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Quiet Quitting: How can entrepreneurs retain employees in 2022

by jcp
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By CEO of Contenstack, Neha Sampat, on championing employee satisfaction and diversity

With the workplace landscape quickly changing, a new mindset has emerged amongst young professionals – “quiet quitting.” The idea behind it is this: do what’s required at work, and no more. There’s no need to go above and beyond.

It’s not a surprise. The pandemic put a strain on people’s mental health with long working hours and struggles to achieve a healthy work-life balance. This resulted in employee burnout across all industries. PwC reported this year that 1 in 5 employees are planning to switch to a new employer within the next 12 months.

Where does this end, and how can employers facilitate that end? First, it may take rethinking the phrase “quiet quitting.” And, then, it’s about prioritising company culture and wellbeing, knowing that without them, no amount of sustained business success is possible.

Rethinking Quiet Quitting

Quiet Quitting, along with the “Great Resignation,” is another indicator of a generation of overworked professionals that has been intensifying over the past 3 years. But what is now called ‘quitting’ was until recently referred to as simply ‘doing the job’.

An employee’s commitment and performance should not be measured on the expectation to go above and beyond. We can flip that coin. An employer should be measured on whether or not their talent chooses to go above and beyond anyway. When employers focus on building workplaces where employees feel valued, cared for, and recognised, great things are bound to happen.

Building a Culture Employees want to Be Part of

Every entrepreneur will tell you that no business can succeed without an all-star team. But an all-star team needs to be nurtured and motivated, and the culture you build should support that. Employees that don’t feel recognised in their job are twice more likely to look for new opportunities (Qualtrics). Pay is an important factor to feeling recognised, but it goes well beyond that.

Culture starts with values. It was important for me to define what we wanted Contentstack to stand for from the first hire. Motivating ten people is a challenge on its own. As you start expanding your team, it becomes harder. Once you know your key values, you can be confident about carrying out a culture that’s reflected with every new hire.

For us, our values shined a light on the fact that we were not just looking for colleagues or another employee; we were building a tribe. It also meant every new hire should care deeply about our communities, feel comfortable challenging the status quo, and do the right thing even when no one is watching.

But here’s the thing: You can’t just declare the values and walk away. To protect company culture you have to ensure that values are reinforced. The leadership teams and managers should be held accountable and model the desired behaviour.

For example, I made it a part of managers’ compensation plans to have real examples of how they carry out the values. We also host the Contentstack Values Awards annually to recognize and incentivize employees who live the values and could inspire others by their actions.

Diversity is also an important factor to building a culture that motivates employees. Research studies every day show that diverse workforces strengthen the bottom line, and thriving companies are a big factor for happy employees. Diversity also brings with it all sorts of intangibles that improve culture. To name a few, employees don’t feel as if they’re “the only,” new ideas and fresh thinking inspire creativity and innovation; and the organisation becomes a coveted place to work.

We’ve always focused on building a diverse team. At Contentstack, this includes hiring for transferable skills-focused vs. narrow-experience to give all qualified applicants a chance to prove their abilities and running job descriptions through a Gender Decoder to ensure gender-inclusive language. We also hold ourselves publicly accountable to our diversity goals by signing industry commitments like the “ScaleUp Diversity Pledge.”

Leading with and reinforcing values and focusing on diversity creates a culture we are all proud of. It also ensures we are future-proofing our organisation as economics, business, and societal tides shift. A company that knows who it is and what it stands for is more sustainable in the long run.

Remembering Employees are Individuals 

While building culture is important, recognising that culture is made up of individuals is equally important. Use 1:1’s to understand what motivates your employees. For example, not everyone wants to be thanked in a public way, but others thrive on it. Some workers thrive on their own, others relish the busy office environment, and yet others might need 9-5 constraints to do their best work. This speaks to the need to not always paint with broad strokes. Be open to adapt to different ways of working and create the flexibility each needs to succeed.

For young entrepreneurs, this can be all the more challenging – you’re leading a brand new company, are responsible for your employees’ livelihood, and are likely short-staffed while you’re at it. Broad strokes might be the fallback. My advice is to find the balance.

Understand employee commonalities and build programs around those commonalities. All employees need the resources and benefits to succeed, including healthcare, training and development, flexible hours, and generous time-off. Think beyond that, too. For example, at Contentstack, we hire people that care deeply – and are very motivated – by the opportunity to give back. So our social good programs serve our communities but also are powerful drivers of culture across generations.

But generalities don’t always work. We scaled up from 50 employees in 2019 to over 400 employees across 13 countries this year. At the same time, we established a “location neutral” workforce, meaning where you work has no consideration in whether or not you’re right for the job. Those two factors combined mean we’re dealing with many different cultures and ways of working.

We’ve compensated by adapting to the locations in which we operate. This includes researching local expectations related to employer/employee relationships including customising the perks we offer. The ones we choose in India might vary from those that would interest our employees in Germany. Case in point: In India, we offer healthcare for the parents of employees because of the prevalence of multi-generational households. We’ve also had to hold honest discussion around compensation and total rewards based on the cost of living across location.

I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges of understanding where work stops and our personal life begins. It’s part of being a serial entrepreneur. I used to see it as a need to sacrifice my personal life to achieve the future I wanted. But both can be a priority.

The idea that establishing a healthy relationship with work is now perceived as quitting is unnerving. Quiet quitting is not quiet at all – employees are being loud and clear. Managers should focus on creating an environment where employees want to super-serve. When you build an organisation that centres employees, you build trust, and employees will have the confidence and motivation to succeed.