How to Create and Sustain a Growth Mindset to Nurture Talent

BY Carrie Snider | March 28, 2024

When Dr. Mary Murphy was working on her PhD at Stanford, she was mentored by Carol S. Dweck, best-selling author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, a book that covers the potential of individuals. Now a social psychologist, Murphy has taken the mindset concept a step further and for over a decade has studied how the “fixed” or "growth” mindset affects not only individuals, but groups of people. 

Murphy discussed research from her book, Cultures of Growth: How the New Science of Mindset Can Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations, and how it can help teams during a fireside chat at From Day One’s March Virtual Conference.

Those with a fixed mindset, Murphy says, believe in being born with skills that can’t grow any further. While those with a growth mindset believe they can learn and grow into new abilities. When talking about teams, organizations, families—there is a similar mindset culture.

In a fixed mindset culture, or a “culture of genius” as Murphy called it, the focus is on the star performers. The opposite is a “culture of growth” where there is a focus on continuous learning so anyone can grow and contribute. And it’s that culture of growth that organizations need.

Idea Spark

In 2005 during her PhD program, Murphy clearly recalled when this group application of mindset sparked. She was at a grad student seminar supporting a friend, where a professor voiced his opinion about what the fatal flaw of this student’s work was. Another professor chimed in and disagreed, saying the fatal flaw was something else. In essence, it was a battle of which professor was right.

“I saw what it was doing to my friend,” she said. “All of a sudden, he lost focus. He wasn’t able to answer questions.” Unfortunately, the experience was so painful that months later he hadn’t continued his work.

Two weeks later, in a different seminar, she witnessed something else. Rather than critiquing the students about what was wrong, the professors offered ideas on how to grow the project. The effect was clear. “The students were able to respond totally differently,” Murphy said. “They were able to actually engage in the brainstorming, answer the questions, and they left motivated to dig in.”

Reflecting on those two experiences or environments, she realized how much a group can impact an outcome. The harsh approach was not motivating at all. On the other hand, the mentality of growth and how we can all contribute really turned things around for the better.

Dr. Mary Murphy discussed her new book Cultures of Growth: How the New Science of Mindset Can Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations in a fireside chat moderated by From Day One co-founder Steve Koepp (photo by From Day One)

Murphy presented the idea to her new mentor, asking what if mindset is more than just internal? What if it’s baked into culture and influences the cultivation of talent? 

She blinked a few times and said, “No one's ever thought of mindset this way. But we should do it together. And that began 15 years of work on reconceptualizing the mindset, as not just in our head, but also as this cultural feature.”

Time to Study

Now with 75 studies in her back pocket, Murphy has seen firsthand just how deep mindset goes. Murphy and Dweck looked at the mindset of teachers and faculty members in K-12 and college and how they practice that in the classroom.

“We look at how that impacts student experience. We’ve created apps that actually measure student experience in the moment looking at their sense of belonging, whether they think their teacher has a growth mindset, belief for them or not, their sense of self efficacy, their trust of the teacher.”

What they found was that even if a student has a growth mindset, when set into a fixed mindset culture, they won’t have the opportunity to benefit from their growth mindset. The group trumps and stilts their progress.  

In the National Study of Learning Mindsets, a randomized control trial of more than 12,000 students around the country underwent a growth mindset program to see how it would impact their grades and if they’d be willing to take challenging courses. 

As expected, it had a positive effect. Their GPA was higher and more of them enrolled in the challenging courses than the control group. They also looked at where the program didn’t work.

“The answer was two places,” Murphy said. “It was with teachers that had more fixed mindset beliefs or engaged in fixed mindset practices, then giving students that personal growth mindset. The effect was zero. It had no impact. It wasn't even a small impact – it had no impact.”

The other place it didn’t work was when peers didn’t engage in challenge seeking, then students were less likely to want to work hard. But when there were teachers and peers who relished a challenge and supported each other, the growth mindset helped students flourish.

Organizational Culture

Working with companies of all shapes and sizes, Murphy saw similar results. The mindset of a team at large has a huge impact on creativity, collaboration, and innovation. In one study in particular, they looked at the difference between a psychologically safe environment and a growth minded environment. They found that psychological safety is the baseline for any other growth to take place.

“Psychological safety just means that you're willing to speak up when something’s gone wrong. But growth mindset culture really is being vigilant about how to improve what you’re doing, your interactions with others, the outcomes and the strategies that you’re trying. You’re proactively looking for improvement opportunities.”

In fixed mindset cultures, they search for the narrow genius prototype to come up with all the answers. When in reality, a growth culture would open up the spectrum of recruiting, looking more at positive values. As Murphy says, a growth culture helps organizations naturally look for more diversity. “What’s most important is the extent to which people are willing to develop, grow and learn.”

