The phenomenon keeping CHROs up at night: “Quiet Quitting”

All of the sudden everyone is talking about “quiet quitting.” But CHROs have been dealing with this phenomenon within their organizations for months.

Seemingly the tail end of the Great Resignation, the quiet quitting trend encompasses employees who have emotionally checked out from their jobs. They’re still performing their responsibilities, but they have lost their enthusiasm, cut back their engagement with their team, or shifted to a “bare minimum” approach to their role.

On the surface, this may look like a segment of the working population has simply lost interest in their job. But experienced CHROs know that if you peel back the layers, there’s a myriad of factors going on here. Quiet quitting may be a sign of operational inefficiencies or a cultural problem within your workplace. It may also be a sign of an employee that’s not being challenged or is in the wrong role.

CHROs need to get their hands around quiet quitting within their organization quickly as the economic and labor landscape shifts under their feet.

More than 80% of CHROs are expanding permanent remote work policies, meaning more employees will be away from the office and physically disconnected from their workplace. At the same time, 67% of CHROs have hiring freezes in the works and 83% are considering reducing headcount – creating more urgency around shoring up a strong employee base and supportive work culture.

Here are some simple strategies to help CHROs assess and address quiet quitting within their organizations:

First, encourage your team to talk to one another.

This might sound a bit counterintuitive, but CHROs should encourage non-work related conversation during the workday. Carve out extra time at the end of a Zoom for people to catch-up with one another or schedule a Monday morning breakfast meeting with a light agenda so everyone can talk about what they did over the weekend.

These small interactions not only help people feel more emotionally connected to their job. They also help managers and other members of the team better identify when an employee is clearly struggling with feeling engaged and motivated.

Use employee engagement surveys to take the temperature of your team.

Engagement surveys are an excellent way to assess how your people feel about their job and identify if there is a larger problem within the organization. While sentiment-based questions may seem like the right way to get at quiet quitting, they don’t reveal much about engagement. Instead dig a little deeper.

These are some of the questions Gartner recommends:

  • “Do you believe the organization has your best interests in mind when making business decisions?”

  • “Does your team inspire you to do your best work?”

  • “Have you continued to collaborate with your team?”

  • “Are you satisfied with the way we’ve managed both our business and our people?”

Be the one to set healthy limits. 

Experts attribute quiet quitting to burnout and an erosion of work/life balance. Clinical psychologist and leadership expert Wayne Pernell describes the phenomenon as a form of “self-protection.” “People are saying work is important but so is the rest of my life,” says Pernell.

CHROs can help combat and prevent quiet quitting by proactively setting guardrails for employee’s work/life balance. Tactics like mandatory time-off, heads-down working hours or limits on correspondence outside of work hours will help prevent the kind of burnout that leads to quiet quitting.

Motivate employees with clear and exciting career paths. 

If employees can’t see long-term opportunities in their current role and organization then they can easily become disenchanted with work. Mapping out a clear career path that includes exciting promotions, leadership opportunities and pay raises is another strategy to re-engage and recharge employees.

To do this, CHROs should ensure that they have transparent paths that explain specific steps, skills and metrics that need to be met in order to advance into a new role. Consider a job leveling matrix as well. This is a great tool to visually organize career progression information.

Stop promoting “hustle culture.”

Another culprit being blamed for the quiet quitting trend is “hustle culture.” Be sure that your organization’s culture, HR policies and senior leadership aren’t modeling or perpetuating a culture that celebrates frenetic busyness and productivity at the sake of personal health and wellbeing. If you do have a hustle culture problem, unwinding it will take time.

Some incremental steps you can take to start gradually shifting attitudes include deemphasizing multitasking, empowering employees to speak up when they feel they’re lacking the bandwidth for new projects and encouraging managers to lead by example.

Here’s the bottom line:

The quiet quitting trend comes at an important time for CHROs – they’re making big decisions about the future of their organizations as they set post-pandemic standards and adjust headcounts following a hiring boom. CHROs can turn this obstacle into an opportunity to ready their people and their culture and strengthen their organization to take on the new challenges that lie ahead.