Reclaiming boundaries with work. Saying ‘hard pass’ to a greater workload. Recovering from two years of burnout. These are some of the motives shared in the phenomenon that’s bombarded the popular press and social in recent months. Quiet quitting: it could mean refusing to answer emails after hours, turning a blind eye to an opportunity to contribute to a project, or actively reducing time and effort at work in lieu of acting with urgency. Has commitment simply downshifted to where it was before the pandemic? Or are we confronting eroded resilience and a new shift in mindset around work?1
One positive change connected to this concern are the open conversations around our well-being and authenticity about our goals at work. While quiet quitting raises concerns of reduced productivity, a potentially shallower leadership bench, and added uncertainty in an already unpredictable time, it’s an opportunity to reflect on how we can be better leaders and employers. We could use this moment to think about times of peak productivity and optimism. What about the first few months of a new employee’s tenure? New hires are (for the most part) eager to learn and move goals forward. They’re engaged with the culture and your values. They seek new opportunities. Perhaps there’s something in comparing the experience of a new hire with that of our (potential) quiet quitter.
In fact, what if it were possible to ‘rehire’ our current employees– whether they are quietly quitting or just burnt out? I believe it is– by thinking intentionally about the experience of our new hires and reigniting some of its core positives in everyone’s work experience.
First things first: build shared understanding.
To achieve a goal, we need to know where we’re going. When we conduct employee experience and engagement surveys for an organization for the first time, we find that more than a third of employees do not share the same understanding of the what, why, or how they do their jobs. Common questions:
- Why are we changing this way of doing things?
- What is our strategy?
- Are we handling this frequently occurring challenge to the best of our ability?
If we look back to the new hire experience, we might find ways we can improve. In our first weeks in a new role we’re given consistent (and usually positively constructed) feedback from a multitude of sources (peers, direct reports, leadership). How does communication and feedback change as tenure increases? With new employees there are formal processes, as well as daily, weekly, and monthly disciplines by leaders that shift over time.
To combat this, in one organization we support, leaders participate in a 360-degree feedback process after three months on the job, in addition to weekly check-ins. We’ve also coupled this with periodic leadership development and coaching sessions to tackle the harder part – the daily habits of leadership. Consider assessing how communication flows both to and from employees and where there are opportunities to spark ongoing dialogue around progress and performance.
Who are we? Am I pursuing something I value?
Culture matters. Candidates seek proof you’re living values that connect with their own. New employees need confirmation they made the right choice. Across the employee journey (from applicant through tenured leader) culture, and how it’s embedded in the day-to-day experience, are among the strongest predictors of engagement and commitment.2
How do opportunities to reflect, learn, and contribute to your culture change from day one to year ten? If your organization’s purpose and vision – and goals for reaching it – aren’t clear, or perhaps have shifted over time, ask for feedback. In our work across industries, our CultureMap process, which begins with a short and engaging survey, gives leadership insight on where groups see your culture now and where they believe it should be.
Seeking employee perceptions of your purpose, values and strategy communicates everyone is included, seen, and heard. This directs attention and commitment to realistic habits to get teams talking about, developing within, and strengthening your shared purpose and values. One easy win: adding a cultural value or promise as an agenda item, to be discussed however briefly, in regularly scheduled team meetings.
Cultivate a Growth Mindset
People who believe their talents can be strengthened through their own action and effort benefit from a growth mindset. The good news, and bad news, are that our environment, team, and leadership influences this belief. If we’re trying to ‘rehire’ our team by reflecting on the what the new hire experience tells us about engagement, we can see how the cadence of events in our employees’ first days in a new role supports their belief in their own potential: progress and learning are frequently celebrated. Lessons and shadowing are completed. Milestones reached. We spend time connecting with new employees seeking to understand what gives them meaning and how we can link the mission and goals of our team to their own.
However, as time passes, our attention can shift from the talents and strengths a person brings to us to gaps in performance and results. At the same time the whirlwind of daily objectives diminishes our awareness of their experience and goals. We know employees with a sustained confidence and belief in their ability to grow, are more resilient, productive, and likely to stay long term. Furthermore, mindsets are contagious – we’re likely to spread our positive belief in our ability to grow and achieve to others.
Process-focused growth and development programs, mentorship, as well as positive leadership in the moment keep the growth mindset going. Applied research finds that simply sharing the moments we actualized our best self magnifies the potential we see within ourselves.3
Including beliefs about personal and professional growth as part of your culture and core values makes it more likely that a growth mindset will scale across your organization. Furthermore, a growth map or developmental career path with attainable goals provide shared understanding and connection on growth and development.
If we think about what the new hire experience offers that may gradually fade over time, it might not take long for us to think of recognition. We might be more attuned to understanding what recognition is meaningful to a person early on. In short, making everyone feel valued requires the disciplines of daily leadership coupled with scalable organization-wide processes.
Avoid the rehire with how you hire
Likely, reflecting on the new hire experience sparked a few ideas that can foster commitment and annihilate concerns of a wobbling culture, questionable commitment, and the ‘quiet quitting’ you’ve likely heard so much about. I would be remiss, however, if I did not bring up how you hire. The effectiveness of all these strategies is limited if your new employees struggle to execute the competencies required – or connection to your core values and culture. Competencies are the clusters of skills, mindsets, knowledge, and behaviors that are necessary to thrive in the role. Competencies might look the same across jobs but differ tremendously across organizations and positions. For example, customer service for an IT technician is comprised of a different cluster of attributes and requirements than a Flight Attendant. Furthermore, competencies evolve across roles: customer service is different for the IT Manager, or Inflight Manager, than for the entry level roles. While this might seem like defining the obvious, without clear definitions in place, hiring decisions are frequently made without an understanding of how your talent acquisition process attracts and assesses candidates on these key clusters.
The touchpoints in the hiring process not only affect who you hire – but the expectations of your new employees. Structured interviews, realistic job previews, and validated assessments can not only measure potential, but also educate candidates on the opportunities and challenges presented by the role.
Across the Employee Journey
Everything we experience at work contributes to our journey: from our initial attraction to a role through how we grow and contribute. Thinking about the touchpoints that make up that journey and crafting a talent management strategy that tackles your companies goals, can build stability and success long-term. Crafting a successful and results-building employee journey starts with the steps we shared earlier: beginning with the end in mind – your culture and vision, and then articulating the customer-stakeholder experience, values, and competencies needed. With those in place, you can move forward to build hiring, development, and engagement solutions and strategies that support results.
Aspects of Assessment
- If Your Co-Workers Are ‘Quiet Quitting,’ Here’s What That Means. Wall Street Journal. August 12, 2022.
- Keep them on-board! How organizations can develop employee embededness to increase employee retention (2018). Development and Learning in Organizations.
- Composing The Reflected Best-Self Portrait: Building Pathways For Becoming Extraordinary In Work (2005). Academy of Management Review.