Three ways to hire the right employee: How to spot the ‘engagement gene’

Employee turnover is expensive. Think about it: When you include recruitment, vacancy, transition and orientation costs, it can add up to $60,000 or more per employee.

That means an organization with 2,300 employees and 20 percent turnover is racking up costs of more than $27 million per year in turnover .

And those are just the easy-to-calculate costs. When you also consider how high turnover hurts team productivity—not to mention the dangerous safety workarounds that are typical of disengaged employees—they are far, far greater.

But here's the thing: Employees who are engaged in their work and an organization are far less likely to leave. These are the ones who step up, speak up and go the extra mile, even when no one is watching.

These people are a critical link in healthcare's ability to deliver higher quality at a lower cost. Engagement starts with leaders, flows to employees and clinicians and ultimately to patients. Healthcare organizations won't have engaged patients without engaged employees.

The good news is that organizations can hire for the engagement gene. Here's how to stop turnover in its tracks by screening for engagement right from the start:

1. Use behavioral-based interview questions. The goal is to elicit examples of engagement during the interview process by using very specific, open-ended questions. These types of questions assess everything from adaptability and conflict resolution to integrity and initiative.

For example, to understand how adaptable a prospective employee is, ask: "When was a time that you had to be flexible, adjusting to the needs of a patient, family, or team member?" Or, if hiring an engaged communicator is a priority, ask: "Have you ever had to 'sell' an idea to your coworkers or a group? How did you do it? Did they 'buy' it?" An engaged individual shares consistent and detailed examples of ways in which they stepped up.

2. Ask potential peers to interview candidates and screen for engagement. The goal is to hire new employees who will be fully engaged in their work. New hires should be a strong cultural fit for the team.

That's why peer interviewing is so effective for hiring engaged employees Hugh Brown, CEO of HCA St. David's Georgetown, recently described peer interviewers as "the guardians of our culture." Another bonus is those who recommend a new hire tend to be invested in the hire's success, which improves retention.

Perhaps the only thing worse than a good hire who leaves is a bad hire who stays. To avoid both, select a peer interviewing team of four to six high-performers who will work closely with the new hire. This panel stays together as long as the position is open.

It's important to train peer interviewers on key skills, including how to use open-ended behavioral-based questions and independently complete an interview matrix with their evaluations. Peer interviewing only occurs after the candidate has been vetted by human resources and their prospective leader. Should there be a discrepancy in the evaluations, the final decision is always the hiring manager's.

3. Require applicants to sign standards of behavior. Standards of behavior are very specific guidelines that reflect an organization's expectations about how an employee will conduct himself and align to the mission, vision and values. Standards can range from things like no gossiping to an agreement to address conflict directly with a coworker rather than escalating it to the boss. The best standards are developed not by leaders, but by employees themselves.

Ask job candidates to review and sign the standards of behavior before they arrive for the interview. Employers find some people self-select out immediately. Those individuals do not proceed through the hiring process.

Remember, engaged employees are critical to success. By recruiting them from the outset, organizations can hardwire a culture of high engagement that cuts costs, improves quality and ultimately ensures the kind of care all patients want and deserve.

Craig Deao, MHA, is the author of the upcoming book The E Factor: How Engaged Patients, Physicians, Leaders, and Employees will Transform Healthcare and a senior leader with Studer Group, a Huron Solution, where he works with medical staff and healthcare executives to create highly-reliable organizations where employees want to work, physicians want to practice and patients want to receive care.

Deao, C. (Forthcoming 2017). The E Factor: How Engaged Patients, Physicians, Leaders, and Employees Will Transform Healthcare. Gulf Breeze, FL: Firestarter Publishing.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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