In the wake of retiring baby boomers, most companies have turned a lot of attention in the last couple of decades to filling the pipeline of leaders and senior managers.

As a result, leadership assessment tools, high-potential identifiers, leadership training, coaching and mentoring are all currently flourishing. At the same time, less attention has been given to the changing pool of entry-level employees.

The U.S. is facing a critical skills gap within our workforce. Skilled and experienced workers are harder to come by more than ever before. With unemployment at an almost 50-year low, companies are scrambling to fill their needs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in 2018 was four percent.

You may have personally witnessed the impact of this within the service industry — a lowering of the bar in terms of hiring decisions. I don’t know how many times I’ve been disappointed and personally insulted by the lack of attention and outright rudeness I’ve experienced lately in fast food restaurants, retail stores and other service-oriented enterprises.

It seems clear that companies are feeling compelled to lower the bar for entry employees… but they don’t have to! Perhaps those individuals without skills and experience are more plentiful in today’s applicant pool, but there is a key indicator for those who are your diamonds in the rough – attitude!

Those with a strong work attitude possess the most important ingredients to exceptional job performance. You can train for skills but you must hire for attitude.

In a recent article on why recruiters are “screening in,” not out, Riia O’Donnell pointed out that employers are opting away from skill testing and skill requirements and instead are seeking employees that have good base behaviors and attitudes that can then be “trained up.”

Michelle Armer, chief people officer of CareerBuilder, notes in O’Donnell’s article that “recruiters are no longer searching for the reasons an applicant would not fit the position or the company, but rather they are considering a candidate’s current skill sets and the likely potential for them to enhance their proficiencies.” Armer believes that aptitude, willingness to learn and parallel skill sets similar to the required skills, are now “sizzle points” for recruiters to include what used to be considered outlier or marginal candidates.

I am in absolute agreement, but I would add to this that general work attitude plays a crucial role, as well.

I’ve written several articles on work attitude over the last year for this newsletter. These articles are guides on how to get ahead of your competition by hiring right. With today’s skill gap and low unemployment levels, they are also key to just surviving as an organization.

But what do I mean by work attitude?

Most people would agree with the statement, “I’ll know it when I see it.” It’s the combination of personality, motivation, values and interests that you can actually see in a worker’s behavior – behavior that demonstrates they want to do whatever it takes and want to go that extra mile, whenever needed.

A few examples of work attitude include:

  • Quality orientation – showing the effort to deliver and improve quality service and products
  • Productivity drive– taking the initiative to reach and exceed production levels
  • Customer centric– making an effort to provide customers with service beyond the customer’s expectations.

At E.A.S.I-Consult®, we have partnered with our customers for over a decade to provide pre-employment tests that measure these attributes in candidates, with great success. It has allowed them to expand their pool of applicants and meet their workforce needs.

But it has done much more than that. They are leaders in their industries with exceptional employees.

Finding employees with the right attitude has resulted in the following:

  • AN INCREASE IN… productivity, quality, customer service, teamwork and safety behavior.
  • A DECREASE IN… turnover, missed days at work, recruitment and training costs and theft on the job.

Not to mention, this approach has helped to identify and positively impact the cost of a bad attitude. But that’s another story (See The Hidden Cost of a Bad Attitude.)

In this time of skills shortages and low unemployment, hiring for attitude does pay off!

David Smith, PhD, is the president and CEO of E.A.S.I•Consult®. E.A.S.I•Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government   agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I•Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I•Consult, visit, email or call 800.922.EASI.