There’s a hashtag that has been trending in recent months: #QuitTok. It refers to an emerging trend of disgruntled young professionals quitting their jobs in very public ways on the social media platform TikTok. The practice, also called “loud quitting,” is a trend that company executives and managers obviously want to avoid. When former employees air their […]
There’s a hashtag that has been trending in recent months: #QuitTok. It refers to an emerging trend of disgruntled young professionals quitting their jobs in very public ways on the social media platform TikTok. The practice, also called “loud quitting,” is a trend that company executives and managers obviously want to avoid.
When former employees air their professional dirty laundry on social media, backlash against the named companies can be swift. Such posts get noticed, and they can quickly go viral. On TikTok, this trending hashtag has gained tens of millions of views.
There’s a real danger of such videos dissuading potential hires from applying to specific companies. Perhaps even worse, highly visible stories of disgruntled former employees can spur current employees to look elsewhere, creating a domino effect of people walking out the door. Such a public exodus inevitably dampens the morale of the employees who stay behind.
When former employees air their professional dirty laundry on social media, backlash against the named companies can be swift.
Employers are keenly aware of the importance of retaining top talent. In a recent survey by U.K.-based talent management firm Beamery of business leaders in Australia, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., 71 percent say they are concerned about talent loss or leakage in their organizations. However, only 51 percent say they think leaders in their businesses understand the reasons why people leave.
Too often, managers are unaware of and therefore fail to respond to disgruntled workers, raising the risk that frustrated employees will leave for other opportunities and perhaps burn some bridges on their way out.
The Drivers of Discontent
The Project Management Institute's recent Job Prospect Survey of 1,000 young professionals in the U.S. offers some insight into important drivers of employee engagement. Even though 51 percent of young employees report feeling burned out on the job, 70 percent say their current job aligns with their values, and 69 percent say their employers provide opportunities for professional development.
But employers cannot be complacent when it comes to retaining this talent. Survey respondents also say they feel they need to change their current jobs to reach certain milestones, including:
Expanding their network (66 percent).
Learning new skills (65 percent).
Receiving a raise (64 percent).
Receiving a promotion (62 percent).
Workplace experts say there are proactive steps managers can take to better recognize unhappy employees—particularly the ones you really don’t want to lose—and reach out to them before they advertise why they left.
1. Keep Communication Lines Open.
Cassandra Pratt, senior vice president of people at Progyny, a fertility benefits management company headquartered in New York City, says one of the most important things managers can do to keep employees feeling valued is being able to identify signs that workers may be considering other employment options.
“Acknowledging an employee's contributions and efforts can go a long way in preventing disgruntlement due to feeling undervalued in the workplace.” —Chad Sorenson, SHRM-SCP
“Managers should take note and be aware when an employee reduces their contributions and their motivation at a noticeable level,” Pratt says. This may take the form of “diminished interest in professional advancement, high-level absenteeism or an overall decline in productivity,” all of which, Pratt says, “can be seen as red flags that an employee may be considering leaving.”
Taking steps to enhance communication with potentially unhappy employees can help managers better understand their needs as well as what motivates them about their job and the organization and what may be causing them to feel less connected and engaged. Workplace experts say checking in with employees regularly is important and a simple way to help them feel that they're valued and that you care about them. This can be even more crucial, but sometimes more challenging, in hybrid or remote work settings.
2. Monitor Employee Sentiment.
Chad Sorenson, SHRM-SCP, president of Adaptive HR Solutions, a provider of HR and business services in Jacksonville, Fla., recommends that employers take periodic pulse surveys of their staff to obtain ongoing feedback. Sorenson, who was previously the president of SHRM's HR Florida State Council, says managers should actively consider employees’ input and make improvements based on their suggestions. “Acknowledging an employee's contributions and efforts can go a long way in preventing disgruntlement due to feeling undervalued in the workplace,” he says.
Pratt agrees. “Ultimately, creating space for open and honest communication with employees will improve their experience and satisfaction at work, ideally preventing them from leaving your organization,” she says. “Managers who demonstrate genuine care and investment are more likely to have employees who do the same.”
Some employees are leveraging AI tools to identify signs that an employee may be thinking of jumping ship. Professional services firm Genpact, for example, uses AI to flag employee dissatisfaction through a chatbot called Amber. The chatbot analyzes employee responses to survey questions several times a year and then generates a “mood score” for employees that reflects their engagement with the company.
3. Invest in Retention.
Workplace experts agree that managers should regularly be proactive in taking the temperature of their reports' general morale and job satisfaction.
“Even before someone becomes disengaged or less productive than usual, managers should be holding regular check-ins to understand what they want to get out of their job, what motivates them, and what is stopping them from getting things done or enjoying their career,” says Katie Obi, SHRM-SCP, chief people officer at Beamery. “It might be common to perform an exit interview when someone leaves, but many organizations don’t conduct stay interviews to find ways to solve engagement and retention issues before it's too late.”
“Managers who demonstrate genuine care and investment are more likely to have employees who do the same.” —Cassandra Pratt
Avanade, a global provider of IT and professional services headquartered in Seattle, regularly conducts stay interviews, and its data shows the effort pays off. Caroline Fanning, the company’s chief people officer, says Avanade has documented more than 10,000 stay interview conversations globally since 2020, with an annual target of interviewing 20 percent of its employees—half of whom Avanade has identified as being at risk of attrition through a predictive analytics tool.
In 2022, Avanade’s research showed that 1 in 5 employees with a predicted higher risk of leaving who had a stay interview actually left the company. Those that did not have a stay interview had an attrition risk of 1 in 4. “With our retention program, we’re able to explore more detailed data to understand reasons employees stay and leave Avanade and put in place strategies to enhance their employee experience,” Fanning says.
4. Leave the Door Open
Even once an employee has left an organization, there are opportunities to keep the lines of communication open. As many companies have discovered, sometimes employees find that the grass isn’t greener on the other side and decide to come back. In fact, according to a survey by UKG, 43 percent of people who left their jobs during the pandemic now feel they were better off at their prior job, underlying the importance of leaving the door open to valuable departing employees.
“Having an alumni program in place can prime your organization to welcome back ‘boomerang employees,’ ” Obi says. Even in the absence of a formal program, managers can make an effort to stay in touch with former employees on their own, she adds, perhaps by connecting with the employee via LinkedIn or reaching out on occasion to share information and news the employee may be interested in.
“If you can connect your people with mentors, learning opportunities, open internal roles and projects, then you will see the results in terms of engagement and retention.” —Katie Obi, SHRM-SCP
Managers don’t need to be experts on everything, Obi explains, but they can help address employees' development needs by being connectors. “If you can connect your people with mentors, learning opportunities, open internal roles and projects, then you will see the results in terms of engagement and retention,” she says.
She cautions against the tendency to try to hoard talent: “A manager's mindset needs to be that, in order to keep someone engaged inside the company, you may have to let them—or indeed encourage them—to leave the team.”
It’s important, Pratt says, to not take departures personally. “Keep in mind that there are many different reasons an employee might consider leaving their position,” she says.
The labor market ebbs and flows, continually shifting the power balance back and forth between employees and organizations. But regardless of who has the upper hand at any given point in time, one thing is always true: Managers never want to lose a valued employee.
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.