top of page

How to Keep Employees Engaged at Work: Hire The Right People

"Do not rush the hiring process if you don't want to do it twice."-Nancy Mae Simpson

Businesses are focused on employee engagement but the process really needs to start at the beginning. A strategic and structured hiring process is critical to onboarding the right people and keeping them. If you want to know how to keep employees engaged at work, start by hiring the right people. in this article we will look at 5 steps that are essential in hiring for engagement and retention.

What is Employee Engagement and Why Does it Matter?

Employee engagement is how much your staff aligns with the vision of your business and wants to execute it with you, because they feel inspired and validated when they are at work.

It’s much more than showing up for a paycheck, the friends they hang out with at break or the perks of the benefits package. Employee engagement is the emotional commitment that motivates employees to blow past the minimum and strive for excellence in their positions.

Engagement in your business leads to measurable results including increased productivity, higher product quality, better customer relationship and improved employee retention. The take home benefits are seen as tangible metrics that are the return on the investment your in people.

Disengagement happens in degrees. It can show up as staff who aren’t motivated to go beyond the minimum at work (not engaged) or worse, those who don’t want to be there at all (actively disengaged). How do you know what is going? Disengaged staff do the following:

  • take more sick days,

  • procrastinate before completing tasks,

  • skip important steps,

  • make more mistakes

  • aren’t concerned about customer satisfaction or the big picture

  • get into conflicts with managers and team mates

  • steal time

Employees who are not engaged are also more likely to job hop and leave their positions for you to fill again. All of these costs add up to significant financial loss. How much money are we talking about?

What is the Cost Of Disengagement

A disengaged employee costs your company $3400 per $10 000 paid in salary

If you employ 100 people (paying an average salary of $40 K), this could be costing you $204,000 per year (since 15% of employees globally are disengaged).

Not only do disengaged employees cost money to retain, but to replace an employee who leaves costs anywhere from $4000 to 150 000, depending on their position.

This means your company (if you employ 100 people) is burning through a total of $334 000 per year from staff who don't want to be at work.

These numbers clearly demonstrate that when recruiting new staff, it is critical to look for people who are going to be excited to do what you are bringing them on board to do and who are going to want to stay. So how do you hire the right people for engagement? The following outlined steps are some ways to start.

5 Steps For Hiring Employees For Engagement and Retention

Recruit High Quality Applicants

Be specific in the recruitment ad you post to attract the exact employees that you want. It’s important to be transparent about expectations, qualifications and job description details. Also, make sure to post in the right places. For example, professional sites versus general labour recruitment depending on your needs.

Employees who just want any job and who don’t fully understand the position they are walking into, will not be motivated towards excellence and rarely stay long term.When it comes to hiring, know your bottom line qualifiers for candidates and scrap every application that doesn’t meet them.

Check The Initial Fit In-person

After finding some qualified applicants, next comes the interview. When a candidate walks in the door or joins you on zoom call, immediately start to figure out if they are going to fit with your company’s vibe by slowing down the chat.

Take some time to make it personal. Greet them, engage in conversation and learn a little bit about them to get a sense of who they are before the formal questions.

Are they going to mesh with the culture of the team? Does what they are saying about themselves line up with the core values of your business? The first 5 minutes of meeting someone will tell you a lot about who they are and much of your assessment will be based on small cues and gut instinct.

Best practice is not to do the interview alone. Set up an interview panel for the most well rounded feedback. Include people whose opinions you respect. Weigh in on what everyone has to say with a scoring system for non-bias and tabulate results. At the end of everything, how the candidate feels as a fit matters more than how the application looks on paper. Never ever ignore a red flag without exploring it more.

Obtaining useful information from the interview starts with creating a list of specific, focused questions that are going to draw out what you really want to know about the candidate. Keep the questions open ended and give space for people to talk about themselves.

Target areas such as their work history, the reasons for their interest in the position and why they would be a good fit for your business.

Letting them explain how your business can benefit from having them on board will give you a lot of insight about whether they are a right fit and their true reasons for applying to the position. Immediately you will know if it is more than a paycheck for them.

Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no only. Examples of better questions to draw out information are:

  • What do you feel success looks like for someone in this role?

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

  • How would you handle this situation?

  • Tell me about a time when…

In this way there is room for mutual back and forth exchange to understand each other's bottom line.

3. Compensation And Benefits Are a Factor So Make Them Competitive

Compensation and benefits are often the first things that most employees consider when looking for a new job.

The compensation package is one thing that highlights your company over others competing for the same talent pool. In fact, according to a study by Aon Hewitt (a consulting firm), 71% of workers surveyed said they would take less money if they could get better benefits elsewhere.

Money/benefits alone will not generate employee engagement or attract the right people, but it is important to level the playing field in this aspect of hiring for your business to avoid candidates looking elsewhere.

On the flip side, don’t pad the compensation package so much that it becomes the primary reason for candidates wanting to work for you.

4. Reference Checks are Critical If You Ask the Right Questions and Listen Between the Lines

The interview went great and now it is on to reference checks. Similar to interview questions, asking the right questions when checking references is going to paint an important picture about whether or not to hire a candidate.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Ensure to ask for at least 2 to 3 references at the supervisory/management level or higher to get a range of feedback. References from friends or colleagues will not provide the overview of the candidate that is needed.

  • Ask specific and direct questions to get the information you want to know about attendance, punctuality, teamwork, strengths, weakness etc.

Decide which areas are most important to your business and build a question list that will target those points.

  • Be aware of questions you can not ask-for example culturally biased or too personal. Research ahead of time if you are unsure and don't know what is ok to inquire about.

  • Listen and interpret the answers you receive. Technically, and legally, bad references cannot be given to avoid character defamation. However, answers may be declined or information implied by how things are phrased or said in another way.

An example of implied information would be asking if an employee was a team player and being told they ALWAYS wanted to lead. This answer could mean a disregard for the opinion of others. Another would be asking about attendance and the answer coming back as punctual, but dealt with some sick time-be prepared for absences.

Getting useful information from references checks involves asking the right questions, listening between the lines and noting any red flags.

  • Always ask this question because it is more important than any other in getting the take home bottom line from a reference check:"If given the opportunity, would you rehire this candidate?"

Paired with the reason given for leaving a past position, there is no question that will tell you more about whether this is the candidate you want.

5. Onboard and Set Them Up to Succeed:

It goes without saying, but it is important to emphasize that the onboarding steps after hiring need to make new recruits feel valued, respected and welcomed. You want employees to feel that they made the right decision in joining your team.

Have a smooth, structured and logical onboarding process set up that makes transitioning into the workplace as seamless as possible for new staff. Clearly outline expectations of the position, the values of your organization and train on them so you line up employees for success. Be available to give and receive feedback during the orientation process and always be transparent about what is coming next.


One of the best ways to ensure that your employees are engaged is by hiring the right people. If you onboard staff who aren’t passionate about doing the job, then it will be difficult for them to be enthusiastic about the position or to become engaged with the company, its mission, values and vision.

Take your time to find the right candidates. It can cost enormous amounts of time and money if you rush through hiring. Invest in training new hires so they can become more proficient at their jobs and feel confident to succeed.

Checking in with new staff (in fact, all staff) frequently, shows your support and presence. It helps employees feel valued in your business and ensures they know what they're working towards.

Open communication supports employee engagement through mutual exchange, clear, continuous feedback and mapped out expectations.

The process is not only about finding the right staff, but keeping them.


bottom of page