Employee Engagement

Employee engagement begins well before employment.

Back in the day, Ben Peternell spent a lot of Harrah’s money on PhD types, researching leading indicators of employee success for front-of-the-house casino jobs. One of the findings was to ask this question during the job interview: “Can you tell me a good joke?” It correlated well with prospects who enjoyed customer interaction.

Aside from getting the interviewer a repertoire of “A man walks into a bar…” jokes, it also began to engage the applicant with the work of the business, from the first encounter.

When I applied for marketing work at Procter & Gamble, the second interview concluded with a job offer and an invitation to a Friday-night party of Brand Assistants. When we hired a chef for the Donner Lake planning center, his interview was cooking a meal to meet the criteria we’d set for feeding business executives. Our client in the arts and crafts industry invites applicants to sit down and tackle a crafts project using their products, along with a little coaching from one of the staff crafters. And so it goes, inviting job applicants into the business culture right from the start.

The Economist* reports on Korn Ferry survey findings that “firms mostly fail to motivate the majority of their workers,” ~ 34% engaged. They refer to a forthcoming book** that “the most important factors in employee engagement are whether employees understand what is expected of them, feel they are surrounded by supportive colleagues and believe they will be recognized when they perform well.”

More recently, while researching jobs in Vancouver, Washington (Portland area), my son found a business that’s leapfrogged these findings, the jokes, parties and crafting during job interviews. Enter Adpearance***, with this job posting:

Required Qualifications. You are our ideal digital advertising specialist if:

  1. You have a history of success. We love data, so bring your results. What was the challenge, why was the goal impossible, and how did you beat it?

  2. You are organized. Things don’t slip through the cracks on your watch. You have opinions about the right way to make a list and it shows. People know they can count on you to deliver.

  3. You have an unrelenting attention to detail. We can count on you to deliver error-free work on a consistent basis. And if you make the odd mistake, we don’t have to punish you, because you already feel worse than we do.

  4. You get things done. Issues are addressed before they become problems. You’ve heard the phrase, “Wow, you’re fast” more than a couple of times.

  5. You communicate clearly and effectively. You are just as comfortable presenting in person as writing an email. You understand people and they understand you.

The competition for warm bodies is fierce in many markets. Competition for engage-able team members is even more intense. Apparently Adpearance has discovered that transparency on their culture, honesty about expectations and hiring to a set of standards initiates engagement from even the first encounter with their business, before the interview. I hope my son works with them. I’m intrigued to learn more about creating a high-performing culture by using the hiring process as a cultural filter.


* The Economist February 16, 2019

** Nine Lies About Work, A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real world, by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.


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