Using Employee Engagement Surveys to Drive Recruiting

What’s the most appealing aspect of working at your company? Is it the hip cafeteria? Is it your brand recognition in the industry? Is it your position as a market leader? Is it the one-on-one attention that employees receive from their managers?

I’m sure that most readers have a ready answer. But here’s the kicker: Whatever your answer, there’s a good chance that you’re wrong.

Unless you’re conducting detailed surveys or focus groups of candidates, you’re probably only guessing as to what attracts your future hires to your organization. Sure, you may get some anecdotal feedback from the occasional candidate, but are you gathering data from the majority of your candidates?

The study “Why New Hires Fail” revealed that only 20% of companies have thoroughly defined the attitudes and characteristics that separate their culture from other organizations. Every company makes a pitch touting its advantages, but most have not backed up that pitch with anything resembling data-driven research.

Fortunately, nearly all organizations have a ready source of data about what employees like (and dislike) about your company. There’s a document floating throughout your executive ranks that details the best and worst aspects of being an employee at your organization. It’s your employee engagement survey. And while it’s rarely used as a recruiting tool, it often contains a wealth of insight into how to recruit the next generation of employees.

To be fair, most companies don’t use their employee surveys to improve employee engagement, so it’s no small wonder that most recruiters don’t avail themselves of the data. A recent study on employee surveys discovered that only 22% of companies are actually achieving positive results from their surveys. And only 29% share the survey results with their employees. 

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You may have to dig a bit to get the data. But once you’ve got it, look at the highest and lowest ratings for your company. Perhaps your employees are highly critical of the communications coming from the executive team but love the one-on-one interactions with their direct managers. Or maybe your employees think that the company stinks at providing work-life balance but does a great job of delivering career growth opportunities.

Take your highest and lowest scores and use them as your initial points of emphasis and de-emphasis in your recruiting pitches. If your company delivers great opportunities for career growth, make that the lead in your recruiting pitch. Then, once you’ve got a number of candidates in the funnel, you can start to further filter that candidate pool by doling out tidbits about the lack of work-life balance. You don’t want to provide so much negativity that you lose the majority of your candidates, but provide enough realism that 10% to 20% of your candidates opt out.

The key is to use the actual experiences of your employees to drive your recruiting pitch. One study found that only 39% of companies say their recruiting process represents their employment brand. The problem with inauthentic recruiting pitches is that, in an era of social media, it’s easy for candidates to discover the truth about your work environment. So use real data, share actual statistics with candidates, and build your pitch on a realistic foundation.

Most organizations conduct an annual employee survey (or something reasonably close). Hidden within that report document is a treasure trove of data about what employees like and dislike about your company. Rather than fabricating a recruiting pitch, use real-life data from your actual employees. You’ll find that your recruiting pitch is far more authentic, realistic, and easier to create.

Mark Murphy is the CEO of Leadership IQ and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include Hiring For Attitude, Hundred Percenters, HARD Goals, and Managing Narcissists, Blamers, Dramatics and More. Mark’s groundbreaking leadership studies have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and U.S. News & World Report. Mark has also appeared on CNN, NPR, CBS News Sunday Morning, and ABC’s 20/20. He’s trained leaders at the United Nations, Harvard Business School, Microsoft, Mastercard, and hundreds more.

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