Changing Company Culture

In her book, Murphy goes over four common mindset triggers which can help individuals understand where people are on the fixed to growth spectrum. In turn, those who work with those individuals can help them shift. 

For example, one trigger is praise. If someone else gets praise, how does the person react? Are they happy for them, or are they jealous, thinking they are less than? 

One way to help foster a growth mindset is how praise is given. Rather than a “good job!” which doesn’t offer helpful feedback, Murphy suggested managers repeat what the person has done so well, so they can replicate that and others can encourage.

When Satya Nadella first came to Microsoft as CEO, he described Microsoft as everyone thinking about their own silo. He read Dweck’s book and wanted to help Microsoft become the first growth minded culture and company. 

Kathleen Hogan, head of talent, asked how things needed to change so they could recruit and onboard people that would help shift the company’s culture. She implemented changes, but success didn’t come right away. Some bragged they had the biggest growth mindset in the room. 

“She had to really talk to people about what a growth mindset actually looks like. And to bake that in to some of the incentive systems and also some of the mentoring and sponsoring and support systems so that people could take on challenges could make mistakes, and actually get points for the learning and the growth from those mistakes and the communicating of those mistakes across the company, so that the whole company can learn at the same time more rapidly.” 

That’s when things picked up. Slowly but surely, the culture was changing. It became okay to make mistakes, but putting out ideas and taking risks and being open to failure became the norm. And that’s how they got cloud computing. Was the culture change worth it? No doubt about it.

Carrie Snider is a Phoenix-based journalist and marketing copywriter.


The Three Pillars of Wellness: Physical, Mental, and Financial

The three pillars of wellness–physical, mental, and financial–are like three legs on a stool. Lose one, and the whole thing tips over. For example, if an employee needs an emergency medical procedure and has a high-deductible plan with little savings, not only will their physical health suffer, but they will soon feel mental and emotional stress as well. Ideally, employers will have plans in place to provide support in all areas.Rather than thinking in terms of siloes, the more effective approach for benefits leaders is to see how three pillars support an employee’s overall well-being. In a recent fireside chat at From Day One’s April virtual conference, Nate Nevas, head of benefits and health services at Pitney Bowes, provided an inside look at how to provide individualized care for a diverse workforce.The Current Moment in BenefitsThe current state of the workforce is both “the best of times, and the worst of times,” said Nevas. There are external forces making benefits challenging, including a nationwide lack of available primary care physicians and the rising costs of healthcare.But on the flip side, the current embrace of technology is having a positive impact on the HR world. “There are some things now that are available to provide as resources to our employees that are fantastic, that five, ten, 15 years ago just weren’t available,” Nevas said. This includes app-based resources like virtual healthcare appointments, online professional training courses, and even group fitness classes.Moderator Jeanhee Kim, an independent journalist, notes that the World Health Organization recently stated we are now going on year five of Covid. “Covid strained not just our physical health, but also strained our mental health and the economy,” Kim said. In order to embrace the current moment, employers need to be ready to address each of these concerns among their workforce.A Holistic Approach to Mental HealthNevas says that physical, mental, and financial wellness should all be approached with equal importance, and employers need to recognize how they are all interconnected. “We don't look at one as being more important than the other,” he said. “They’re all equally important to create someone who is going to come in and be fulfilled, be able to do their job, and feel good about themselves as an individual.”Journalist Jeanhee Kim interviewed Nate Nevas of Pitney Bowes at From Day One's April virtual conference (photo by From Day One)Prior to the pandemic, Nevas says, mental wellness tended to fall on the back burner. But throughout Covid, the need for mental health support became apparent, and his team began to put it on equal footing with physical and financial concerns. “We started a concerted effort to destigmatize mental wellness, using the phrase ‘it’s OK to not be OK,’” he said. Pitney Bowes began offering internal webinars “not just as a check-the-box effort, but as a consistent conversation and making it an acceptable conversation.”Since mental wellness statistics can be harder to track among employees than, say, 401(k) participation, leaders can gauge success by reviewing webinar statistics to see which topics are most important and touching base with senior leaders to see what employees are saying.Providing Individualized CareFor a global organization like Pitney Bowes, the workforce population is diverse, from high-powered salaried corporate executives to hourly workers for whom English might not be their first language. To keep things fair and consistent, Nevas says, Pitney Bowes doesn’t offer different benefits to different types of employees, but it may emphasize certain benefits to certain employees based on their interests and adjust how it communicates about them. For example, retirement planning options may be more attractive to employees who are salaried, even if the same benefits are offered to hourly workers too.Much of it comes down to knowing your audience and meeting them where they are. Hourly workers don’t have company email addresses or computers, he says. “We provide benefit guides that are in multiple languages. We know which languages are spoken the most at certain sites, and we’ll do hardcopy handouts there,” he said. He also knows there are huddle in-person meetings at the start of every shift, so he’ll give team leaders important messages to relay at those gatherings. Important messages will also appear on screens onsite, and each location has an employee experience champion available to explain benefits and encourage enrollment.Knowing that net cash flow is also important to the hourly population, Pitney Bowes provides advance pay options, low contribution health plans, and even major appliance purchase programs to help these employees make the most of their paychecks.Saving Money by Providing Better BenefitsPhysical, mental, and financial wellness benefits don’t have to break the bank for employers. Nevas says his organization has a benefits hub with discounts on car rentals, groceries, movie tickets, insurance, and more, plus a partnership to help with student loan refinancing. These benefits do not cost the organization any money, but can save the employee money and give them special access to certain perks.Pitney Bowes also emphasizes the importance and availability of free, preventative care so employees do not get hit as hard by future out-of-pocket costs. This is especially crucial among their immigrant employee population, which Nevas notes has more of a cultural resistance to medical check-ups.And of course, employee turnover can be a costly hit to an organization for a variety of reasons, so providing attractive benefits is also a boon to retention, particularly during this time of the great resignation. For Nevas and his team, this comes down to providing genuine, individualized care with an eye toward advancement and longevity. “Our employee value proposition is that ‘We do the right thing the right way,’” he said. They emphasize not only physical, mental, and financial wellness benefits, but also career development in terms of professional resources and a clear pathway to promotion. “We’re going to help you grow. Once we get someone in the door, it's about who we are as an organization, and what we're able to provide as a company from a cultural standpoint, not just benefits, but the whole picture and your professional development.”Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | April 26, 2024

