“Ghost quitting” has spooked companies into a state of paranoia over the past few weeks. More CHROs and HR leaders have asked me about this phenomenon than ever before.
Many leaders see ghost quitting, also known as quiet quitting, as a people problem, but that’s not the case. It’s a failure of traditional HR methods that don’t work anymore. The pandemic accelerated a shift in how employees think about work. People are demanding flexibility in their jobs as they give equal or greater focus to family, travel, or passion projects. Contributing to this trend is the fact that employees feel trapped and unfulfilled in the roles they hold today. According to one of our recent surveys, over half of employees say their current role doesn’t make good use of their skills. A separate report reveals that 43% say they don’t have enough opportunities for internal mobility.
If businesses don’t change alongside their people, quiet quitting could lead to “a downward spiral of reduced productivity and deteriorating company culture,” according to McGregor Boyall, a global recruitment consultancy.
Employees are already part of the future of work, and with an “internal-first” workforce agility strategy, businesses will finally attain the flexibility to join them. Research even shows businesses’ operational performance jumps 30% to 50% following an agile transformation.
As it turns out, workforce agility is also the most effective method to combat quiet and real-life quitting. According to McKinsey, the top reason people left their jobs last year was a lack of career development and advancement. HR teams, people managers, and senior leaders need to give their employees more flexibility, more visibility into internal growth possibilities, and agency to pursue them.
Only then can they expect their people to stay, and even thrive.
Double down on investing in developing people
When faced with this quiet quitting crises, organizations tend to fixate on productivity. Many companies have gone to extreme lengths to monitor their people, down to the last keystroke. What this results in is policing of the workforce, but it does nothing for engagement and only further sinks employee morale. And then what happens?
A recent PwC survey found that 47% of organizations are considering reducing their headcount soon, but haven’t started yet. Less engaged workers (see: quiet quitters) may be at greater risk of layoffs, according to management consulting firm Korn Ferry.
I don’t believe this will solve quiet quitting. The quiet quitter’s mindset is a symptom of a work environment where people feel cornered or stuck. Organizations must fundamentally change the way they think about work, proving their people come first. They can start by creating access to development and internal job opportunities. According to Gallup, companies that made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their people.
Many of the world’s most forward-thinking organizations are deploying a talent marketplace to harness their employees’ full potential. Leaders are using this technology to tap into an up-to-date and dynamic understanding of their people’s skills and aspirations. As a result, they’re unlocking thousands of productivity hours, saving millions on hiring costs, and dramatically increasing both their engagement and retention numbers.
Keeping people stuck in their role promotes a culture of quiet quitting. But by leveraging a talent marketplace or workforce agility solution, organizations can effectively empower employees to steer their own careers.
Try job sharing or peer mentoring
To overcome quiet quitting in a hybrid world, we need to look at how organizations can proactively connect their workers, especially across functions and geographies.
Since the pandemic began, many CHROs have reported a spike in employee interest in gigs and mentorships. Gigs offer people exposure to new leaders and coworkers in other departments and locations. They also provide the chance to add or reinforce skills that could lead to an internal career move. Through mentorships, employees and leaders can learn from each other without the stakes of a manager-direct report relationship.
Many companies are even embracing job sharing—splitting one job between two or more employees. Job sharing can help to beat quiet quitting by providing relief to employees who feel overworked, and connecting them to a complementary and engaging partner.
An employee’s relationship with their manager, mentor, or peer can have have career value, and give work more meaning—which always wins out against quiet quitting. According to the National Business Research Institute, employee satisfaction jumps nearly 50% when a worker develops a close relationship on the job. A talent marketplace can bring people together in a hybrid system, and AI gives them the flexibility to contribute beyond one role, one department, or one market.
Since the advent of org charts, companies have been slow to respond to the changing needs of their employees. Today’s employees demand more opportunities to learn, grow, and find fulfillment in their work.
If we don’t acknowledge and respond to this shift, quiet quitting will remain a threat to businesses at large, and employees will continue to scrutinize whether their time and effort is worth giving to their current company. Quiet quitting is a wake-up call to every people leader: It’s time to rethink our old ways of working and to create an environment in which our people can truly be at their best.
Ben Reuveni is the CEO of Gloat.