Should HR focus on recruiting or employee engagement?

I recently wrote about the reported increase in training at many companies and cited employee engagement as another important ingredient for employee retention. While writing it, an interesting thought occurred to me. If you had to choose, which should you focus your internal HR resources on: recruiting or employee engagement?

Like many things in life, the answer is probably, "it depends." But I think it's an important question to ask because as I've written in previous posts, employee engagement is part of recruiting.

So, assuming you have a finite budget and an even more finite number of resources, are you best served by having internal HR resources focus on recruiting or employee engagement?

First off, I can't exactly say I have an unbiased opinion after having spent more than 20 years in professional staffing services. But I hope that regardless of my bias, the following will make some sense.

That said, here's my answer: Focus internally on employee engagement first. Not a huge surprise, right? Keep reading.

Here are a few good reasons why focusing on employee engagement can help your company recruit, whether you use internal or external resources.

If you have engaged employees who like their jobs, they will tell their friends to apply for jobs with your organization, they will tell their friends and relatives to buy your products or services, and they will brag about how good your company is on Facebook and Twitter.

A company that listens to its employees, creates a positive culture, and has meaningful reviews and feedback processes will lift recruiting efforts exponentially. It's great to have a robust recruiting engine. However, if you don't keep any of those people, you will just be spinning your wheels. There is nothing worse (or more costly) than having to re-recruit, endlessly, for positions that constantly turn over.

Engagement is at the core of human resources. If your HR staff is trying to keep up with employees, social media, expansion, acquisitions, policies, procedures, etc., and trying to recruit, something is going to fall through the cracks. An efficient, engaged HR staff working to engage employees might help recruiting more than actually recruiting.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Employee engagement is part of recruiting. If you don't have an internal culture and environment that engages, motivates, and enriches your employees, you won't be very successful (or as successful as you can be) in retaining or recruiting employees.

So, if any of the above makes sense to you, and if you have to choose between employee engagement and recruiting, I would suggest you choose to have your internal resources work on employee engagement first. It will make your recruiting efforts more effective, and you might just need less recruiting as a result.


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