How to Keep Employees From Leaving During the age of Quiet Quitting

Edge Team
October 18, 2022
min read
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Employee retention has become a significant focus since The Great Resignation. During Covid-19, there has been a fundamental shift in working structure, not just for Americans but worldwide. Shockingly, over 48 million Americans quit their job in 2021, with several organizations struggling to retain their workers.

A key factor in retention is directly correlated to employee happiness: whether staff are content in their work environment. Talented employees are among the first to quit in the search for renewed job satisfaction.

But another challenge to employees is the issue of quiet quitting. How can you re-engage your employees and even keep them from leaving?

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting is a modern term where employees perform the bare minimum requirements of job duties. Just enough to not be terminated. They might be doing this as they either search for a new job, or if they have decided to move on but have not yet told their employer.

Some obvious signs that an employee is quiet quitting might include:

  • Being disengaged from work, they may seem less interested than usual or actively avoid being part of tasks
  • Less engaged with customers, often showing disinterest or a much lower standard of customer service
  • Offering less input at meetings or performance reviews
  • Possibly self-sabotaging their position in an attempt to be dismissed. This is especially the case if there is a severance package available

The issue with quiet quitting is usually that it isn’t obvious and that employees may not even know that they’re doing this themselves. It can also be a sign that they are unhappy with company decisions or a perceived injustice from management.

But you can bring employees back onside and improve your company retention.

So how can you keep employees from leaving and keep them motivated?

What is employee turnover?

Employee turnover refers to the implication of high levels of employee resignations due to a variety of reasons. The aftermath can lead to less economic output and lower performance on an organizational level. It can also result in additional hiring and staff training costs, as well as disruption to the company culture.

According to the Washington Post, resignations are at their highest level in 20 years. Last December, 4.3 million people quit their jobs once wind caught news of the Omicron outbreak.

Food services, retail and hospitality industries made up over 15% of the total resignations. And, with the ongoing cost of living crisis causing disruption around the world, the trend shows no sign of slowing down.

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Why is employee turnover so high?

The switch from full-time office to remote work was effectively made overnight. Millions of workers were expected to launch right into working efficiently from a make-shift office at home. Whether a kitchen counter for a desk or a fully-functioning suite, this was only expected to last two weeks maximum.

But two weeks turned into two grueling years of uncertainty. The adjustment to working from home, and the subsequent return to office has changed the mindset of workers the world over. Leading to what is now coined as “The Great Resignation”.

People started to realize that their jobs were not more important than their health and wellbeing. When stuck at home with only the dog to chat with, the actual quality of their jobs felt somewhat meaningless.

It could be argued that the camaraderie in the office is what kept many coming back day after day. But with the inefficiencies of commuting laid bare; and the highlighting that a lot of jobs could be done from home, attitudes have changed forever.

Post-pandemic rate of people quitting their jobs

But the pandemic wasn’t the only cause for high rates of employee turnover. In fact, there are three major reasons staff decide to leave.

Surveys show that 37% of Americans viewed low pay as a significant reason for quitting their jobs.

This is followed closely by a lack of opportunities (33%) and feeling disrespected at work (35%).

Another reason is working too many hours; the necessity for work-life balance means that staff are no longer reaping the rewards. It’s a constant hamster wheel of eat, sleep, work, repeat.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) references the Theory of Organizational Equilibrium to better understand the differences between engaged employees and actively disengaged workers. It depends on:

  1. Inducements: whether or not they are receiving the right benefits
  2. Links: the social engagements with colleagues and job compatibility
  3. Contribution: that the inducements outweigh the overall time and effort of the employee

It’s evident from the mass resignations, and the growth of quiet quitting, that staff are unhappy. They are expecting more benefits, rewards, career growth – a natural component of motivation as a whole. Without these basic necessities, employee motivation dwindles, as does their respect for employers.

What is the economic effect of turnover?

Employee turnover costs businesses nearly $45,000 per employee. It takes a further 6 to 9 months worth of an employee’s salary to replace them. Consider the hiring and onboarding process; not only does this take time and effort, but also reduced focus on sales output overall.

Of course, the churn rate will never be nil. It’s virtually impossible to maintain 100% of your staff over 10 years. However, it’s much cheaper to invest in strategies that keep the majority of your employees happy than trying to replace them.

Simple ways to keep employees engaged

Before making any drastic changes, you first need to evaluate whether turnover is an issue for your organization. Conduct an analysis to work out the turnover rate (TR).

This assesses how many employees have left in the last 2 years, from which departments, the costs and benefits to the organization and how it will affect you.

