How To Retain Employees and Avoid Quiet Quitting in 2023

February 1, 2023

How to Retain Employees in 2023

How to retain employees and avoid quiet quitting in 2023? In 2022 many leaders faced the “Great Resignation,” losing some of their most valued employees only to be followed by a second negative trend called “Quiet Quitting.” The Quiet Quitters did not quit in the traditional way but rather decided to avoid giving any extra effort.

How to Retain Employees? Start Having a Different Conversation about Work

Managers have frequent conversations with direct reports about their individual work. They discuss any challenges the employee may be encountering, ways to improve the work process, milestones the employee is reaching,  and variances in adhering to the budget. The focus of these conversations is most often on the mechanics and the execution of the work.

Our research suggests that a totally different conversation may be equally important, if not more valuable. This conversation focuses on the purpose of the employee’s work and how it contributes to the mission and objectives of the organization. It ensures that the direct reports appreciate how their work contributes to the important end goal of the organization.

Here’s how we came to this conclusion on retaining employees.

Research on Retaining Employees and Mitigating Quiet Quitting

We collected data on 15,499 employees from January to September 2022 to better measure these two issues. In our research, we found that while 29% of the employees were considering quitting, only 5%, on average, were unwilling to give extra effort (quietly quitting).

Note that these percentages have a substantial range when taking into account the leader’s effectiveness. In the graph below, we show the results from 3,590 leaders. Leadership effectiveness was determined by direct reports’ evaluation of 60 differentiating leadership behaviors that were most effective at separating great from poor leaders. The vertical bars represent the percentage of direct reports thinking about quitting and quietly quitting. This graph makes clear that the more effective the leader, the lower the percentage.

How Retain Employees

Leader Behaviors that Retain Employees and Keep Them from Quietly Quitting

Which leadership behaviors were most strongly correlated with both intentions to leave and quiet quitting? To accomplish this, we calculated the correlation coefficient between the intention to leave/quiet quitting and the effectiveness ratings from direct reports. The following six critical behaviors had the highest correlations.

  1. Inspiring and energizing direct reports. In our research, we have found that 72% of leaders were rated as more effective at driving for results than they were at inspiring others. When direct reports were asked which leadership behavior was most important for a leader to be more effective in their job, they listed inspiring and energizing others as number one. We know both behaviors are important and that the best leaders do both well, but leaders who have a strong preference around giving orders, demanding higher performance, or holding direct reports accountable without inspiring create a negative work environment for direct reports.
  2. Communicating direction and purpose. The second critical behavior is effectively providing others with a definite sense of purpose and helping others understand how their work contributes to that purpose. Often direct reports don’t understand the impact of their work and the extent to which it contributes to the success of the organization. Poor-performing managers do not think this is necessary, assuming that “Employees should work hard on their job because that is what they are paid to do!” But the inability of people to see the connection between their work and important outcomes hides from them the sense of purpose for what they are doing and why it is important.
  3. Helping Direct Reports Learn and Develop New Skills. Working hard every day is a job but working hard while learning and developing new skills is a career. Most every employee wants to learn and develop new skills. This makes them more valuable and effective in their jobs. Leaders skilled at building development into the jobs of their direct reports generate discretionary effort in their employees and decrease turnover.
  4. Encouraging Others to Stretch. When people accomplish difficult goals, they feel a true sense of accomplishment and pride. Doing something hard that requires great effort is not something easily done alone. People need encouragement and support. When people stretch themselves, they start to believe they have great self-worth and can make a difference in the world. We also know that engagement increases significantly.
  5. Keeping People Focused on the Highest Priority Goals and Objectives. Leaders who eliminate busy work and keep their employees focused on the highest priority objectives have fully engaged and committed employees. Accomplishing important work helps employees feel more committed and motivated because they see they are adding value, while busy work just bogs them down.
  6. Recognizing where Change is Needed. Following an antiquated process that is outdated and ineffective motivates everyone to quit. Finding an innovative, effective way to accomplish tasks quickly makes every person more productive and engaged. Holding on to outdated, obsolete processes kills motivation and encourages turnover.

Quiet quitting and resignment in organizations can be reversed with highly effective leaders skilled at some of the eight behaviors listed above. Select and improve the one that would help your team thrive in 2023.

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