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Improve employee engagement during the ‘quiet quit’

By Shandel McAuliffe | |8 minute read
Improve employee engagement during the ‘quiet quit’

Discretionary effort can have a significant effect on an organisation. But it’s not always sustainable. The popularity of recent TikTok phenomenon: ‘quiet quitting’ is a reminder to HR that people can’t always continuously give extra effort. It’s a call to redesign more holistic employee engagement strategies.

Quiet quitting has gained popularity following the blurring of work and home during the pandemic and today’s gulf between employee and employer pay rise expectations.

Rising overtime is another factor. We know the pandemic has taken a toll, and additional overtime further hinders employees’ ability to perform at their best.


Our recently released Hays Salary Guide shows only four per cent of organisations decreased their employees’ level of overtime last financial year. Alarmingly, while 51 per cent kept overtime rates steady year-on-year, 45 per cent increased overtime even further. Over half (56 per cent) of overtime is unpaid.

In response, many people have re-evaluated their priorities and the amount of time they invest into their work. While employee engagement has nothing to do with hours worked, today’s world of work evolves rapidly. There are instances where an employee may need to work beyond standard working hours to meet a deadline or work on a task or project that isn’t necessarily in their job description.

The key is that such periods must not be prolonged.

After years of going above and beyond to help their organisations through the pandemic, we must help employees mentally check back into their jobs. The alternative will see more people embrace quiet quitting.

Reverse silent disengagement

Motivating employee engagement has several benefits, including reduced presenteeism, increased productivity and innovation, and a more proactive workforce. Where it gets tricky is knowing how to engage employees, which has arguably been made even more challenging with the rise of remote and hybrid working.

Below we share a few ideas to get you started, broken down into two broad categories: intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic factors come from within, such as feeling respected and valued. While an organisation does not have total control of these factors, you can be an influence by ensuring employees have the knowledge, understanding and relationships that will allow them to switch on and engage.

Extrinsic factors come from external influences, such as the financial rewards an employee receives and the environment they work in. As an employer, you have a greater influence over extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic factors


The number one factor impacting engagement is an individual’s relationship with their direct manager. People want to feel respected and be treated fairly, so ensure managers are dependable, trustworthy and give staff autonomy to manage their day.

Show empathy

As previously noted in HR Leader, check in with employees regularly, especially those who appear to be struggling or are not currently performing at their best. View situations from their perspective and learn to recognise stress in your staff. Be emotionally intelligent – understand, manage and regulate emotions, both yours and your teams.


Employees want to contribute towards meaningful work and be fulfilled by their jobs. Help employees understand your purpose and how it aligns with their own values and identity. For instance, report on sustainability activities, build an equitable, diverse and inclusive team, and translate values into actions.

Adding value

Do employees know what constitutes success? People want to know their work is valued and makes a difference. Recognise quality work, say ‘thank you’, ask for input and ensure staff are seen and heard.

Extrinsic factors

Salary and benefits

While a competitive salary and benefits package impacts employee engagement, a salary increase in isolation doesn’t necessarily lead to higher engagement. Instead, it is one part of the employee engagement equation. Ensure your package remains competitive by consulting a current salary guide, then move on to the additional factors that motivate employees beyond their pay check.

Manage overtime

Quiet quitting and disengagement are just two problems resulting from rising or prolonged overtime. To manage overtime, leverage tools and software to track working hours, detect overtime patterns and identify predictors of burnout. Use employee pulse surveys to measure employee wellbeing.

During peak workloads cut back on non-critical meetings and ensure your team has the best tools to work as productively as possible. Put an effective project management system in place. After peak workloads subside, encourage your team to take time off.

Recognise employees who go above and beyond

When employees do perform duties outside the core requirements of their role, recognise it. They’ve done more than they’re paid to do, so reward their efforts.

Learning and development

People want their skills to remain employable and relevant – and they want you to care about investing in them. This makes upskilling another requisite engagement tool.


Flexible working practices have shifted significantly in the past two years. While flexible working was a highly prized benefit and motivational factor pre-COVID-19, it is now an expected norm. For jobs that can be performed outside a central workplace, people expect to work in a hybrid arrangement. Failure to offer such flexibility can do insurmountable damage to employee engagement.

Effective performance management

People want timely feedback on their performance and areas of improvement, not only an annual appraisal. Block out time to connect with individual employees frequently to review goals, reflect on current projects and identify training needs. Invite them to raise concerns.

Reverse feedback

Reverse appraisals or employee feedback surveys give employees an opportunity to provide feedback on cultural and performance factors. Provided feedback results in action, giving employees a voice can be highly engaging.

Diversity of thought

All employees need to feel they can challenge the status quo and fearlessly bring new ideas to the table. Their voice should be respected and valued. Actively solicit ideas and feedback from employees at all levels, such as through anonymous surveys, one-on-one meetings or collaborative roundtable discussions. Follow-up with clearly defined actions.

Manage quiet quitters proactively

Given how rapidly the world of work evolves, staff engagement must respond in kind. Motivation and engagement can shift over time. Regular conversations with employees will ensure you understand how they feel, allowing you to adjust your strategy accordingly to keep your workforce productive, innovative and engaged.

Eliza Kirkby is the regional director at recruitment and workforce solutions specialists, Hays


Employee engagement

Employee engagement is the level of commitment people have to the company, how enthusiastic they are about their work, and how much free time they devote to it.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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