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The hidden link between new hires and employee engagement


Employee engagement (whether with tenured employees or new hires) continues to be top of mind for business leaders in The Great Resignation era, where retention is crucial in the war on talent.

Actively disengaged employees are not as productive or happy as their engaged counterparts. If they’re not feeling motivated or willing to give 100%, that’s not good for your bottom line. Checked-out employees aren’t great for company morale or recruiting talent, either.

What’s the solution? It’s clear that when you work to develop a highly engaged workforce, they’ll be happier, healthier and more dedicated to making your business thrive.

But did you know that the link between employee engagement and your bottom line starts long before an employee begins their first day at your company?

The way you handle hiring and onboarding – from interviews, to the offer, to their first day – sets the tone for how engaged employees may be down the road.

In other words: engage employees from the start and keep them engaged by creating a culture of learning, development, purpose and high performance.

Here’s how:

1. Double-check your foundation

To ensure that you’re engaging employees from the start (even when they’re still in the potential employee phase), make sure that anything you share on a job posting or during interviews is reflected in your people strategy.

Why? Down the road, your employees will look back at how you “sold” the company culture. The question you’ll want to be answer with a definite yes is, “Does our employee experience match the employee value proposition we share with job candidates?”

2. Show job candidates their value

It’s easy to feel like just a number in a sea of job candidates, especially at a large organization. But no one wants to be an anonymous cog in a machine.

In particular, millennials and Gen-Z workers, perhaps more so than preceding generations, crave purpose in their work.

Plant the seeds of employee engagement early. This is especially important in a workforce where some candidates may very likely be interviewing for a hybrid or remote position.

Regardless of their location, show candidates (and in this case really any employee) that they’re valued by:

  • Focusing on how they can make a meaningful contribution to your company’s mission
  • Sharing the ways your company supports employee development (such as trainings and leadership pathways)
  • Be courteous of their time – this can look like responding promptly or not putting them through weeks of interviews

3. Guide them step by step

A lot of time may pass between that first interview and the first day at work.

Don’t leave your job candidates hanging and wondering what’s going on – that’s a recipe for anxiety and may give future employees the impression that your company doesn’t care much about them as individuals.

Communicate often to keep them in the loop about the process. For example:

  • The status of a background check
  • Next steps in the hiring process
  • When to expect a job offer
  • Agendas for their first day/week of work

Once hired, greet new employees on their first day, in person or on the phone if they’re working remotely, and guide them step-by-step through the transition.

It pays to take the onboarding process seriously. When you show job candidates you value their time and are looking out for them, they’re likely to carry those feelings on with them into employment.

4. Keep it going with a high-engagement work culture

Once candidates successfully make the transition to employee, it’s important to keep up the momentum.

A growing body of research shows that organizations that engage their employees have:

  • Better customer engagement
  • Higher productivity
  • Better retention
  • Fewer accidents
  • Higher profitability
  • Healthier employees

5 tips for prioritizing employee engagement with new hires

Employee engagement is a moving target. You’ll want to reassess your efforts on a continual basis to accommodate new workplace trends. Use these tips to get started.

1. Zero in on your employees’ interests

Where do they see themselves in the next year, two years, five years? What skills do they need to hone in on or develop to get there? Work to understand their vision and do what you can to get them there.

This can include personal interests, as well. In a post-pandemic workforce especially, employees value work-life balance and want their leaders to as well. If you prioritize learning about their interests outside of work, you can build trust that will carry over into their work.

Think about a time that you have started a new job and someone in leadership took a moment to learn about your life outside of work – familiarity can go a long way! 

2. Create opportunities for engagement in everything you do

It’s in your one-on-ones with employees. It’s in your monthly team meetings. It’s in the quarterly company meetings you hold to discuss the company’s goals, and how employees contribute to them. New hires want to see:

  • Recognition given
  • Growth opportunities
  • Flexibility (in environment and in leadership)
  • Team-building activities

3. Be open to feedback

With the rise of remote work, rewarding and recognizing employees in person might not always be possible. But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the kudos.

A 2022 survey conducted by Flexjobs reports that 42% of people quit because of burnout. Burnout is something that can go hand in hand with disengagement. So, even if your company is facing larger business challenges or is feeling short staffed, engagement should still be a priority. Consider asking your team what engagement means to them?

You can propose:

  • Do you want to connect more or less via video?
  • How do you like to be recognized? One-on-one, in a group setting, in email, etc.?
  • What types of rewards do you value?
    • Public recognition
    • Small gifts in the mail
    • Extra time off
    • A private note

4. Promote work-life balance

Policies that help new hires and tenured employees manage their non-work responsibilities and have a rich home life are likely to increase employee engagement.

These aspects not only make top workers’ wish list, but are becoming increasingly standard to attract and retain talent in today’s job market:

  • Competitive compensation and benefits
  • Flexible hours
  • The option to work remotely
  • Ample vacation time

5. Launch an employee referral program

Some of the most engaged employees with the highest retention rates come from employee referrals.

They’re often a better cultural fit for companies, because employees usually refer like-minded people from similar backgrounds.

Plus, when referred employees join the company as new hires, they have built in connections, easing their transition.

The bottom line

It’s easy to see how employee engagement and your bottom line are linked. Highly engaged employees are more productive, they stick around, they represent the company better, they deliver more to the customer and, ultimately, they provide a greater return on investment.

Although re-engagement of tenured employees is sometimes impossible to avoid, you can reduce the need by prioritizing the engagement of new hires from the start.

Learn more about how to develop highly engaged and productive employees. Download our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.