“Employee engagement is the emotional commitment employees have to the company and its goals.”
- Kevin Kruse, former Best Place to Work award-winning CEO and bestselling author of three books on Employee Engagement.
There are three kinds of employees—those who are engaged, those who are not engaged, and those who are actively disengaged.
“Quiet quitters” fall into the second category, which, according to Gallup, makes up the largest percentage of employees. Their Q2 2022 figures show that a disturbing 50% of employees are quiet quitters. This might signal an employee engagement crisis, and chances are your workplace is already affected or may soon be.
A famous quote is, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” (Attributed to Amy Reese Anderson.)
In the workplace, those who don’t feel appreciated become “quiet quitters.”
It’s a trending term coined on social media and isn’t an entirely new concept. It’s “work to rule” by another name and a reaction to employee dissatisfaction and burnout. Employees withhold any extra time or effort and do only the minimum required.
This drop in engagement started in the second half of 2021, coinciding with the start of the Great Resignation. Employees were demanding more from their work (meaning, purpose, and flexibility), their workplace (a positive employee experience), and their employers (fair compensation, development, work-life balance, empathic management, etc.)
Here’s the cause for concern: disengaged employees are one step away from becoming ex-employees. At a minimum, they are thinking about leaving. With half the US workforce quiet quitting, leaders must address it, or productivity and retention will suffer.
What should employers do?
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to prevent productive employees from becoming quiet quitters while converting your quiet quitters and the actively disengaged into motivated, productive, and committed employees.
One course of action would be to improve the factors responsible for the lack of employee engagement. But trying to tackle all the myriad reasons for individual employee dissatisfaction may be too Herculean a task. Instead of a granular approach, a broader, inclusive strategy may be called for.
The viable alternative is to work on increasing engagement across the board.
Increasing Employee Engagement
Why is employee engagement so important? It stems from a few basic but critical employee needs:
- support from leaders and managers
- validation when they share their point of view
- alignment of expectations and goals
- resources and information needed for success
- wellbeing and work-life balance
If your employees are dissatisfied and quiet quitting, you can usually trace it back to one or more of these needs.
How to combat quiet quitting
Develop your managers.There’s a saying that people don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses. Studies have borne this out: a Gallup poll revealed that 50% of quitters said their manager was the primary reason for their departure.
Research has also shown that effective leadership drives engagement. The National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a five-year study of employees and managers and found that a great manager can boost employee productivity by up to 11%.
In surveys to determine the top reasons for disengagement and turnover, most of them come down to the quality of management. Train your managers to foster employees’ leadership behaviors to boost engagement and motivation.
According to Kevin Kruse, a former Best Place to Work Award-winning CEO and author of three books on employee engagement, communication, recognition, growth, and trust are the top areas that leadership needs to work on to create loyal, committed employees.
Having two-way, open, effective communication channels between management and staff is crucial. Your people need to feel that they have a voice and that you acknowledge and value what they have to say.
An employee listening strategy will help drive meaningful engagement by helping you understand the employee experience. As a bonus, you’ll be able to detect shifts in employee sentiment before they quit.
We use the term “strategy” because your efforts should go beyond the run-of-the-mill annual employee engagement surveys and performance reviews. Eliciting employee feedback via interactions like regular one-on-ones should become part of your culture, and it should go a step further—you must also be prepared to take action based on their feedback.
An effective communicator motivates their team by:
- Giving feedback that is constructive and helps improve performance.
- Providing clarity on roles and responsibilities and each member’s contribution to the mission and purpose of the organization for proper alignment of values.
- Getting everyone on the same page regarding clear, realistic expectations around performance, what success looks like, and priorities.
- Being transparent to create trust.
Employees want to feel appreciated and recognized for what they do. Managers should regularly acknowledge any effort or achievement, strengths, and talents to bring out the best in their team. Appreciation isn’t only about gratitude but acknowledging their worth as an employee. It says, “You matter, you’re not just an anonymous worker bee in a massive hive. We care about your growth.”
Employees want to feel like they are progressing in their careers and that they see their role in the company. They must be able to envision themselves growing with the company. The manager must be supportive of their growth and care about them as people. No one wants to feel stagnated—that’s a recipe for disillusionment. Follow up with a commitment to providing opportunities for learning and development, for example, with career pathing.
When there is a sense of psychological safety, we build trust. They trust their manager is honest, and their actions match their words. They feel their manager trusts them and gives them autonomy instead of micromanaging. Employees will trust their leaders if there is honesty and transparency. Cultivate trust by rethinking the traditional on-the-clock approach to work and focus instead on delivery and KPIs.
Invest in employee wellbeing.
We’ve prioritized wellbeing and work-life balance since the start of the pandemic. It shone a spotlight on employee wellbeing, highlighting its link to employee engagement. They go hand in hand, and both profoundly affect employee sentiment, behaviors, and performance.
No effort at boosting employee engagement would be complete if it didn’t consider wellbeing. But beyond simply physical wellbeing, psychological and financial wellness are part of employee health, and warrant employer investment.
Why? Because to maximize performance, you must consider if employees have what’s needed to do their best work. And answering that question requires a holistic perspective.
Seeing your employees as multi-dimensional people whose lives outside the workplace will affect their ability to be fully present and productive, comes with an obligation to improve their wellness to improve outcomes.
Actively engaging your employees can stem the flow of quiet quitters and turn around morale to create a team of committed, loyal employees who will happily promote your company.
It will require a commitment to invest in developing quality managers and ensuring employee wellbeing.
Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.