Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Recruiting in the Social Age

Gonzalo Aragon/

The war for talent is over and talent has won. Technology and globalization have dramatically changed the way we work during the last 20 to 30 years. But very little has changed in how we hire and manage staff–which has led to low employee engagement and productivity and high turnover.  

Instead of doing the routine, tactical and predicable work of yesteryear, the Social Age requires us to be more strategic, creative and innovative–more solutions-oriented. Yet for the most part we are still hiring for skills and experience and using the same levers we have used for decades (if not centuries) to motivate and manage staff.

We must evolve our business practices to remain competitive in our digitally connected, globally oriented economy.  

With any evolutionary process, a guide or roadmap proves invaluable. When your organization decides to take the leap and join the Social Age, there are five C’s to adhere to so you can maximize efficiency and effectiveness, retain staff and ensure that employees are fully engaged on a daily basis. 

1.      Correct Hiring

We must start this evolution with hiring the right people–without them, efforts to engage and retain staff become moot. The Industrial Age paradigm emphasized hiring for skills and experience.  But skills can be taught and in today’s rapidly changing world, experience is far less important than agility and the ability to learn and adapt.

To not only survive, but thrive in the Social Age, companies need to hire for both culture fit and competencies–those innate abilities that can’t be taught but will make them successful in the job.

Proper interviewing technique is essential to guaranteeing the right hire. Unlike the stock market, when it comes to potential job candidates, past performance is indicative of future results. The majority of interview questions have to be answered with past examples of how the candidate actually dealt with real-world scenarios.

Do not fall into the old trap of believing what a candidate would do is what they did do, or more importantly, will do.

2.      Classify and Manage Appropriately

Even when you do everything right during the hiring process, you may still be surprised once the employee comes on board. Team dynamics or changing personal circumstances can affect individual behavior and performance.

You must continually keep your finger on the pulse of your staff–a daunting task to many managers who either try to devote equal time and energy across the board–or who spend time with the wrong people.

Employees typically come in three ‘flavors’: Critical people, squeaky wheels and the fat middle. Most managers end up spending most of their time trying to grease their squeaky wheels, which perpetuates poor performance or behavior. Counterintuitively, by devoting the majority of your attention to your critical people, you will bolster the productivity of the whole team. Squeaky wheels? Train, motivate or move them on. Quickly.

3.      Compensate Fairly

Many companies diligently strive to create attractive incentive programs in an effort to engage and retain staff. Unfortunately, these efforts actually may be counterproductive to accomplishing these goals.

Studies have suggested that rewards can narrow our focus, innovation, creativity, strategic thinking and problem solving–the very things needed from a Social Age workforce. Higher pay does not necessarily equal higher productivity. Managers should set their salary benchmark at or a little above market rate for individual functions. Even more importantly, managers should ensure that employees feel they are being adequately compensated for the work they do, and this can only be accomplished by speaking to them directly.

4.      Currencies of Choice

Once your staff feels well-paid, real productivity and engagement can be unlocked by tapping into your their internal motivators or currencies of choice. What your staff really needs to be fulfilled and to go the extra mile is to:

  • Work for someone they trust and respect in an organization they support
  • Be appreciated and feel their voice and opinions are respected
  • Have a firm career path that allows them to grow and develop
  • Realize their underlying motivators
  • Be able to do what they do best every day

By understanding and acknowledging your team’s individual currencies of choice, you can help keep them engaged and decrease turnover.

How do you recognize which currencies of choice will motivate your staff? By talking to them.  Unfortunately, many managers don’t talk to their staff enough, don’t know what to talk about or how to structure their conversations.   

5.      Communicate with FOCUS

FOCUS is an acronym that describes the best practices in leadership communication. Interactions between staff and managers should revolve around:

  • Feedback. Ensure your team is updated on company information, initiatives and new hires. Give praise when it is due and maintain an open door for their questions, concerns or comments.
  • Objectives. The heart of sterling performance management is structuring specific and measurable job objectives and holding staff accountable for achieving them.
  • Career Development. Many studies list career development as a main factor that employees gauge to determine whether to stay with their current employer or seek a new position elsewhere.
  • Underlying Motivators. What does your staff need to go the extra mile, and how do employees respond to motivational techniques and rewards?
  • Strengths. According to the Gallup Organization, those innate abilities that make employees unique and good at what they do is the No. 1 predictor of success.

The process of changing the way you hire and manage your staff may appear daunting at first, but experience shows that by taking it step by step, you can make significant changes quickly. The result will be a lifetime of more engaged, happier and more productive staff, as well as more free time, less stress and higher job satisfaction for yourself and your team.

Are you up for the challenge?

Kim Seeling Smith is an international human resources expert and author of the forthcoming book Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity.

(Image via Gonzalo Aragon/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.