After analyzing TR, the crucial focus is prioritizing employee happiness. If they are happy they'll be more likely to work harder, keep motivated and be productive. And in the age of quiet quitting, this is an important step in identifying if your company has a staff retention or engagement problem.

Here are 9 ways to transform your working environment to keep employees from leaving.

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Recognize high-performing employees

SurveyMonkey conducted a report and found that 63% of employees believed regular recognition of their performance was a significant reason for staying at their current job.

A gold star and a compliment goes a long way. Recognition for our valor boosts our serotonin so we feel important and happy. Your star employees and top performers deserve to feel valued.

This is why employee reviews are so important. A few kind words can incentivize staff to stay – and save you a hell of a lot of money, too.  

Open the floor to direct communication

Make feedback a necessary tool to improve the work environment. Allow employees to take the mic and speak freely about their concerns or gripes. This is an opportunity to reduce stigma against issues and create an inviting environment where people want to work.

If an open discussion is less than ideal, use a Google survey or an anonymous question box in the weekly meeting. Digest these responses and then implement a strategy that tackles each one.

Giving your team a way to speak their minds can also help you identify the cases of quiet quitting within your workplace. Unhappy staff might be almost entirely uninterested or disengaged. Or they could also go the other way and be excessively critical or confrontational about an issue at work.

Either way, giving employees a pedestal to make their views known can deliver more than just a few ideas about how to improve the workplace.

Update benefits and work perks

One of the reasons why jobs are so attractive from the offset are due to the work perks. Some organizations provide the bare minimum, resulting in highly disengaged workers. Improve the incentives in your organization by introducing a travel allowance, more work socials, vacation days or health programs.

If you don’t know what your employees would like, ask them! Improving the benefits will incentivize staff and give them a reason to stay.

Invest in training and education

Intellectual stimulation is among the top employee retention reasons. Sending your staff to a training day or a manager’s course taps into ambition and a realization of new opportunities in their career.

We can get stuck in a rut; but when learning something new it causes a surge in dopamine. In turn, this ensures increased productivity, higher motivation levels and prevents monotony at work. Education keeps us engaged and satisfied, whilst new challenges help us reframe career goals.

Perform exit interviews

You can always learn from employees who quit. Conduct an exit interview to understand what irked them and how you can change it for current and prospective staff. This constructive feedback can improve employee retention by creating a better company culture.

Tips to make the interviews more relaxed and get genuine feedback is to use natural interviewers, like HR professionals. Remember to follow a structured format and get feedback from all angles, both positive and negative.

Increase employee salary regularly

Again, if your employees have been stuck on the same pay rate for years, switch it up. After they’ve successfully passed their probation and honed their craft, a raise is paramount to their happiness.

What you’ll find is that companies are becoming much more competitive with how they win over employees. With the shortage of workers, some organizations are naturally increasing salaries or sharing impressive benefits. This is an attempt to lure and steal your staff. Prevent the loss and avoid an awkward counter-offer after an employee hands in their resignation by monitoring salaries across your industry.

Offer training on how to be a good boss/manager

Unfortunately, lots of employees leave their jobs due to poor management. This could encompass a toxic leadership style with painful micromanagement, or a lack of healthy supervision.

Top-down change is far simpler than bottom-up. Use the power to effectively change leadership skills that enable employees to feel comfortable and safe. It also creates more job opportunities for other employees striving for career advancement.

Encourage a work-life balance

If you spot someone who’s contracted nine to five and they're still in the office at 6pm, be sympathetic. Encourage staff to follow a routine that allows them to complete any given tasks or deadlines. Avoid adding extra pressure or last-minute work; this can become a bad habit and lead to greater unhappiness.

To prevent absenteeism, it’s important to lead by example. Create workplace rules that incorporate fun and family time. This is a much healthier environment to work in, and one that employees would likely rave about, too. Who doesn’t want the top prize for “best workplace in America”?

Flexible working hours

One of the most common reasons employees start looking for a new job, or quiet quitting, is because they want to work for companies that have hybrid working hours.

Whilst some people are more productive in the morning, others prefer working late at night. Facilitating what each person needs will create a more motivating job environment and support wider business goals economically.

The key messages

  • The future of employment relies on understanding the relationship between employee dissatisfaction and what encompasses meaningful work
  • Employees feel disheartened when they don't receive enough recognition from team leaders, are underpaid and are offered little development opportunities
  • Companies are encouraged to change their work environment by facilitating transparent communication and improving their incentives and rewards schemes at regular intervals

Edge gives business owners an effective way to engage and reward employees for great performance. As we’ve seen, some of the best ways to keep employees engaged, and avoid the dreaded quiet quitting, are to make employees feel like they are making a genuine difference, and earning more too.

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