Quiet Hiring
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Focus on HR: Quiet quitting and quiet hiring 

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Quiet quitting and quiet hiring are two trends many of us in the tax and accounting profession are having to tackle. Culture, working conditions, and a solid recruitment strategy are critical when it comes to preventing them from wreaking havoc on your firm. Consider this article as a starting point for developing your own plan to combat these issues.

Combat quiet quitting with a strong firm culture

Just what are we talking about?

  • Quiet quitting is a recent phenomenon defined by staff members opting to do the bare minimum to get by in their jobs—while still collecting full compensation.
  • Quiet hiring is the practice of not using traditional job posts and public channels to recruit staff. This has been our firm’s go-to recruitment strategy since we began 15 years ago.

While data shows that 2022 was a year where this trend hit a problematic peak across a wide variety of industries and organizations, in its traditional structure, the tax and accounting profession is ripe for this issue to continue indefinitely, and potentially widen in its scope.

Two of the main reasons why we’ll see our share of quiet quitters? Blame it on outdated approaches to creating and managing firm culture, and employee recruitment and retention. However, even with the best of intentions in these areas, the mindset and dynamic of the workforce has changed. Leveraging more remote workers and outsourced talent present new challenges to preventing and responding to quiet quitting, especially in a profession synonymous with demanding workloads and deadlines.

How can we be proactive in our approach to reducing and responding to quiet quitting in our firms? From my perspective, it’s a balance between nurturing a great team and needing to take decisive action when you realize a quiet quitting situation is beyond repair—in order to mitigate the damage it can cause to other areas of your firm. A couple of recent examples illustrate the point.

New hires and dedicated team members require unique approaches

My firm is 100% remote and was all remote, even before the pandemic, so I have spent the past several years cultivating a culture of high performance and high reward for my team. Since we are a relatively small firm with aggressive growth targets, there’s no room for quiet quitting. When there is a disengaged team member, I have learned through experience that it is best to hire slow and fire fast.

I use software to monitor employee time and activity on their computer. In one case when I hired a new bookkeeper, after two weeks it was clear she wasn’t giving 100% effort. Not even close, so we let her go rather than let the situation cost us money and her more time in a role that wasn’t a good fit.

When there is a disengaged team member, I have learned through experience that it is best to hire slow and fire fast.

At the other end of the spectrum, one of our remote team members who had been with us for five years began making simple errors and not performing at nearly the level we knew they were capable. After much coaching and evaluation of the situation—which appears to be the result of this employee’s move to a different country—we gave them a 90-day notice to find a new position and gave them a severance package.

These are two examples I wish had been different, but since the remaining team is highly motivated and engaged to meet their performance goals based on the work they do, and thus receive their project-based, quarterly, and annual bonuses, I believe these are instances where the job role was not ideal for the team member for reasons beyond our control.

I take these experiences seriously as key learning opportunities. In these cases, it certainly strengthens my resolve to ensure our culture is conducive to attracting and retaining the best talent. Which leads us to the flipside of quiet quitting …. 

Quiet hiring: It takes a team to build the right team

Since our firm started 15 years ago, quiet hiring has been a key recruitment strategy. I strongly encourage my team to recommend new hires within their personal and professional networks. They receive incentives after the 90-day introductory period when a referral becomes a valuable team member.

We have also recently used a recruitment agency to help us “quietly” look for talent. The key here is to make it crystal clear what qualities and experience is necessary. We also use a tool called The Predictive Index to get a solid understanding of how a potential candidate may fit into a role. It may add some expense upfront, but worth it in the long run compared to the cost of team turnover.

Another strategy we employ to recruit and retain top talent is incentivizing based on performance. For example, we offer a commission on clean-up projects and a new client bonus, so team members have the incentive to fit a new client into their roster and meet timelines efficiently. We also have quarterly bonuses based on team performance, as well as annual bonuses based on tenure.

Tackle these two trends now

Being proactive and planning your firm’s approach toward quiet quitting and quiet hiring will pay dividends in the future through reduced costs of turnover and lost productivity. Regardless of whether you have already experienced quiet quitting in your firm, being prepared with a plan for identifying and responding to it is key.

Of course, by having an effective quiet hiring strategy in place, you also should be able to reduce the incidence and impact of this ongoing trend in your firm. Good luck!

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