You know what’s even better than fixing a problem? Preventing it in the first place.

While it’s great to address low levels of employee engagement in the workplace, it’s also a limited view of the problem. You don’t just want to connect with employees who aren’t engaged.

You want to engage them from the get-go. I’m talking as early as possible, even before you hire them, if you can.

Why? Because engaged employees care deeply about their work and want to contribute, while actively disengaged employees can have negative effects on your company and your working environment.

Because you don’t want to sabotage yourself right at the start by bringing in employees who don’t care.

Here are five tactics you can use today to improve employee engagement from the beginning:

1. Develop a Solid Online Presence

Did you know you aren’t just advertising to potential customers? And that goes for your social media, your side projects, etc. If it’s online, future employees will likely find it.

That is your first impression.

And that’s great! This is a chance to share your company’s vision with people who might share it. And if they decide to apply for a job, all the better!

So how do you make your online presence work for you? Here are some pointers:

  • Use LinkedIn. This is a big one for several reasons. As a career-oriented social media network, it’s a great place to showcase your company and give job seekers a glimpse of what it might be like to work for you. You can announce accomplishments, share profiles of experts on your team, and create opportunities for your employees to share work-related news without worrying about compromising company information.
  • Develop your other social media. LinkedIn is great, but you can also use other social media platforms that make sense for your industry like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to convey what your company believes, as well as the kind of work you’re doing.
  • Make your company goals and values easy to find. If you want to attract employees who share your values, then make it as easy as possible for them to seek you out. Make sure your mission statement is available, and that your company’s vision is clear just from looking at your website. Make it easy for interested individuals to do their research.

2. Use Interviews to Make a Good First Impression

Imagine you go on a date.

Imagine it’s a date with someone really awesome.

You’re both passionate about saving the whales and square dancing!

What could possibly go wrong?

And then you show up and they ask you what kind of traffic sign you would be and why. Also, what was your name again?

Yikes. We know that that’s one way to kill enthusiasm, so why would we risk treating interviewees that way?

Instead, start engaging employees before they’re really yours at all. Here’s how:

  • Remember who you’re talking to. This person could be your next co-worker. Try not to let traditional interview formats and awkward questions get in the way of having a normal human interaction. If you want them to be friendly and respectful later, then you should be friendly and respectful right now.
  • Let them interview you. You aren’t the only one who wants to make sure that this job is a good fit. Besides, you want to hire someone who really cares about what your company values and does. Encourage them to ask more about it! It should at least show if they’ve done their research or not.
  • Revamp your interview practices. Do your interview questions align with what your company values? If you want potential employees to believe those values are important to you later, start incorporating them now.

3. Select the Right Person for the Job

While I know it’s pretty obvious, choosing someone who fits well with your company values and the position in question is an important factor in whether they’ll stay engaged or not.

But how do you know when you’ve found your people? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Consider “Corporate Culture Fit.” Take this with a grain of salt. Companies like Zappos use unique questions and activities to interview and hire employees who fit in well with their company culture. It’s not a bad idea—just be careful you’re not sacrificing diversity or competency for the sake of picking someone who’s “one of us.”
  • Look at your trends. The rationale for hiring someone can vary from position to position. While tradition leans toward picking people from top schools, you might find that your best hires all have experience in agriculture. Or enjoy talking with people. Or want to run their own businesses someday. You get the idea.  Find what works, and stick with it.

Look for self-motivated people. Employee-engagement is a two-way street: even if you provide a great work environment, it’s still up to your employees to do their jobs and do them well. Create less stress for yourself by hiring individuals who show initiative and push themselves to complete projects without being asked.

4. Don’t Kill Motivation—Especially on Day One

So you’ve hired someone who seems like a great fit. Congratulations!

But don’t forget about the first day of work.

Starting a new job can be exciting, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming. While there can be a lot to learn—and a lot of guidelines and paperwork to hand out—you want to be careful not to kill your new co-worker’s enthusiasm right when they start.

You’ll want to avoid doing these two things:

  • Piling on the paperwork. I’m not saying you shouldn’t fill out all the proper documentation—that still needs to happen. Just don’t pile it on as part of Day 1 if you can help it. If possible, send your new employee a formal offer letter, and have them send a signed acceptance back to you. Once that’s done, you can send them their I-9, which they can fill out before they come in for their first day. When they come in, they turn it in, nice and easy, and have one less thing to get them to distract them from their job.
  • Dropping “bad” news. I’m more concerned about the timing here than anything else. It’s best to be up front about things like 90-day probationary periods before the first day, so they know what they’ve signed up for. But at least don’t drop it on them right after they’ve had a nice lunch with their new co-workers.

5. Give New Employees Direction

Fantastic. You hired a great fit, their paperwork’s all taken care of, and you got through the first day. That’s wonderful.

But you’re not done yet.

Even if you’ve hired some serious go-getters, you need to make sure you give them the tools they need to do their job. Poor training, missing supplies, and broken equipment can mean that less work gets done, and frustrated employees are less interested in doing it.

Here’s how to help:

  • Provide a guide for new employees. I mean something beyond your average employee handbook. This should contain the vital information for their particular position, whether it’s the phone numbers they’ll most need or your customers’ most frequently asked questions.
  • Make sure resources are accessible. If your file system, paper or digital, is a mess, then how can you expect new employees to find what they need? Bonus: streamlining and organizing your files should make it easier for everyone to find things.
  • Empower them through cross-training. If they’re going to be working in more than one area (e.g. departments in a store), make sure they receive the relevant training. The more they know, the more helpful they can be, to customers and to their team.

Bonus Round

One of the nice things about engaging employees right at the start is how it can affect the rest of your operations.

When you put up good content online, you give your employees something to take pride in. By bringing in competent employees who are invested in what they do, you improve the general working environment. And making upgrades to your system helps get resources and training to those who really need it.

Taking care of your new employees can help you take care of all of your employees.

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

What about your experience? What have you tried in your hiring practices or in transitioning new employees? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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