The business press, consulting firms, and survey folks provide a different people issue to worry over daily, it seems. Surveys and more surveys – each with different numbers for a topic. Consider the “Great Resignation – depending on the source 40-75% of all employees were going to quit. Yes, a lot did resign in 2021, but it was 18% for men and 20% for women. Incidentally, many who changed jobs want to come back.

Quiet quitting is another ‘hot’ topic. At its heart this is old wine in a new bottle – it means people are doing their assigned job but are not volunteering for extra work or projects. Remember ‘work to rule’?

Think a minute. Properly, you hire a person to do specific work that you need done. If everyone on your staff is already doing all that is included in their job, you must be doing something right! That is your first, most basic performance management step.

If you are like many business owners, you hope the employee will contribute more and more over time. Many employees want to do that. How are you encouraging and supporting them? Some options:

  • Do you demonstrate your values and how they tie to the work so that people can see the alignment with their own goals?
  • Do you connect the work to a sense of mission? Employees often want a sense of purpose, a mission larger than just day to day actions.
  • Do you offer training or development support in any form?
  • Do all managers understand the importance of 1:1s on a regular basis? Of developing a human connection with each employee?
  • Do you recognize those employees who go ‘above or beyond’ via a recognition program, bonuses, larger pay increases, promotions, or other incentives?

You may hope for discretionary effort, but you need to recognize and reward it if you want it to continue.

Others may want or need to do the job they are in, while they spend more effort on the rest of their life. Don’t penalize these people – they are the backbone of most organizations.

How many places have you worked where the quietly competent people got slammed with other people’s work or extra duties because everyone knew they would handle it. While no-one paid attention to their work volume – till they quit.

Your employees may have lives that are still complicated by the impact of Covid. They may be wondering about their career choices or personal/life issues. Make your work needs clear but keep them realistic. Don’t expect people to answer calls/email/texts off hours – except in true emergencies.

If you worry that you have an issue of engagement among your employees, then address it. Don’t just assume it is something you have read about, like quiet quitting or ghosting or the great resignation. Figure out what specific problems you are now facing. Look at whether it is a single employee, several, or many. Once you recognize and assess the details, then you can look at potential solutions.

If you are like many small businesses, taking the time to do this is often harder than just assuming you know what the problem is. But ‘assuming’ doesn’t usually lead to effective solutions.


Surveys show a wide range in what people want now – remote work, hybrid, shorter work weeks, flexibility in hours and location. But the reality is that people’s lives are complicated and any flexibility you can offer helps them cope with real life issues – commuting, child or elder care, family/personal needs.

The question for every executive is ‘what makes sense for us?’ Note: this is not the same as doing something ‘because we always did.’

  • What does your work really require?
  • Are there options for any form of flexibility?
  • If so, which make the most sense?

The toughest issue for many employers is how to measure performance. Have you addressed that? Most of us still default to face-time, as if just because an employee is in the office we know they are productive. Ask me about a CEO who was on porn sites regularly each day during work hours and his impact…

If you are adding or have added flexibility, be sure you understand any laws you may have to comply with. Wages and hours law still applies to non-exempt workers. Several organizations which allowed people to go remote discovered late that they now had employees in states or localities with very specific business or tax laws they had not complied with. The authorities are not responsive to ‘but we didn’t know’ when you have missed a legal deadline or tax payment.

If you do look at surveys, check carefully: what organization did them, what they are measuring, what the surveyed organizations’ population size was, what type of employees were answering. I attend a quarterly meeting where the small business surveys are broken out as: Under 25 employees, 25-50, 51-100, 100-500. The responses from the size groups is very different to many of the questions – and not all the differences are what one might expect. An idea or change in a well-regarded source does not always mean it is right for you.

Employee Handbooks/Guides

How current is yours? Many organizations have not included all changes covering hybrid/remote work, benefits, and other issues from this difficult period. If you installed something a a pilot program, are you ready to make it permanent or to change or delete it? What does your handbook say about it? If you turned into an organization with people in several states, have you updated your handbook to address any new legal issues?

Others have handbooks which do not spell out their current values and mission. This is a lost opportunity to connect with employees who are seeking to work in a values driven organization, to feel as if there is more to work than just the exchange of labor for money. Some guides are written in a tone that is not effective for their population. Is that yours? I just saw a draft, for a new professional services company, where the tone was right out of the 1950s manufacturing world. Very authoritarian and status conscious. How will that help attract or retain in-demand professionals.

New Required DOL Poster

If you have not recently updated all your posters (in offices and online for remote employees), there is a new poster on workers rights that came out in October and is mandatory to display.     Know Your Rights

Lessons Learned

Are you keeping yourself living by basic work and learning practices?  I recently realized I was a bit lazier than I have been, whether I can blame it on the pandemic is another question.   Had a client who wanted to try a new benefit.  I checked my usual legal resources and they showed just what I remembered from their conferences – real issues with this.  The client countered with an article and I recognized – I had looked at what ‘I knew” and evidence I had, rather than searching for other options.  Turns out that this benefit is rare – think barely 1% of organizations offer it.  So it is also rarely covered.  The legal opinions had changed.  My resources had not updated and they focused on other more common issues during the pandemic.  I learned a good lesson about the need for alternative information and evidence, even when you think you know the answer.  Hope this does not happen to you.  But am betting many of us got a bit less careful during the many changes of the pandemic on our business and work.