Debunking Myths Around Millennials, Quiet Quitting, and the Return to Office
There’s no shortage of “hot takes” on some of today’s most debated workplace trends. Do millennials really want different things at work? Is quiet quitting fake news? And what exactly is the right move when it comes to bringing employees back to the office?
The answers are never obvious.
That’s why we recently turned to some industry experts to share their perspectives. Dan Strode, group director of culture and strategy at Banco Santander, and Tom Kegode, Work:Lab lead, future of work, people & places at Lloyds Banking Group, sat down with Enboarder’s Chris Jones at the HR Congress Tech Fest to discuss these topics.
Here are some of our favorite excerpts from the conversation.
What’s driving the shift to an employee’s market?
Employee expectations have shifted dramatically, explained Dan.
“In the last 10 years, there's definitely been this shift towards, ‘I want to work for an employer who has similar values that I have, gives me flexibility, gives me opportunities to try new things, exposes me to people internationally and different views and opinions.’ And this is what people are demanding,” he said.
Technology is another important factor: “Before it was, ‘Give me your CV and I'm going to decide whether to hire you.’ Now it's the other way around. We've got wonderful websites like Glassdoor where people can check what it’s really like to work there. People are being more open in giving their feedback, which is a good thing. It keeps us improving.”
But isn’t this just about millennials and Gen Z?
Nope – and that’s why HR and other business leaders need to pay attention.
“This is absolutely everybody now demanding this … But we are moving into the stage now where if that's the minimum, actually having a great culture can help you go even further. And I'm seeing a softening of the CFOs and financial officers when it comes to culture. And studies are proving that companies with good cultures are more innovative, retain their staff longer, thus leading to higher levels of profitability,” said Dan.
What’s the deal with quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting has actually been on the rise for quite a while. You can read our recent blog about its origins and how to combat it at your company.
“When I think about quiet quitting, I look at it from the cultural lens, and I think that's where you can solve this challenge. You should also be worried about the people who didn't join your company in the first place – the ones that didn't like your culture, didn't like what you were offering,” said Dan.
So it’s helpful to take a step back and consider what employees experience at every stage in their journey with your company. “If you have people happy at work, they come home happy. You have happy families, you have happy societies and happy countries, and that's much more powerful than the reverse. So it's our job as HR leaders to really work on that employee engagement, give people the best experience, and listen to them,” he said.
And if you’re really concerned about quiet quitting, make sure you’re asking employees about how effectively they’re able to balance their work and personal lives – and what would improve that balance. “I think a lot of people have gone through quite a significant change in their lives,” said Tom. “They've had the opportunity to reevaluate how they create that perfect relationship with their work and their life. I've stopped calling it work-life balance and started talking more about work-life harmony and how these things coexist.”
Is the office dead?
Not quite, but it is taking a new shape. Most companies are reevaluating who goes into the office and when and for what purpose.
“Face-to-face interactions are valuable as long as they’re well designed with good intentions,” said Dan.
In-person meetings and gatherings nurture our innate desire for connection and belonging. “What we go to offices for is that sense of connection and that sense of community. And if you get those two things right, then collaboration is the byproduct,” said Tom.
Remember that any program or activity designed to build relationships with people is not a waste of time. “I really need to stop hearing people say, ‘I've been in the office today and I've been really unproductive because I've just been speaking to people.’ I tell them they have been productive, it's a different kind of productivity,” said Tom. “You're generating social capital and that's where the work of tomorrow comes from. It’s a fundamental change and mindset shift that we have to help people on.”
And finally, every company should carefully consider the role technology plays in hybrid work. “I think if we can use technology to enhance our human virtues, that's when we have real success. How can we use technology to enhance those elements that make us human? There are bits that we cannot do and bits that computers aren't able to do – the empathy, the judgment, that human connection and human interaction. Let technology enhance those things.”