Engagement: Start with the Best Ingredients

In his book Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude, author Mark Murphy quantifies what most hiring managers and leaders sense: new hires wash out more often because of attitude problems than skill deficits. In fact, Murphy’s research of over 20,000 new hires gives us some insight about what’s going on:

  • 46% of all new hires fail with the first 18 months
  • 89% of the failures were based on attitude problems; only 11% because of skill deficits

What kind of things fall into the bucket called attitude problems? According to Murphy, attitude problems include those who demonstrate little emotional intelligence or internal motivation, or possess a temperament that stifles performance. Oh, and Murphy would add something else: those new hires with permanent attitude problems did not improve with coaching or feedback.

What does this have to do with employee engagement? Engagement starts with you, the leader. First, if you want engaged employees, you have to be personally engaged. Second, if you want engaged employees, start with the best ingredients:  hire only those who possess the right attitude.

I’m NOT saying if you’re hiring a pilot, candidates DON’T need a pilot’s license. I’m NOT saying if you need lawyer, candidates DON’T need to pass the BAR. I’m NOT saying if you need an accountant, candidates DON’T need to be CPAs. Every job has minimum knowledge and skill requirements, so of course you wouldn’t hire a circus clown to be Chief of Oncology at your hospital just because the clown had a great attitude.

But as a leader, you can coach new hires in doing the right work in the right way. Most people who fall in the decidedly average IQ range can quickly learn policies, procedures and protocols. However, only you in your hiring manager role can ensure that the price of admission in your department includes hiring only those with the very best can-do/will-do attitude, and hiring only those who are receptive to feedback and coaching.

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