Think the Great Resignation is over? Think again. Just because your employees have stuck around doesn’t mean they’re not quietly quitting; they may need some of Björk’s zing boom to bring them back to life.
Since the pandemic gave people the opportunity to step back and reassess their personal and professional priorities, many have realized what they really want from their work is a sense of purpose and meaning.
Quiet quitters are the people feeling every inch of the issues that have led to the Great Resignation, but who aren’t necessarily joining in. They’re checking out mentally but staying put physically because they’re burnt out, stressed, exhausted, and anxious. And yet they’re carrying on regardless.
The 60% of employees who planned to leave their jobs this year haven’t suddenly changed their minds; they’re just going about their departure a little differently.
One of the biggest contributors is emotional disconnect. In lots of businesses, this is pushing employees to a place where they can’t muster the energy and motivation to care about their work. As a result, their hearts aren’t in it, they don’t feel empowered to bring their best selves to the table, and, most importantly, they’re unhappy.
A company that pushes its people to feel this way can’t be healthy, and the resulting burnout brings the problem full circle. Breaking free of it may require leaders to ask themselves, ‘what would Björk do?’.
So no, it’s not time to pop the champagne. The companies who think they’ve survived the Great Resignation and come out the other side unscathed are in for a wake-up call. The leaders who would love nothing more than to continue business as usual, to keep things as they were and hope that this was all a bad dream, are setting themselves up for disappointment.
One solution is obvious – bringing the zing boom back into their company culture will help break the spell, causing quiet quitters to sing ‘Gee, this is swell’. Don’t worry, I’m going to Shhhh, Shhhh about Björk now.
Two questions about quiet quitting (no more Björk puns, promise)
To better understand quiet quitting, there are two questions we need to ask. Firstly, is it really that big a problem? The short answer is yes. Here’s the long answer: just 15% of employees are engaged at work. This means that two-thirds of all employees are at risk of experiencing lower productivity, producing lower-quality work, and either quietly quitting or outright leaving their jobs.
Ultimately, this is a domino effect that damages a company’s chances of success; companies with highly engaged employees outperform competitors by 147% in earnings per share.
Secondly, why is it happening now? Employee experience hinges on engagement, culture, and communication. Over the past two years, people have developed new priorities and expectations when it comes to their employee experience.
The employers unwilling to pivot and respond to these new priorities are the ones most at risk of quiet quitters, but every company needs to put in the work. Here are three critical steps to focus on.
1. Nurture a culture of inclusion and recognition
Culture is the bedrock of your organization. In a toxic environment, employees have no reason to be loyal. They take a step back and lose faith in your goals and values (remember that emotional disconnect we mentioned earlier?)
These are key contributors to quiet quitting.
To keep them on side, you need to give your employees a company culture that’s authentic. In an increasingly hybrid working world, delivering on this becomes trickier. How can you foster a sense of connection and belonging when your workforce is spread across different countries?
It comes down to humanizing the digital experience. Human connection is something every person needs, and that doesn’t just go away when they’re at work. Employees want to hear about each other’s professional and personal achievements, wish one another a happy birthday, and talk about the films and TV shows they’ve been watching recently.
They want to work somewhere they can be themselves and feel safe, they want to feel like they belong, they want to receive recognition for their work, and they want to be trusted to do their work autonomously and flexibly.
Investing in a space where employees can bond over topics beyond work and where they can share kudos and shout-outs with their colleagues is critical to an inclusive digital experience. Nothing shows an employee the value and impact of their hard work more than a personal message from their manager acknowledging them in front of their peers.
With the right values and tools in place, any organization can build a culture with inclusion and recognition at its heart. That’s one small step against quiet quitting, and one giant leap for employer-kind.
2. Opt for open and community-led comms
How you communicate with your employees is a key factor in whether or not they’re happy, productive, and engaged.
Employers need to take a bold approach to internal comms if they want to live up to the expectations of modern employees. What does that look like? It needs to be democratized, community-led, and open. Traditionally, corporate communication has been the very opposite; it’s followed a hierarchical structure and prioritized critical messaging and instructions.
While getting important company updates out to your staff is incredibly important, it’s by no means where internal comms should end. Your internal comms also needs to open a dialogue with your people; two-way conversations are critical to the employee experience and if you want your workers to stick around, you need to give them a voice and encourage them to use it.
These are traits of open communication. It puts the emphasis on community, which is particularly important in hybrid workplaces with employees in offices, at home, and on the front line. Giving them the tools to share posts with their peers, share their achievements, and talk directly to leadership goes a long way to keeping them motivated.
Being bold also means trying new things. Find new ways to talk and listen to your people – it makes a huge difference. Bringing in video and podcasts, for example, shows them you’re going the extra mile to keep them in the loop and hear what they have to say.
Here at Workvivo, our own internal podcast invites team members on to talk about their background and what a typical day looks like for them, but also who their favorite musicians are and which book they read every Christmas. It’s a super engaging way to get to know each other as humans instead of just colleagues.
That’s the real magic of open communication: it breaks down the outdated barriers between employees at all levels of a company, from new starter right up to CEO, and this helps pave the way for a more authentic employee experience.
Focus on community-led comms as much as critical comms and your employees will have one less reason to lose heart.
3. Digitally engage employees everywhere
Quiet quitting is so much easier when your company is remote or hybrid, so implementing open comms and making it accessible for everyone is key.
There’s no point in creating a more human work environment and only inviting half your employees to take part in it. A retail company with both in-office and frontline workers, for example, needs to give every single employee the same opportunities to connect and get involved.
That’s why putting the right infrastructure in place is crucial: a mobile app that’s user-friendly and makes it easy for employees to engage, whether they’re at a desk or out in the field, is an invaluable investment.
Keeping every employee engaged means actively listening to all of them, not just a specific cohort. Ask for their feedback through surveys, polls, and conversations. Don’t just issue a feedback link and wait for them to do the rest; strive for next-level inclusion by actively inviting people to participate and contribute.
Values and purpose play a big part too. If people can’t connect to the meaning of their work and how it impacts the organization’s overall goals, it’s much harder for them to stay engaged.
Set up spaces for employees to champion the inclusive culture you’ve built; encourage them to talk about their accomplishments with specific references to the company’s values so everyone feels aligned when it comes to the bigger picture.
Using an online tool helps make these spaces truly accessible and inclusive, bringing your culture, comms, and engagement strategies full circle.
Quiet quitting: more than just a rom-com trope
You know those rom-coms where the main character hasn’t met their soulmate yet? They’re in a relationship, sure, but their heart’s just not in it.
They go through the motions without enthusiasm, hold back from giving it their all, and daydream about meeting someone new. Meanwhile, their partner is blissfully unaware, telling themselves that if their other half didn’t actually want to be there, they’d have left already.
Clearly, this is a story that’s not limited to our TV screens – or even to our love lives. Navigating internal comms and employee engagement isn’t always smooth sailing. But keep human, emotional connection as your north star and people will be much more likely to stay on board and make the journey with you.
Do a good enough job and who knows, maybe even Björk will come along for the ride.