How a Leader Brings Clarity to Benefits Offerings

“Benefits, perks, compensation–they’re all taken into account when job offers are made. That’s how you remain competitive. We don’t have to offer every single benefit that’s out there. We just have to offer the right ones.” This is according to Lenka Sloman, the managing director, and head of total rewards at global advertising firm GroupM.Sloman joined the company in September 2023, taking over the company’s benefits offerings and finding ways for GroupM to remain competitive for top ad talent. During the closing fireside chat at From Day One’s April virtual conference, I interviewed the total rewards leader about her strategy for getting the best return on investment for GroupM’s total rewards.Sloman’s challenge will be to balance market demands with individual needs.Tracking the Most Popular BenefitsThere is no limit to the size of benefits packages today. Not only are there innumerable vendors and platforms, the breadth of options is ever-widening.Sloman has been watching the market for the most popular benefits and perks. Right now, it’s all about family planning. GroupM enhanced its family-building benefits recently, adding features like egg freezing, donor services, adoption, paid time off, and parental leave. The company even added milk-shipping services, “so if a birthing parent goes back to work and is traveling, they can pump their milk and have it sent to their homes, so the baby can continue feeding,” said Sloman. It can also be used for surrogacy arrangements.“This is critically important for our employees,” she said. “We want to make sure our employees don’t have to worry about taking time off because they have to take care of a child–or whatever the case may be. If we get it right, they can concentrate on bonding with their newborns or adopted children, and it balances with their professional lives.”And she didn’t forget about those workers who don’t have kids at home. GroupM even offers dog-walking and pet-sitting services. “Pets are part of the family too,” she said.Competing for Talent With Exceptional Benefits PackagesSo, how does Sloman stay abreast of what’s going on in the benefits market?The talent acquisition team gathers information from job seekers about what they’re being offered elsewhere–and this provides helpful intel. But Sloman puts more stock into the data gathered by benefits consultants. “Understanding the benchmarks and getting guidance from our consultants sometimes has a more accurate description as to what our peers are doing. That’s what we base our decisions on. Really, it’s an art, not a science.”Lenka Sloman, right, was interviewed by journalist Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza during the virtual fireside chat (photo by From Day One)Keeping up with what’s happening in the benefits workplace, learning to distinguish between must-haves and nice-to-haves, and annually reviewing GroupM’s utilization plan are the three steps she follows to make the company an employer of choice.When benefits are regularly refreshed and augmented, new hires will be interested and current ones are more likely to stay. But the annual review isn’t necessarily spring cleaning. “We don’t have a policy that says, if no one’s using it, we’re going to get rid of it. We will generally put it on a watch list to revisit it once a year to make sure the return on investment is there.”To keep ROI high, employees have to know what’s available so they can use it. Sloman is persistent in her comms strategy. She holds a weekly call with new hires to review their benefits and answer questions. Existing employees get their own call focused on a specific benefit, often selected for timeliness. These calls are heavily attended, she said. “In February, for example, we wanted to make sure everyone got their receipts for their FSA, so we dedicated time to remind employees.”Sloman keeps an eye on the market, careful to not fall into the trap of fads. Yet she’s also keen on individualization. Work-life balance looks different for every employee, and the way they want to achieve it will vary just as widely. To this end, Sloman likes to keep some perks as flexible as possible.“I think people-first culture and work-life balance right now are top priorities for employees. That’s something we haven’t had before,” she said. But that means something different to everyone. To some, flexible work isn’t an interesting benefit; they would rather have more time off to spend with their families. Others will prefer remote work. The point is that employees could pick and choose their work and benefits arrangements in a way that best fits them. That’s something they’ll likely stick around for.Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza is a freelance journalist and From Day One contributing editor who writes about work, the job market, and women’s experiences in the workplace. Her work has appeared in the BBC, the Economist, the Washington Post, Quartz, Fast Company, and Digiday’s Worklife.

