The power of a pre employment engagement day

- Motivation

by Patrick Verdonk

There are a lot of articles about the importance of designing employee engagement experiences. Many suggest that a good employee engagement starts way before somebody starts working for your company. Many companies may believe this is true, though few are acting on it. One of the reasons could be that companies find it hard to figure out how to do such pre employment onboarding or they simply don’t think they have the time or that it’s a priority for later employee retention.

The importance of great pre employment engagement lies in the global battle for talent. If you want the best people to join your team, you have to start engaging or wooing them before they even know they want to work for you. But how do you do that? How do you engage people to your company before they even know they want to work for you?

Today I share the story of how I recently was wowed and wooed by one such forward-thinking company in a fantastic pre employment engagement day.

Great recruitment starts with an invitation

A couple Fridays ago, I was invited by a friend of mine to his office. A few months ago, he and a few partners had started a  human resources and recruitment consultancy called Alquimia del Talento (Alchemy of Talent.) He’s aware that  I’ll be leaving my current company in a few months, and he didn’t give me much choice. “You must come!” was the simple and urgent message. “Our whole team will be there, so you should be there as well.” Mind you, he’s a good friend of mine, but I don’t work for him at all…

Of course I went.

On arrival to the office it appeared that it was not just the whole team, but rather an extended team. Like me, his teammates had identified more people they’d like to open the door toward joining their team in whatever way that person would be able or willing to, at some point in the future.

This day was their “Welcome, we’d like this group to be our team” day.

Winter is coming, so you better get to know each other

After breakfast, the games began. We didn’t get a program or agenda for the day. We were just told that the theme of the day was Game of Thrones, and that we would start with an icebreaker in the style of a cocktail party.

Here’s how that worked. Everybody’s name was written on a piece of paper and tagged on a board. On the backside of each paper there was a clue. Each clue described something personal about one of the people in the room. For example, the clue on my paper was “This person loves to do puzzles.” The goal of the game was to talk to people and find out which person is described by the clue on your piece of paper. Once you found your partner, you formed a team representing one of the houses from Game of Thrones.

Next up was a game of house versus house, or so it seemed. Each house got a clue on a piece of paper and the message that the winner is the one that finds the key to the only locked room in the office. That first clue led to a scavenger hunt of clues around the office, which uncovered three numbers.

By that time we had familiarized ourselves with the whole office space! Each of the numbers, when filled in on a screen, revealed a piece of a picture. Of course, the houses that had their numbers first got a chance to look at the picture longer than others, but it wasn’t until the whole picture was revealed that we could start searching in the right direction.

Now who won what? We all won! There was only one key, and the team that found it got the honor of opening the room. And in that room there was a surprise for everybody, a very well thought through goodie bag. A welcome to the company letter, a notebook with a personalized message from the person who had first invited us, a personalized mug, and a pendrive with an overview of the company’s services and their presentation template.

The Game of Thrones continued, with houses getting together to play the Prisoner’s Dilemma. A game which gives great insights in behavior, teamwork and trust.

Prisoners Dilemma

This game shows you the best (and worst) in people. Eagerness to not lose the game often makes that everybody lose the game with all teams ending with negative points. Here’s how we played:

  • The houses formed 4 teams.
  • Everybody sees the points table.
  • Each round (8 in total), each team writes an X or a Y on a piece of paper.
  • You may never show your paper to the other teams.
  • The results are read out loud, and points put on the board.
  • Round 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 we were only allowed to talk within our own team
  • The rounds in which the points were multiplied, round 3 (2x), 5 (5x) and 8 (10x) all groups were allowed to talk to each other.

The trick of the game lies in the gamble between trying to earn point for yourself or for everybody. Look at the table above, you will see that:

  • In almost all cases putting an X on the paper earns you points, except if ALL teams put an X.
  • In almost all cases putting a Y on the paper makes you lose points, except if ALL teams put a Y.

What do you chose? Earn points yourself, at the risk all teams think the same and thus everybody loses? Trust the fairness of the other teams, put a Y and expect the rest to do the same?

We had faith in the good intentions of all teams… We lost terribly… Though learned only after the game that one of the participants was ‘bought’ by the organizers to stir things up.

Then we broke for lunch. And, especially in Spain, we all know that the best way to get to know each other is usually over food!

Don’t sell your salary scale, woo them with your vision and values

Mision Vision Valores

Following a standing-up, eating-way-too-much-excellent-tortilla-and-ansjovis lunch we got a five-minute introduction to the company’s vision, mission and values. Then we were asked to draw them. But by now we realized nothing at this company comes without a gamification component.

Quickly the objective became clear: We had to draw together. Each of us got a piece of paper and three minutes to start to draw how we see Alquimia in the light of the mission, vision and values we just were introduced to. (To be honest, most people already had earlier contact with the company and knew at least some of the mission, vision or values before the start of the day). After three minutes, we had to pass our drawing on to our neighbor, with another three minutes to add something to the drawing we received. Like that, each drawing passed six people.

With our ‘completed by the others’ drawing of what had to be our personal reflection on the company’s mission, vision and values, we formed a circle and each of us explained:

  • What we had in mind when we began the drawing.
  • Why we started with that, what was the original idea we wanted to express.
  • What we see the others had added to our drawing.
  • If we thought what the others had drawn had completed our message or changed our message and if we were happy with that or not.

At the end of the exercise we were promised all drawings would be framed and put on display in the office!

But make sure your candidates know and share in your priorities

Solutions Map

We weren’t finished yet. There was one last activity planned to get to know each other. Printed on big pieces of paper and stuck to one wall was a description of the ten solution domains the company offers.

The exercise, simple in nature provides great insight: Here are our domains of work. Introduce yourself and let us know where your passion is. Put a colored sticker on each activity where you could and would to contribute to this company, and verbally explain why.

I can’t think of a better way to visualize the potential on each of the services. After everybody had  her or his turn, the wall showed not only who wanted to contribute what, but as well how deeply each solution would be covered. Some solutions had seven or eight contributors, while others only two. And of course, we again knew each other a little better.

All successful recruitment ends in gratitude

To close the day there was only one thing left to do: Show gratitude! We were asked to go outside and form a large circle. One of the partners started with a ball of yarn in her hand. Hold the wire tight, name a person you want to say thanks to, say thanks, and throw the ball to that person (without letting go of the wire).

The web that slowly shapes is a beautiful visualization of gratitude. But there’s more to it, it also shows the social network that was forming in the company.

Wrapping up

The whole day, the effort the team had taken to organize it, and to invite people from around the country, made for an exceptional pre employment engagement experience. I never doubted that I would eventually want to work with this team, but experiencing such a powerful expression of how it will be to work with them… It just makes you want to start tomorrow and ignore any other options that may pass on your way! It was not a recruitment day; it was an engagement day. It was a day that showed me how powerful pre employment engagement can be if done right!

How do you woo potential teammates? Or perhaps you’ve been to an engagement day? Share your experiences below!

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