Hire to Rapidly Accelerate Employee Engagement: What’s the Formula?

A highly engaged workforce works harder, stays longer and leads to better business outcomes. But an employee's propensity to be engaged is linked to their personality. So how can companies hire candidates who are wired for engagement?

Hire to Rapidly Accelerate Employee Engagement: What’s the Formula?

12 Apr 2018 by  Stephen Hickey & Mina Morris

Employee engagement is a top priority for many business leaders—and rightfully so. Past Aon research has determined that a five percent increase in employee engagement is linked to a three percent lift in business revenue the following year. However, most organisations focus on managing engagement among existing employees and completely overlook opportunities to rapidly accelerate employee engagement by hiring people that are most likely to bring their best to their work.

The truth is, an individual’s inclination towards engagement is also dependent on his or her personality traits. An employee who is ‘wired for engagement’ is likely to stay engaged—even during challenging times. On the other hand, an employee who needs a lot more internal drive and motivation will find it hard to stay enthusiastic in the best of circumstances.

If an organisation is able to assess and hire candidates who are ‘wired for engagement’, the chances of them staying engaged throughout their tenure will be much higher. This translates into a better bottom line.

What does an engaged employee look like?

Based on Aon’s model of employee engagement, an engaged employee is likely to: 

  1. Say good things about the company

  2. Stay at the company

  3. Strive to do their best

What makes someone ‘wired for engagement’?


There are three traits that can predict if an individual is predisposed to be engaged.

1. Positivity

Individuals with an optimistic outlook on life are more likely to be resilient and see the positives in a situation, which makes them more open to engagement, say good things about the company and see a positive future with the company.

2. Cooperativeness

Cooperative individuals believe in teamwork and will make extra effort to get along—even when the going gets tough. This creates greater opportunities for engagement and fosters trust.

3. Drive

Driven individuals are intrinsically motivated to be engaged in their work—simply because they always want to do their best.

How can you combine hiring and engagement in a meaningful way?

Every employee has a different mix of positivity, cooperativeness and drive. This difference contributes to diversity in the workplace. Hiring for engagement is not—and should not be—a simplistic practice of selecting candidates who score the highest levels for the three traits. Someone with low positivity, average cooperativeness and high drive can be just as engaged as a different individual with high positivity, low cooperativeness and average drive. Instead of compromising on diversity, organisations should assess candidates with the aim of managing the risks of the “unengageable”, those who score low on all three traits of positivity, cooperativeness and drive.

Secondly, organisations must not overlook the role of context in engagement. For instance, technically challenging roles may require employees to be more intrinsically driven while certain executive-level positions are better filled by individuals who are highly cooperative.

Lastly, engagement is an ongoing process. Apart from identifying candidates who are likely to be engaged, HR practitioners can also use these assessments after hiring to advance employees who are likely to be engaged and weed out those who cannot be engaged.

Being able to assess a candidate for their potential to be engaged is powerful, but it does not invalidate ongoing best practices to manage employee engagement. Instead, organisations must break down HR silos to adopt a holistic approach of hiring candidates for engagement—and continue to actively engage them throughout the course of employment.

Start a conversation with us

Want to use hiring as lever of engagement by assessing candidates for their propensity to be engaged? Get in touch with us.

Stephen Hickey & Mina Morris

Stephen Hickey is a Partner in Aon's Talent, Rewards, and Performance business in Australia and is the Executive Sponsor of its Engagement Practice in Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa. Stephen's areas of expertise include employee engagement improvement, leadership development, talent management and change management.

Mina is an Associate Partner in Aon's Talent, Rewards, and Performance business in the Middle East, and works with clients across the region to enhance people performance, through increasing organisational effectiveness, developing leaders, implementing talent management systems and helping organisations manage change. Mina holds a Masters of Science in Organizational Psychology from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and is a fluent Arabic speaker.

Get in touch
Stephen Hickey
Sydney, Australia
Mina Morris
Mina Morris
Dubai, UAE
Tarandeep Singh
Tarandeep Singh
Bangalore, India
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