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza | April 24, 2024

Making Benefits More Accessible–and Meaningful

Nicole Cody became the vice president of total rewards at International Paper in 2020, right in the middle of the first year of Covid. “That was an interesting time to come into this space,” she said during a panel discussion at From Day One’s April virtual conference.Cody told moderator Lydia Dishman of Fast Company that the biggest spike in demand she has seen “is perhaps, not surprisingly, access to mental health providers and mental health care.”A majority of Americans say money problems negatively impact their mental health, says Will Peng, CEO and co-founder of Northstar, a comprehensive financial wellness benefit. “Financial stressors are very closely related to other pillars of well-being,” he said.Today’s workers want lifestyle spending accounts, which allow them to allocate benefit funds from their employers for wellness programs they need the most, says Megan Burns, benefits strategy and solutions lead for Forma, an employee benefits platform.Those programs can include physical wellness, social-emotional health, financial counseling, and whatever else the company deems eligible. She noted some studies indicate that by 2025, about 40% of employers will have some sort of lifestyle spending or customizable spending account in place. “It’s definitely become a really trendy benefit.”Stress Management and Mental HealthStress management has become a much-desired employee benefit in recent years, says Alecia Williams-Pierre, VP of total rewards at Atrium Hospitality.“We have been looking at implementing different webinars or meditations just as part of our culture to help associates be able to manage stress overall,” she said.Having access to mental health care providers is an enormous challenge, especially in rural locations, according to Cody.“So, when we were looking at how we could beef up our offerings, we looked at a provider network that doesn’t go through insurance,” she said. “They’re not part of a carrier’s provider network. They’re just mental health providers that get direct payments. And we found a way to process the claims through our insurance plan on the back end.”This arrangement allowed International Paper to get its employees access to care within days as opposed to weeks, says Cody.Helping Employees Manage Financial StressPeng says financial wellness is at the top of everyone’s mind right now because of inflation. “Everything seems to be really expensive now. It’s hard to walk out the door without spending more money than we hoped.”Northstar has a platform to help people manage their finances and provides one-on-one counseling, says Peng. He says creating a personalized plan for each individual life stage is the best form of support. For example, if an employee is starting a family, they must change their budget and decide on their benefits.The benefits and total rewards leaders spoke at From Day One's April virtual conference about "Benefits That Fit Individual Needs Without Busting the Budget" (photo by From Day One)“For what should be an exciting life event, oftentimes, we’re overwhelmed with a ton of logistical and financial decisions that we have to make,” he said. “So, it’s about creating those systems and guidance to help our people feel supported.”Lifestyle Spending AccountsDuring the pandemic, employees became more aware of the need to balance work and life, says Sarah Schutzburger, benefits and wellness manager for Samsung Semiconductor.“Employees would come to us saying, ‘What about this vendor? What about this support program? What about this resource?’” she said.As a result, Samsung Semiconductor recently implemented a lifestyle spending account so workers “can customize what’s valuable to them, and be reimbursed for those types of benefits,” Schutzburger said.Employees value lifestyle spending accounts because “they love choice and they love flexibility,” Burns said. Managing multiple benefits vendors can be costly and time-consuming for employers. However, lifestyle savings accounts are “sort of the easy button,” said Burns.More than 75% of the employers who partner with Forma repurpose existing budget dollars for lifetime savings accounts. “I would say the value is both from an employee’s appreciation of the benefit, administrative time, and direct financial ROI,” she said.Communicating With Employees About BenefitsBenefits only work if employees know and understand them, says Schutzberger. That’s why it’s critical for organizations to have “clear and concise messaging, using simple language to explain the benefits and their importance and avoiding jargon.”Companies should also “tell a story about the benefits,” Schutzberger said. Whether they are new parents or nearing retirement, “they want to know how they apply to them.”Williams-Pierre recommends organizations talk to their employees about benefits all year round using multiple channels such as email, webinars, and mailers.At Atrium Hospitality, communicating these options can be tricky, because benefits need to be discussed in various languages. “We have to have Spanish, we have to have French, we have to have Tagalog. And as our population grows and changes, we have to be more creative and be ready to meet the need.”Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa. 

Mary Pieper | April 23, 2024