The Big Six: Key Predictors of Worker Engagement, and How Small Businesses Can Use Them to Their Advantage

If you’re running a small business, the pressure is on to make sure every hire is a great one. You may not have the funds now to secure someone with tons of experience. Instead, a more effective strategy may well be to seek out an emerging professional with the potential and talent to grow with your company. While the prospect of investing time and energy into a fledgling employee may be scary, a recent Gallup study suggests that the presence of several factors can be a positive indicator of how engaged and loyal college graduates will be in the workplace.


Successful job interview


The Big Six


The “Big Six” describes a set of college experiences found by a large Gallup-Purdue study to strongly influence future success of graduates. Graduates who had all six experiences were found to be three times more likely to be engaged at work, but there are significant benefits to having had any of these experiences at all. The big six include:

  • Having had a mentor that encouraged the student to pursue their goals and dreams

○     Graduates with this experience were 2.2 times more likely to be engaged at work

  • Having had a professor who made them excited about learning

○     Graduates with this experience were 2 times more likely to be engaged at work

  • Having had an internship or job that allowed them to exercise the skills and knowledge they had gained in the classroom

○     Graduates with this experience were 2 times more likely to be engaged at work

  • Having had professors who cared about the student as a person

○     Graduates with this experience were 1.9 times more likely to be engaged at work

  • Having worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete

○     Graduates with this experience were 1.8 times more likely to be engaged at work

  • Involvement in extracurricular activities

○     Graduates with this experience were 1.8 times more likely to be engaged at work.


Sound simple? Well, actually, a whopping 25% of graduates report having had none of these experiences at all. Only 3% had all six.


Using This Info to Hire


Look beyond GPA when hiring college graduates. For one thing, a growing number of highly rated, top-tier academic and honors colleges use non-numerical or narrative evaluations systems to score students. Even for graduates who include a GPA on their resume, there’s a story behind the number; a 4.0 from a notoriously “easy” school might not mean as much as one from a more challenging program, or may be a sign that the student failed to engage in new challenges — it’s increasingly common for college students to pursue coursework–even advanced coursework–in multiple fields of study. Pay attention to what’s listed under the diploma, such as descriptions of capstone projects, college internships, etc.


******Incorporate questions related to “big six” experiences into your interview process. For example, (ask them to describe their favorite professor or mentor, and see whether it’s a subject that stuns them or lights them up.) ß If they weren’t lucky enough to have a faculty member take them under their wing I don’t want that to count against them. Instead I would say something like “Ask them to describe experiences outside the classroom that impacted them” or something that relates more to their involvement in extra-curriculars, internships, etc.


These experiences don’t need to be directly related to the field your business is in — there isn’t yet evidence that the academic focus of these experiences is even related to the reliability as predictors of future engagement.


Taking It Further


It’s not yet clear whether having any of the Big Six experiences in college is a guarantor of a graduate being more engaged. However, with that in mind, it’s still perhaps worth considering structuring some similar experiences, like mentorship programs or the opportunities to work on special projects, into your work culture. They may well either help employees continue to develop into more engaged workers, or attract and inspire the kind of engaged workers that will be a long-term asset to your business.


Hope you enjoyed this food for thought! And remember: hiring may be complicated, but managing your HR and security doesn’t have to be. Fingertec USA is the exclusive US retailer for FingerTec’s leading employee time tracking and biometric security systems, offering affordable, trusted solutions for small business owners nationwide. Call us today for a free consult to learn more about the solutions best suited to your business and budget –  1-800-921-4270.






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