First, They Called It the Great Resignation; Then, They Called It "Quiet Quitting"

The Fight for Employee Engagement Continues

November 2, 2022
|
5 mins
Creating Buy-In
Employee Engagement

We thought the "Great Resignation" would end workforce disengagement. Instead, we've witnessed quite the opposite. And although from the beginning of 2021 to 2022, employees took to loudly show their dismay by publicly exiting in often surprising ways. This year, employees further dismayed by the roll-back of work-from-home options, brought to a more silent form of protest in the form of "quiet quitting."

You've probably heard about the new alleged wave of employee disillusionment in the form of "Quiet Quitting." If you haven't, it consists of employee engagement expressly limited to what they feel paid for, no extra work. Extra work here refers to: engaging in workplace culture, putting in extra hours to meet strenuous deadlines or even simple watercooler chat. Naturally, business leaders are unhappy with this new "bare minimum."

Employers feel that "quiet quitting" is an issue because most occupations in today's workforce include additional work to interact with coworkers and satisfy client expectations. In fact, according to a recent study by Gallup, Q2 of 2022 saw a further decline in employee engagement in the United States, with the percentage of engaged workers continuing at 32%. Still, the rate of actively disengaged workers rose to 18%, and managerial roles experienced the most significant drop. But what is driving this large and sudden wave of disengagement?

There's been a long-standing debate on culture's role in an employee's work-life. If you let business leaders tell it, culture is the backbone of an organization's work processes. But for many- especially people of color, women, and queer employees, it often gets in the way of them functioning or succeeding in their everyday roles. 

ERG leaders are often familiar with high expectations to commit to culture initiatives without fair compensation. Despite many organizations referring to their ERG leaders as “agents of change”, to many ERG leaders that embody the position feel overwhelmed in a position that feels like an unpaid second job. ERG leaders are tasked with not only fostering an environment for diversity and inclusion, but also tying in those people centered initiatives into more complex and data-driven metrics that drive business profitability. In situations where compensation is completely off the table, it pressures good intentioned advocates for change to prioritize their mental health before taking on additional cultural asks. 

Moreover, a Gallup survey conducted in 2021 found that women working in the US report higher rates of on-the-job burnout than their male counterparts. Additionally, women of color are even more likely to experience burnout, and they are less likely to disclose these mental health concerns at work. In fact, they are punished when trying to establish healthy boundaries. "Quiet quitting" presents a safer way to protect workers facing these disadvantages while maintaining the status quo.

On the surface, "quiet quitting" sounds like the most reasonable action when you feel overburdened. But for the groups mentioned above of women and members of minority groups, this temporary peace of mind comes at a cost to their careers, which require networking and engaging in culture to succeed.

Employers must actively engage these groups through managers who, in turn, must know how to create opportunities for learning and growth, feelings of care, and a connection to the organization's mission or purpose.

Ask yourself, why are employees "quiet quitting"?

A recent study by Harvard Business Review found indicators that point to poor management contribution to the most significant source of employee disengagement.

The effective minor managers have three to four times as many employees that fall into the "quiet quitting" category as opposed to the most influential leaders, according to data on 2,801 managers rated by 13,048 direct reports. In addition, only 20% of these supervisors' direct reports were willing to put in extra effort, and 14% of them discreetly resigned. However, good managers had 62% of their direct reports wanting more action, and only 3% were covertly quitting.

Whether or not an employee will "quiet quit" depends mostly on how comfortable a worker feels in management. Therefore, employers should evaluate current and future managerial roles based on their ability to inspire employee confidence.

How do you know if an employee is quiet quitting?

As the above statistics show, only 3% to 4% of employees will disengage from the workplace if work culture and organizational structures support their success. However, signs of quiet quitting can be easily spotted in the level of productivity or engagement in team activities under specific managers. That is to say, the less engaged workers appear to be within their team or with their managers, the more likely employers can identify signs of "quiet quitting."

But the responsibility shouldn't just fall on the shoulders of managers alone. It's up to business leaders to include employee engagement. In company OKRs and making them known from onboarding throughout senior leadership.

What can employers do in response to "quiet quitting"?

Businesses can do a few things to create a more engaged workforce. First, they need to focus on communication. Employees want to feel heard, and that their concerns are addressed, which comes when employers create a culture of trust. Employees need to feel like they can trust their employer and that their employer is looking out for their best interests. And it all starts with management.

Invest in your workforce

Businesses that also incorporate employee engagement in metrics for success, and make it a priority for their organization, are more likely to retain and attract productive employees. Standard employee engagement measures incorporate opportunities for development and growth, internal participation in employee-driven activities provided by ERGs, and transparent ways to communicate with senior leadership. And of course reward ERG leaders for setting up these crucial pathways to receiving meaningful engagement from your employees. If you’re looking for ideas on compensation or how to get started, check out these tips from our recent ERG Tech Summit.

Upskill your managers.

Only managers are in a position to understand each employee's unique circumstances, skills, and objectives. But according to Gallup, only one in three managers are actively engaged at work. Employees must understand how their work contributes to the business's overall goals to be productive. Teach your managers to own the process for evaluating and conveying individual performance, team collaboration, and customer value.

Reassess and reinforce company values.

Business leaders need to lead by example. What incentive do your other employees have if they fail to follow your brand values? Or worse, what reason will they have to trust seemingly exempt leadership?

Leadership should set an example by imitating and enforcing brand standards. Promoting a positive culture accelerates trust-building, conveys equality, and increases brand value by holding all employees accountable to the same standards.

Turnover is expensive, pandemic or not- businesses need to be prepared to invest in their workforce if they want to retain top talent. With the right strategies in place, employers can take steps to address the underlying issues and improve employee engagement.

Want engaged and inspired employees? Learn more about what we’re doing at Five to Nine.  Our platform enables employee experiences leaders from ERGs to culture and workplace happiness champions do their best job by streamlining work and collecting data on impact.   Learn more about how Five to Nine is helping companies cope with the current crisis by bringing data, centralization, and automation to their event management.We have helped customers host thousands of live and virtual events through the Five to Nine platform and have many best practices up our sleeves.

So reach out, schedule a demo and learn more about the Five to Nine platform today.

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