Article: How to escape quiet quitting: 'Let go of pre-pandemic workforce norms'

Employee Engagement

How to escape quiet quitting: 'Let go of pre-pandemic workforce norms'

The volume of conversations that are being had about “quiet quitting” is the alarm ringing about the need for us, as leaders, to re-think our employees’ work experience.
How to escape quiet quitting: 'Let go of pre-pandemic workforce norms'

Over the past few weeks there has been no escaping the term “quiet quitting”. It has been all over the internet, people at work have been discussing it in detail - what it is, what does it entail, how long has it been around, is it right or wrong. But how does one deal with the repercussions of quiet quitting in today’s day and age, especially with a workforce that is both more driven about work and more persistent about focusing on mental wellbeing? 

Peoplematters spoke with Katherine Loranger, Chief People Officer at Safeguard Global, a global workforce management company, to understand the nuances of quiet quitting and other workforce trends HR should keep an eye out for: 

1) Everyone perceives quiet quitting differently. Some say it is just “doing your actual job” while others think it's “not doing enough” at work. How do you see quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting is less about how people are working and more a statement about how they feel about their work experience. We know that people were asked to upend their personal lives to integrate their work experiences into their home in 2020. And they did, by most accounts, a great job. We know that The Great Resignation was an adjustment of people realising that their work wasn’t fulfilling enough for them to spend such large parts of their day doing it. And now we have “quiet quitting”.

Sure, you could say its people doing their job requirements and nothing more, or you could say that people aren’t feeling fulfilled in their work, but continue to do it – so, the question is how are organisations designing work experiences that helps employees feel fulfilled? Employees who feel their work experience is helping them grow are not the ones saying they are “quiet quitting”. The people who don’t have this kind of people-centric work experience are.  

2) While Quiet Quitting has been making a lot of noise recently, what are the other workforce trends, particularly related to workforce happiness, that HR should keep an eye on?

The volume of conversations that are being had about “quiet quitting” is the alarm ringing about the need for us, as leaders, to re-think our employees’ work experience and ask ourselves – Is it flexible, people-centric and supporting people in living and working their best lives? That is the future of work and  at Safeguard Global, we call it Work in Any Way.

Are we too focused on return to office as a measure for productivity? Or have we built OKRs and KPIs that measure outcomes of people’s work vs output? Have we embraced asynchronous work to account for teams spread across different time zones and the fact not everyone is their most productive at the same time? Most importantly, are we asking our people what THEY think would make their work experience better for them and the company? If “quiet quitting” tells us anything, it’s that people don’t feel heard by their managers, leaders, and the organization they work for.

3) There seems to be a growing discontent among the workforce today. And this seems to be a global trend rather than something that is region-specific. What do you make of it?

The pandemic prompted employees to rethink their priorities around work/life balance and what they want from their employer. We then saw the Great Resignation, with employees increasingly viewing flexibility as a right. Companies who adapt to employee demands and embrace a flexible, “work in any way” approach to workforce management – allowing employees to work how, when and where best suits their lifestyles – will come out on top.

4) In your experience, what are the top three things that HR can do to ensure both workforce happiness and employee productivity?

  1. Take your candidate search global. Embracing a global hiring approach will expand your talent pool, allowing you to hire the best and brightest talent. 

  2. Let go of outdated, pre-pandemic workplace norms. Embrace flexibility and trust your employees to increase engagement and job satisfaction.

  3. Don’t hire for culture-fit, instead hire for culture value-add. Research shows that teams with diverse backgrounds and thoughts are more successful. Rather than hiring someone to fit a certain mold, hire someone to challenge and question the status quo to ignite innovation and productivity.

5) We now have “quiet firing” as well! What are your thoughts?

 This is a tough one!  I think part of the challenge is in how managers view their work. People are the most important investment we make, organisationally. Too often managers and leaders view the activities of managing – and all it entails – as a “side job” or part of their job. And it’s not – it’s the core of their job. Now, some of this depends on how organizations structure their teams… if you have managers that are also individual contributors, that makes it more difficult. So how does a company figure out how to ensure each manager that also has the bandwidth for both their individual projects and the work associated with managing their people correctly?

6) What is the role that managers can play in dealing with both “quiet quitting” and “quiet firing”?

HR leaders and managers must collaborate to build work policies and processes that work best for each team. For HR leaders, it means providing training and best practices to newer managers about the need for consistent 1:1 meetings that includes having meaningful discussions about the work, identifying gaps in resources or processes that hinder their employees’ ability to do their jobs, and building a connection between manager and employee. It is important employees understand how their work fits within the company’s larger goals.

And managers need to remember that good management makes their jobs easier – attrition can really set teams and organisations back. The loss of institutional knowledge and the time and expense spent recruiting for new candidates eats away at resources that could be allocated to accomplishing exactly what the manager’s teams are trying to achieve.   

7) Finally, in which direction do you think the whole “quiet quitting” discussion will go now? What is your solution to “quiet quitting”?

Quiet quitting is not a new thing. It is a naming of something that has been a part of the work experience forever. Yes, it’s catchy with the alliteration, but it’s just a reality of how some workers create boundaries. For many workers, this has always been how they work, for others, it’s a reaction to the burnout and disenchantment with leaders demanding that their work experience revert to how it was prior to the pandemic.

Remember, everything changed for people when they moved from work/life balance to work/life integration. HR leaders will need to address strengthening employee engagement by fostering a productive, happy workforce. Embracing a “work in any way” approach will give companies a competitive edge not only in attracting talent, but also in combating employee engagement challenges and retaining talent. Companies who don’t listen to their employees will continue to struggle with “quiet quitting”.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Life @ Work

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