The Critical Role of First Impressions in Employee Engagement

The Critical Role of First Impressions in Employee Engagement

The adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” coined by American author and marketing expert Will Rogers, resonates in talent acquisition and recruitment. It serves as a reminder of initial encounters’ pivotal role in forming a candidate’s perception of your organization. A job seeker’s journey commences with their initial interaction—through your website, social media, a job posting, or word of mouth from a family member or friend.

Once the candidate engages with a recruiter, this impression continues to crystallize. Consider a scenario where an applicant navigates a less-than-ideal hiring process. Their motivation for accepting the job, whether out of necessity or genuine interest, becomes secondary to the fact that the initial impression is already less than favorable—underscoring the uphill battle in reestablishing a positive outlook. Any further negative experiences only serve to reinforce their initial beliefs, further impeding employee engagement.

The current state of employee engagement

The Gallup State of the Global Workforce: 2023 Report found that 59 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged, and 18 percent are actively disengaged, costing the global economy $8.8 trillion. These workers are “filling a seat but have yet to take ownership of their work. By not engaging these employees, leaders are missing a primary driver of customer retention and organic business growth.” The good news is that 23 percent of employees globally were engaged at work in 2022—the highest level recorded since Gallup started measuring in 2009.

Related: A Look at Employee Engagement and Work Trends

Why is engagement so important? Organizations with higher levels of employee engagement benefit in multiple ways:

  • decreased absenteeism (81%)
  • fewer safety accidents (64%)
  • lower turnover rates (43%)
  • increased profitability (23%)
  • increase productivity (18%)
  • more loyal customers (10%)

Recruiting for engagement

Creating a positive candidate experience is vital to recruiting engaged employees and building a motivated and productive workforce. Here are steps you can take to attract and hire individuals who are likely to be highly engaged.

Craft clear job postings: A recruiter’s job is not just about filling positions but finding the right fit or alignment. Effective job postings sell your employer brand and give your target candidates the information they crave and need to decide if your opportunity is worth pursuing.

Related E-Book from Aleron Group partner Acara Solutions: How to Attract the Attention of Qualified Candidates in Your Job Postings

Understand the company culture: 84 percent of recruiters state that culture fit is key factor when hiring. Consequently, they must work to understand the company culture and values. This then forms the basis for assessing candidate alignment—crucial for long-term employee engagement because 59 percent of resigning workers seek an employer that fits their values better—throughout the hiring process.

Promote your company culture: Highlight the organization’s core values and culture across your website, job postings, and social media platforms. 88 percent of job seekers believe a healthy workplace culture is vital for success. Offer a snapshot of what sets your workplace apart, allowing candidates to envision themselves thriving within your company and empowering them to decide if and how they align. Showcase potential career paths and opportunities for development. Employees are more likely to stay and contribute long-term if they see growth potential.

Practice good communication skills: Recruiters are often the first point of contact between a candidate and the company. 70 percent of job candidates believe a lack of communication in the hiring process to be a red flag. And 54 percent abandon the recruiting process due to poor recruiter and hiring manager communication. Good communication can make the candidate feel valued and respected, which sets a positive tone for their entire experience with the organization.

Related blog from Aleron Group partner Acara Solutions: Recruiter and Hiring Manager Ghosting in the Hiring Process

Manage expectations: Ensuring transparency and effectively managing expectations is critical to the recruiter’s role. In fact, 73 percent of workers are more likely to trust a company that provides pay ranges in their job postings than those that don’t. Provide candid insights into the job responsibilities, requirements, benefits, compensation, and overall work environment, addressing the positives and challenges. Inquire about the candidate’s work style, teamwork approach, and career goals. This helps avoid any disappointments or surprises for the new hire later on and manages expectations, leading to higher job satisfaction in the long run. Additionally, seek candidates genuinely interested in the opportunity and the work itself, not just those seeking a job out of necessity.

Foster a feedback loop: After hiring the candidate, maintain contact to ensure a smooth transition and address any initial concerns or questions. Recruiters should also have a strong feedback loop with client hiring managers and teams to ensure that candidates presented are technically qualified and culturally aligned.

The bottom line

The significance of first impressions in shaping employee engagement cannot be overstated. Even before candidates interact with a recruiter, their perception of the organization begins to form. Whether through the company’s online presence or word of mouth, this initial encounter represents the first chapter in a candidate’s narrative with your organization. They lay the foundation for the job seeker’s level of engagement, influencing their attitudes, motivations, and, ultimately, their commitment to your company. Recognizing and managing these first impressions is pivotal to effective talent acquisition and cultivating a highly engaged workforce.

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