Hire Well and Ye Shall Prosper

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-02-15

There is no shortage of conversations across human resources, workplace and talent management publications focused on the difficulties of hiring and retaining the most competitive workers, but few have warned of the consequences as sharply and clearly as a report issued by Watson Wyatt, a global consulting firm, on Feb.14: If you overlook the importance of hiring and orientation programs, don't be surprised when you have difficulties meeting corporate goals.

In reviewing HR practices at 50 large U.S. companies, the report found significant differences in the financial performance and employee engagement of companies that focused on the details of hiring and those that did not.

Sixty-five percent of companies with highly engaged work forces provided interview training for managers, versus 33 percent of companies whose work forces were less engaged. Companies in the high-engagement category also spend more time bringing new hires up to speed, versus their less-engaged counterparts -- 35 weeks on average, versus 15 weeks, respectively.

This isn't the first time a study has highlighted the connection between happy workers and strong revenue. A 2006 study, also by Watson Wyatt, found that significant improvement in employee engagement was associated with a $95 million increase in revenue, and one released in 2005 showed that firms that fill vacancies quickly (within about a month) financially outperformed those that took longer to fill positions by 48 percent over a three-year period.

The report recommends a simple trick to drive worker engagement: Explain to a new employee why they were hired. Fifty-two percent of the companies performing well financially said they provided such an explanation, while only 29 percent of companies with lower financial performance did.

"Sharing with new hires the attributes that drew the company to them is an easy and meaningful way to begin a productive relationship," said Ilene Gochman, an organization effectiveness expert with Watson Wyatt. "It gives new employees an immediate tie to the company and a clear understanding of how their skills can be used productively at their new place of employment."

But really: When was the last time an employer told you the specific reason you were hired?

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