who will put customer care ahead of clock watching then make sure that is clear in the advert.  Most importantly, don’t then hand the applications over to someone who will weed out candidates purely on qualification or background or any criteria other than those qualities which you have already identified.

Get the process right and you are well on the way to selecting a candidate who will be a force for good in the organisation.  Get it wrong and you’ll soon be parting company with someone who may be very qualified but is just not right for the culture of the organisation.  And the failure won’t be theirs, it will be yours.   In the next article I’ll be looking at the next steps in the process; the interview and the induction programme which if handled well will add up to helping your new and already engaged employee to step on board with a smile.