Studies show that 70% or more of workers are disengaged at work — these workers are not involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Their work isn’t rewarding to them and doesn’t interest them.

Much has been made about the impact of worker disengagement — for example, engaged employees work harder, are less likely to quit, are healthier and perform better. And increasingly, companies focus on changes to culture to increase engagement.

Often missed in the culture initiatives, though, is the impact of hiring on worker engagement. Simply put, engagement can be increased by hiring workers who are more engaged by their careers — in other words, by hiring people who find the work rewarding and interesting and have shared values and work styles with the company.

“It’s not the people who quit and leave who worry you, it’s the people who quit and stay”

While this seems obvious, it’s very hard to do. Most interviewers don’t judge potential engagement at all — they instead looking for a track record in the field, assuming that someone who has worked in the same career for years is interested in it (an odd assumption given the engagement numbers discussed above). Combined with the simplistic desire to have candidates who “check all the boxes” on the job description, this approach keeps people in the careers they’ve always had.

And the result is a paradox — companies just recycle disengaged workers, workers who are unhappy but don’t know what career changes would help, and switch companies for a lack of any better idea. The very signs that companies use to show passion and interest often are exactly the opposite. And because disengaged workers are more likely to quit, they’re the most likely to be willing to move, driving the recycling of these zombie workers.

At the same time, many companies avoid workers who attempt career pivots, thinking the change shows a lack of commitment. In fact, workers who shift careers are often much more likely to be engaged in their work, especially if their career shift has been accompanied by careful and thoughtful self and career exploration.

People who’ve been through career coaching, for example, are more likely to understand their own values, needs and interests and are much more likely to seek out careers and companies that are good fits. They are, in other words, much better at selecting the career or company where they will be engaged and passionate. In short, they have done the interviewer’s work for her.

As a result, rather than avoiding career shifters, companies should seek them out, especially those who have taken the time and effort to make an informed shift. The result often will be a more self-aware and engaged employee.

CareerWave is an online career and business coaching service that is transforming coaching with highly effective coaching that is available anywhere and much more affordable than a traditional coach. Our coaches help clients find careers and companies they love and develop the skills necessary to get them. To learn more about recruiting our highly qualified pool of candidates, contact us at or visit us at