From the factories of the Industrial Revolution to the era of remote work and the gig economy, employee engagement has been a topic of interest — if not outright obsession — for employers and HR professionals. Since the pandemic, this interest has reached a fever pitch, as trends around “quiet quitting” and other HR buzzwords make headlines. Employers may feel forced to make a hard choice between employee well-being and productivity.
What’s with all the work trends and buzzwords? 😵💫
As the latest social work trends sweep TikTok or Twitter, you may be wondering: Is it possible to balance employee engagement, well-being, and productivity without getting so swept up in the latest buzzwords, hype, and worry?
“Quiet quitting” as a term first entered our collective vernacular in 2022 as a reaction against so-called “hustle culture” — the 24/7 startup grind which was associated with long hours, high ambition, and poor life-work balance and popularized by figures like influencer Gary Vaynerchuk, Ali Baba Group CEO Jack Ma, and Elon Musk.
The “quiet quitting" backlash resounded after Gen Z engineer Zaid Khan published a viral Tiktok video encouraging employees to disengage from their work, mentally checking out or reducing efforts without officially resigning. As workers applauded the idea of pulling back discretionary effort, many employers grew concerned about a potential wave of disengagement and loss of productivity.
So should you be worried? Yes and no. Sure, employee disengagement is always a valid concern. Businesses worry disengagement will affect KPIs like engagement, productivity, voluntary turnover, employee experience, and customer experience.
Are ‘quiet quitters’ drilling a hole in the boat? 🚣♀️
So is quiet quitting disengagement? Or is it simply putting a new name on something that has always been there? A closer look at the data suggests that today’s employee engagement levels are consistent with historical trends. Yes, there's been a noticeable decrease in productivity post-pandemic. But long-term data shows little change in the levels of disengagement, indicating a steady rather than a rising trend. While productivity has dipped post-pandemic, experts point to the high turnover rates and subsequent onboarding of new employees as a possible cause rather than attributing it to falling worker morale.
When it comes to engagement, organizational psychologists have long used the analogy of a work as a boat with ten occupants. Three people — the most actively engaged, according to Gallup’s most recent 2022 numbers — are rowing. Two people — the most actively disengaged — are in the back of the boat, drilling holes and trying to sink it. Everyone else is sitting quietly in the middle and just along for the ride. Those are your quiet quitters, and they have always been there.
What we're seeing may not be an employee engagement crisis, but rather an increased willingness among employees to voice their dissatisfaction. 🙅♀️
The benefits of employee engagement are well established, but it is questionable if there is any real link between sacrificing well-being and long-term productivity. In reality, the workers in the middle of the boat are usually doing their jobs and contributing to organizational momentum just fine.
The problem with worrying about quiet quitting is it supposes that the norm or ideal is asking people to do more than they are paid to do — something that often leaves workers even more burnt out and resentful.
Engagement doesn’t have to mean burnout 🥵
Moving employees just a little closer to the front of the boat can make an exponential and important difference to your bottom line — but that doesn’t mean pushing for a hustle culture. Real engagement isn’t about sacrificing life balance. It’s about how we feel about our work and how we perform it.
Building engagement can be as simple as connecting employees to one another and the organization in more meaningful ways — where they can work together more efficiently and easily and are more motivated to contribute to shared efforts.
The focus should therefore be on fostering resilience and maintaining high employee engagement, accomplished through three core principles. Employers can combat quiet quitting by fostering an environment of open communication, actively seeking feedback from employees, addressing concerns and dissatisfaction promptly, and focusing on employee engagement and satisfaction.
3 tips for building resilience and ensuring employee engagement 💪
Cultivate strong relationships with the organization:
Strong organizational relationships help employees feel like trusted stakeholders, impacting engagement positively. Creating open two-way communication channels is crucial, actively listening to employees and supporting a shared sense of purpose and alignment.
Cultivate trusting relationships with managers and leaders
Effective engagement starts from the first day an employee joins. Regular interaction, genuine appreciation, and clear communication can build trust and value between employees and leaders. Further, helping employees visualize their growth path can significantly impact their engagement levels.
Cultivate meaningful relationships among employees
Encouraging meaningful social ties among workers can enhance loyalty and productivity. Personal friendships and positive working relationships make work more fulfilling and a commitment to shared success will result in a more engaging, innovative, and productive work culture.
Human connections will outlast the buzzwords 🤝
Loud quitting and grumpy staying have grabbed the headlines, but the core of employee engagement remains as consistent as ever: It's about cultivating meaningful and trust-based relationships at all levels. As we witness a stronger, louder employee voice that demands to be heard, organizations who renew their commitment to nurturing relationships, listening actively to their employees, and focusing on shared goals and values are the ones who will be rewarded by a more engaged, productive, and buzzword-proof workforce.
If you want to learn more about how to do it, contact Enboarder® today for a free demo.