There’s a new business buzzword that’s been making the media rounds lately that you’ve almost certainly heard: “quiet quitting.” It refers to the apparently growing trend of employees’ dialing back their work efforts — putting forth the bare minimum amount of work necessary to keep their jobs, but not expending much additional effort. Quiet quitters are the employees you’re least likely to see going “above and beyond” the requirements outlined in their job descriptions, and this phenomenon is critically impacting business performance.
But quiet quitting is really not a new concept. For years, we at Inspirus have been promoters of employee engagement — which directly relates to employee satisfaction — as we help organizations combat the growing problem of employee disengagement.
The ultimate goal: to create a positive employee experience and engage them before they get to the point of quiet quitting — which becomes more of a productivity issue than one of morale.
The Implications of Quiet Quitting
As Tom Starner writes for HR Executive: “An August ResumeBuilding.com survey of 1,000 working Americans, in fact, found that a decent percentage (21%) of workers report having a ‘quiet quitting’ mindset, with another 5% doing even less than what’s expected of them.” Worse, about one-third say they’ve cut back on their effort by more than 50%!
Gallup has estimated that the ranks of quiet quitters may be as high as 50% of the U.S. workforce, maybe more. Gallup has been measuring and monitoring employee engagement — or the lack thereof — for a number of years. Most recently indicating that “U.S. employee engagement took another step backward during the second quarter of 2022, with the proportion of engaged workers remaining at 32% but the proportion of actively disengaged increasing to 18%. The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.”
So what can be done to turn the tide and improve organizational culture? Here are four key steps to take to reverse the quiet quitting trend within your organization and improve the employee journey.
Do your employees feel they have an outlet to voice their honest feelings and concerns without fear of reprisal or repercussion? Do you promote an environment of trust and transparency? Do you listen, especially, to feedback you may really not want to hear?
Many organizations don’t. Or they may feel that they do, but sometimes their managers’ and supervisors’ individual efforts can get in the way of their best intentions.
Tools that allow employees to share anonymous feedback can help here. The Inspirus Connects platform, for instance, has a new Employee Voice feature that allows employees to do just that — give real-time, anonymous feedback 24/7. Not only does this offer employees a safe outlet to express their concerns, it also provides Human Resources with access, in the moment, to employee sentiment so they can address emerging trends before they become widespread, and damaging, organization-wide issues.
Make Course Corrections
Listening is task number one. Doing something about what you hear is a critical next step.
Effective employee communication strategy isn’t something that happens once a year. It’s ongoing. It involves making continuous course corrections based on the inputs and signals you’re receiving on an ongoing basis.
Consider the rapid pace of change that all businesses have experienced during the pandemic. Now consider that, even before the pandemic, as we identified in our Employee Engagement Trends and Forecasts for 2022, business leaders were broadly lamenting the rapid pace of change.
In today’s volatile business environment, change is a constant that must be effectively managed. That requires planning with the understanding that the environment — internal and external — is constantly changing. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to demonstrate strong leadership by communicating broadly and transparently, and engaging employees in the change management process.
If your culture is exhibiting signs of quiet quitting you need to take action — now. Your engagement strategy needs to adjust to stem the tide and right the ship. Getting things back on course will improve company culture, keep your valuable employees and give your organization a competitive advantage when seeking new talent.
It’s not possible to over-communicate, especially in a hybrid/remote work environment. It’s critical to continually, and clearly articulate what your organization is hearing from employees, how you will address needed change through course correction — and how much you value ongoing feedback.
When you tie your communication back to your vision and break it down into inputs (the feedback), outputs (the deliverables, or what you’re doing), and the milestones you will measure to gauge success (timing and accountability), business outcomes will soar.
As we noted in our 2022 Employee Engagement Trends and Forecasts Report, communication has always been a critical factor in ensuring employee engagement. In a hybrid work world, though, it’s become even more apparent just how important communication is to ensuring both engagement and productivity — and tackling the trend of quiet quitting.
Change doesn't just impact the organization; it impacts the people within the organization — your employees. The uncertain business and social environment has heightened the need for communication and transparency to ensure employees are up-to-date and informed about company goals and objectives, health and safety practices, opportunities for employee professional development, work-life balance, and more.
Lead With Adaptive Leadership
In an environment of continual change, adaptive leadership is a must. McKinsey research indicates that “adaptability is the critical success factor during periods of transformation and systemic change.” Being able to adapt, they say, creates a focus on opportunities, rather than challenges.
Adaptive leadership, according to an article in Harvard Business Review, involves “4 A’s”:
- Anticipating future trends
- Articulation needs related to those trends
- Adapting through continuous learning and adjustments, as necessary
- Accountability which involves transparency and openness to feedback
These are the steps involved both in engaging employees and addressing the concept of quiet quitting.
According to McKinsey, many organizations managed to change their operations model during the pandemic to accommodate the rapid rise in remote work. Those that were most successful at this were more likely to be top-quartile performers.
Adaptive leadership is critical to reversing culture shifts and the key to moving forward successfully.
Through it all we must lead with empathy as we pointed out in Employee Engagement Trends and Forecasts for 2022: “In their 2021 EY Empathy in Business Survey Ernst & Young (EY) found that 88% of respondents felt that empathetic leadership created loyalty among employees.”
Gathering feedback, making course corrections, communicating, and leading with adaptive leadership can help improve employee engagement by creating an environment where leaders’ actions exhibit empathy. That’s what improves job satisfaction and inspires loyalty. That is what will help you reverse the trend of quiet quitting and make employees feel more engaged and happy, long term.