The statistics are compelling: employee engagement matters! According to a study from HR research and advisory firm McLean & Company, disengaged employees represent a cost of $3,400 annually, for every $10,000 in annual salary. The study also reported that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy, overall, up to $350 billion annually.
And there’s more bad news. While companies may think they’re doing just fine in terms of engaging their employees, research reports just the opposite. Accounting and advisory firm Grant Thornton reports that 49% of U.S. employees are disengaged, based on a survey of 5,000 employees. Gallup research paints an even grimmer picture — their State of the Global Workforce report indicates that 60% of employees are emotionally detached at work — 19% are miserable.
Why such a lack of engagement? Because, survey respondents say, their employee experience is poor. They suffer from unfair treatment, unmanageable workloads and time pressures, unclear communication from managers, lack of manager support, and no sense of belonging.
Lack of Engagement Carries Big Costs
Companies pay the price for this lack of engagement. Disengaged employees, according to Grant Thornton, don’t recommend their employers as a great place to work, don’t see themselves continuing to work for their employers for more than six months, and don’t feel inspired to perform at the top of their game.
Only 21% of employees say that they’re engaged at work. Only 33% say they’re thriving in terms of overall wellbeing.
The result: a phenomenon that has come to be referred to as “quiet quitting” — basically going through the motions of doing their jobs and doing just enough to get by. And that’s if they can’t find somewhere else to work. Both “quiet quitting” and turnover are costing companies a lot of money in terms of recruitment and training, lost productivity, poor quality of service, All of which have major impacts on their brands.
Who are the “quiet quitters”? According to HR Executive, quiet quitters are:
- Female — 61%
- Actively looking for another job — 42%
- Most likely to be Millennials (36%) and Gen X (34%) — 21% are Boomers, and only 7% Gen Z
- Customer facing — 50%
But these dismal results offer an opportunity for employers — an opportunity for a new era of leadership to open up lines of communication with employees. Here’s how leaders can build trust to increase engagement, mitigate “quiet quitting”, and reduce turnover (and its associated costs).
Focus on Open Conversations
Leaders need to prioritize employee engagement and open lines of communication with their employees. Communication starts at the top and is critical at every level. Without effective communication, employees are less cooperative, less collaborative, and more likely to create boundaries, instead of prioritizing innovation. Focusing on open conversations and strong communication is one employee motivation strategy that will create cohesion.
This is especially true when these conversations are difficult conversations. Difficult conversations, handled effectively, build trust. Consider the impact of “opening the vault” to talk about previously taboo subjects — such as mental health. These conversations create an emotional connection with the employee, building their comfort level and freeing them from the hesitancy of speaking up.
Prioritize Workforce Wellbeing
Wellbeing has been a top-of-mind topic since the pandemic emerged but, in truth, it should have been one long before. It’s important for organizations to understand employees’ wellbeing needs — from physical, mental, and emotional, to financial and social. Only then can strategies to effectively address the totality of their needs.
When team member wellness needs are met, and employees trust that their leaders care about them, they’re more likely to increase their effort and remain committed to the organization rather than falling prey to “quiet quitting” and turnover.
Replace Surveillance with Collaborative Planning
The remote and hybrid work environment has given rise to a growth in the use of technology to “keep tabs” on employees. But just because the technology exists, doesn’t mean it should be used.
As Alex Seiler, Chief People Officer a GHJ, an accounting and business advisory firm told Human Resource Executive: “There are still individuals out there who believe that a ‘face time’ culture is important and so is measuring someone’s productivity.” These are the leaders who use tracking and surveillance technology to monitor employee productivity, he says, but adds: “I, frankly, can’t think of a worse idea and a way to lose employee trust.”
Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
The onset of the “Great Resignation” that emerged in 2021 has given rise to significant shifts in employees’ feelings about the role that work plays in their lives. Employees today increasingly expect that their employers share and reflect their values — including a commitment to DEI.
Beyond expressing commitment, employees expect an inclusive culture where employers demonstrate real effort. They remain committed when employers put their money where their mouth is, rather than simply giving lip service to DEI commitments.
Develop a Competitive and Transparent Total Rewards Focus
Employees today value more than a competitive salary and traditional benefits. They also are increasingly demanding greater access to growth opportunities and the recognition of service milestones, along with “new normal” benefits like flexible schedules and the recognition of their achievements. In addition, intangible benefits — like finding purpose in work, and being acknowledged for performance and celebrations for diversity.
HR leaders have an opportunity to build — and communicate — total rewards packages that accommodate their employees’ preferences. When employee benefits satisfy both needs and wants, a trusting bond is formed which ultimately drives higher performance goals.
Demonstrate Authenticity and High Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
People trust leaders they like. As Daniel Goleman, a contributor to the Korn Ferry Institute, asserts: “As the workplace becomes increasingly collaborative and virtual, leaders do best if they cultivate genuine connections and rapport.” Goleman is widely known for his work with emotional intelligence (EQ).
When leaders openly expose their own weaknesses, strengths, and values, they create clarity around purpose — something today’s workers crave. According to Goleman, researchers have found that the four domains of EQ — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management — “closely correspond with the prevailing model of authentic leadership.”
Building trust is important. Trust makes an organization a great place to work and helps to minimize the potential for “quiet quitting” and turnover. To effectively build trust, organizations need to think big — beyond tactics, to a strategic focus on humanity and care. When they do, it will keep employees motivated and engaged, making a difference in real and measurable ways.