News Column

Keep Employees Motivated With Challenges, Perks

July 29, 2013

Dan Kelly

business classroom

Hiring a stellar candidate with an impressive degree from a good college isn't always the best move for an employer, according to a new Gallup survey.

The poll released recently found that employees with college or graduate degrees tend to be less engaged in their jobs than those with a high school diploma.

The poll found that 48 percent of high school graduates admitted they're not engaged in their jobs, compared with 55 percent of those with college degrees and 56 percent with graduate degrees. Engagement was defined as an employee who is interested and motivated by the job.

Local human resource managers weren't surprised, but pointed out that many local college graduates are very engaged at work.

"It depends on the job," said Tom Hubric, president of Reading-Berks HR Management, Wyomissing.

A big issue for employers is whether a candidate is overqualified for the job.

The Gallup poll used as an example college graduates who find it difficult to find their first job and apply for positions that don't require a college degree. Once in that position, they might continue their job search while drawing a paycheck and benefits and leave for the first job they perceive to be better or more interesting.

"If there is a job that has upward mobility to it that might not be the case," Hubric said. "If it's a dead-end job and that's all that person is going to be able to be, then they are going to feel they aren't using the degree they worked so hard and spent so much to get."

On the higher end of the employment spectrum, a candidate for chief operating officer who will make close to six figures could be an out-of-work chief executive used to making $150,000 per year.

"Sounds interesting that we could have that level of person in our job, but then six months later they leave for another CEO job," Hubric said. "If somebody is overqualified it's going to be a demotivator and it will show up in their work."

Employers should be very rigorous when choosing employees to make sure they're motivated, then keep them engaged by offering team-based incentives and chances to advance, said Bob Orzechowski, past president of the Berks County Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Otherwise they'll have unengaged workers, which means lower productivity and higher employee turnover and absenteeism, he said.

"It's important to hire hard and manage easy," he said.

Contact Dan Kelly: 610-371-5040 or


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