QuiA survey by Kincentric has found that global employee engagement is decreasing.
At just 61% in the first quarter of 2022, turbulent world events have deeply impacted people’s lives and as a result, their work as well.
The survey covered 12 million employees across 125 countries and found that employee engagement peaked at 73% in the last two years (the second quarter of 2020). In the fourth quarter of 2020 it had fallen to 67%, staying between 65-69% in 2021.
Only 50% of workers reported that their employers had enough employees to perform sufficiently. 43% of managers said the same. It’s evident that employees’ desire to stay with their current organizations has been steeply declining and continues to do so.
The reasons behind employees’ disquiet
There are many indicators of decreasing levels of employee engagement. For example, only 59% of employees polled said that they feel recognized for their efforts, while just 54% said that they believed they had future career opportunities at their current company.
Amidst the unfriendly and unpredictable times, the world is currently going through, people have been feeling lost and uncertain. The tempestuous nature of the market, the Ukrainian war, the pandemic, and the looming threat of a recession all hang over people’s heads. Rising costs have led people to food insecurity, having to choose between heating their homes or buying groceries, and being unable to enjoy the most basic necessities.
Physical and mental health suffering
It’s no surprise then that people’s mental and physical health has taken a tumble. They experience prolonged stress, burnout, and sustained periods of unhappiness. Their tolerance for things that once were normal has tanked – and most often, that shows at their workplace.
In mundane times, horrible bosses and toxic workplaces may have been the only issues in a person’s life. They could be complained about to a spouse, eye-rolled at, or ignored. Yet people no longer have the capacity to tolerate such treatment.
Against a backdrop of such stress and unhappiness, they can no longer take feeling unappreciated and uncared for by their employer to whom they dedicate so much of their lives and effort. And perhaps most importantly, they have realized that they don’t need to.
In increasing numbers, employees have left their jobs for better prospects or turned to “quiet quitting”.
The quiet quitting phenomenon
What’s recently emerged as a trend and turned into a serious workplace issue has actually long been around, a thorn in the side of human resource professionals.
The HR community calls “quiet quitting” disengagement. Contrary to what many think, quiet quitting doesn’t actually (necessarily) involve quitting at all. Boiled down, quiet quitting refers to employees making the decision to perform their duties and only their duties. This means that they fulfill their contract but don’t actually commit to their jobs. They aren’t performing above and beyond, they aren’t showing up for anything that they aren’t obligated to, and they definitely won’t do something that they aren’t being compensated for.
The more modern culture of knowing one’s worth, caring for oneself, and not letting anyone else dictate one’s value has clearly contributed to this workplace practice. The pandemic has also influenced it, however.
Aside from the lack of tolerance around less than impressive employee treatment by employers, there also exists plenty of disparity amongst employers when it comes to workplace practices and perks. One organization may offer hybrid or completely remote working arrangements while another doesn’t, one may offer more paid sick leave or COVID-related support, and one may have better mental health training and support.
How resentments grow
When people speak to their friends and compare notes, resentment can grow. When organizations don’t make it clear by their actions that they care about their employees, the employees have less and less reason to do great work or even stay at their jobs.
Employers fail to recognize that they themselves contribute to quiet quitting. This phenomenon has apparently “come out of nowhere” although many expert HR Managers have seen it coming for years. It’s an ongoing issue that’s long been brewing but was exacerbated by various factors.
A deeper look into workplace issues
Employers tend to miss the fact that quiet quitting signals a lot of things. It signals a shift in employee priorities, tolerances, attitudes, and needs. Employees didn’t wake up one day and suddenly decide that they didn’t feel celebrated enough, it happened over time.
So, how exactly have people’s needs and “needs and wants” changed? For starters, employees have different work-life balances now, with complicated personal lives that may involve spouses, partners, pets, friends, children, elderly family members, and more. They need their work to recognize and respect that.
In addition, mental health has continued to be poor as well. While organizations and everyday life have crept back to pre-pandemic routines, pre-pandemic mental health has continued to elude people’s grasp. The 2022 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey found that 36% of its plan members reported increased feelings of depression and/or anxiety. Many workplaces haven’t done enough to support mental well-being.
Beyond these issues, many workplaces continue to place unexpected burdens and tasks on employees’ shoulders. The nature of work means that sometimes unplanned tasks come up, but when it’s regular and recurring it becomes clear that the organization isn’t planning well, doesn’t care that they are stressing their employees out, and are not a good organization to work with.
Other forms of unfair treatment also come under scrutiny in this discussion. Unnecessarily tight deadlines, unbearable workloads, and constant high-stress situations – staff have no way to avoid burnout.
There are many ways that a workplace can have failed its employees over the past couple of years. It’s understandable to an extent; to change with the times when the times change so quickly and drastically is a challenge for anyone.
Yet it’s organizations’ responsibility to continuously do so in order to best support their employees.
An HR Management issue — and a clash of mindsets
Many HR professionals find that quiet quitting is a culture killer. Employees who quietly quit can very easily influence others and soon an organization can find that next to none of their employees are performing highly.
Quiet quitting can also lead to myriad issues greater than this. High turnover rates, low employee retention, and insufficient manpower are just some of them. Moreover, when prospective employees see that a company has these metrics, they are less likely to want to join that company. It can therefore turn into a vicious cycle.
But the world has turned quiet quitting into a viral topic of discussion for only one very simple reason – and that is that many people can’t agree on whether it’s warranted or not.
On one hand, it may sound a bit ridiculous to expect employees to do more than they’re contracted to without any extra compensation or recognition, yet older employers and those with a more traditional mindset believe that current, newer generations are spoiled and lack drive.
There is a definite disconnect between generations and their attitudes toward work culture. The more traditional camp believes that if one puts in the hard work, time, and effort, then one will eventually reap the benefits. Year-end bonuses, a watch when one retires, a party to celebrate one’s accomplishments when they leave the company.
The more modern camp believes that work deserves timely recognition and that if the company doesn’t show that they care about the employee, then the company deserves only the bare minimum if even that. It’s a more reciprocal relationship, one about dialogues and mutual respect.
Whichever camp organizations’ leaders are personally in, there are no two ways about it now – the people have spoken. Not just with their words, but with their actions and resignations as well. Without recognition, appreciation, and due compensation, they aren’t giving companies their all.
The importance of feeling important
Recognition is a powerhouse of a tool on various levels. It can help with rates of turnover, levels of engagement, and retaining talent, and give organizations a way to compete for talent beyond just salary benefits and perks.
In a survey by Achievers Workforce Institute, 57% of employees said that feeling recognized in their current role would decrease the likelihood that they’d take a call from a headhunter. The survey covered over 4,200 employees and over 1,600 human resource leaders.
Additionally, 64% of employees would rather be recognized more meaningfully instead of recognized more often. Those polled reported that the top three ways to make recognition meaningful were mentioning a specific thing that the employee did, something they valued, and how they made a difference to the person doing the recognizing.
It’s critical for organizations to nurture a culture of recognition, which is very much a bottom-down practice. Leaders must lead by example and support and enforce this culture so that it may flow down the various levels of the organization.
Managers are responsible for their teams. They must be trained in recognizing burnout, know when to push or pull their staff to maximize their performance, and commend them meaningfully when they’ve done well. They also must be able to understand patterns of behaviour and realize the difference between quiet quitting and drawing boundaries, which is rarely easy.
Employees should have a clear understanding of their workloads and responsibilities and if they want to do more for their company, then they should be recognized for it.
An opportunity for change and solutions
It’s easy to treat the phenomenon of quiet quitting as a frightening experience. The turnover rates, the clumps of employees leaving, and the remaining employees needing to pick up the slack – yet quiet quitting is an opportunity that organizations should gracefully embrace.
It’s an opportunity for listening. What are employees communicating by behaving like this? What are they asking their employers for? What has brought this on?
It’s an opportunity for change.
Employers have an unprecedented ability to collect information from their employees, other professionals, HR experts, and more via the internet. The onus is on them to figure out how they can shape the company to become what employees need in this current day and age. Beyond a culture of recognition, there are other things that a company can add, remove, or modify.
- Firstly, there must be the opportunity for flexibility. Hybrid and remote working where possible is simply non-negotiable at this point. The pandemic has proven that the vast majority of jobs can be worked remotely to at least some extent, and this comes with many benefits for both employers and employees.
- Secondly, there must be mental health support and training. Subsidies or coverage for therapy, subsidies or coverage for medication, access to approved healthcare providers, and education on burnout, managing stress, and more.
- Thirdly, salaries must increase to help employees manage inflation and rising costs.
Furthermore, organizations must give their employees future career opportunities and chances to continue learning and growing in their job. Stagnating should not be an option.
Matching the employee’s needs with dynamic HR Management
In reality, there may be any number of things that a workplace can do for their employees to match their needs and wants. The difficulty in doing so is that those needs change as what goes on in the country and the world change as well.
The most important thing that an HR Manager — and employers — can do is to truly have their employees’ well-being at the heart of all that they do. This way, their actions will reflect this. They will want to listen to what employees need, will do all in their power to give them what they need, and encourage healthy dialogue in the workplace between employers and employees.
Quiet quitting was never a brazen rebellion created to stick it to the bosses, but a resigned acceptance of an inadequate and unfulfilling work life. The remedy isn’t harsh words and harsher penalties, but compassion, humility, and a willingness to change.
In doing so, companies will find that employees can and will do so much more, to the benefit of all parties involved.
- Benefits Canada – Employee engagement decreasing amid turbulent world events
- Benefits Canada – Employee recognition has larger impact on engagement
- Benefits Canada – “Quiet quitting”, a rallying cry for more focus on work-life balance
- Benefits Canada – “Quiet quitting” an opportunity for employers to help reshape the workplace
- 2022 Benefits Canada Healthcare survey