Disconnect between leaders and employees leads to epidemic of ‘quiet quitting’

A major report by global staffing leader Kelly into workplace resilience released today [4 May 2023] finds a significant disconnect between leaders’ and employees’ workplace expectations.

As a result, businesses globally are experiencing in lower business performance and an epidemic of ‘quiet quitting’.

The 2023 Kelly Global Report, ‘The Three Pillars of Workforce Resilience’, surveyed 1,500 senior executives from multinational corporations who represent a total combined revenue of £4.24bn GBP, coupled with a worker survey of 4,200 individuals across areas such as employee mental health, DE&I [diversity, equality, inclusion], so-called ‘quiet quitting’, and automation in the workplace.

Key findings include:

• Profitability, customer satisfaction and employee wellbeing are getting worse
o Just one in two executives said their profitability (53%) and customer satisfaction (51%) had improved over the past 12 months compared to one in three (62% and 64% respectively) in the previous year
o Less than half (48%) reported that employee wellbeing had improved over the same period compared to 65% in 2022.

• Workers need more support from employers on their mental health
o Less than half (49%) of employees feel their employer cares about their mental health
o One in three (37%) feel they work in a psychologically unsafe environment
o Despite these problems, only one in three executives (33%) believe they offer adequate resources to help employees take care of their mental health, whilst one in four (25%) reported an increase in the number of employees who have taken time off from work or left the job due to mental health reasons compared with the previous year.

• Fewer employee benefits in 2023 as senior leaders are unable to meet demands of workers
o Businesses are investing less in measures like flexible working (22% say they are investing in this in 2023 vs 52% in 2022), improving leave (21% in 2023 vs 48% in 2022) and shortening the work week (21% in 2023 vs 31% in 2022) to attract and retain talent
o At the same time, just over a third (36%) have plans to increase pay over the next 12 months.

• Quiet quitting phenomenon continues in 2023
o Almost half of employees surveyed (45%) say they’re participating in ‘quiet quitting’
o Just under a third (28%) reported they are ‘very likely’ to leave their employer in the next 12 months due to poor work-life balance (28%) and lack of career progression (27%)
o Executives are aware of the problem with one in four (25%) reporting that their ability to retain top talent has worsened in the last 12 months.

• Employees understand the benefits of automation but are concerned about their jobs
o Half of executives (50%) believe automation has increased the capability of their workforce
o Employees recognise automation is positive for business (71%), but some are concerned about the impact on their jobs with one in three (33%) saying it has had a negative impact on them.

“Today’s report should serve as a wakeup call for senior leaders globally,” said Adelle Harrington, the head of KellyOCG EMEA. “The gap between employer and employee expectations is widening, in areas as diverse as DE&I and the value of automation, through to benefits and remuneration. Businesses need to rethink their workforce strategies or risk losing talent to competitors prepared to meet their demands.”

The report finds that a small cohort of organisations, known as the ‘Resilience Leaders’, have seen improvements in employee productivity, customer satisfaction, revenue and profit over the past 12 months.

Kelly surveyed 1,500 senior executives, 50% in C-suite roles, across 11 countries – Australia, France, Germany, Italy, India, Malaysia, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and the US – and nine industries – life sciences, energy, manufacturing, consumer retail, science (bio and clinical), engineering, tech, financial services and automotive.

Kelly surveyed 4,200 individuals at all levels of organizations, 62% of whom are in non-managerial positions, across the same 11 countries and nine industries listed above.

‘Laggard’ organisations are not building workforce resilience and are more likely to be experiencing decreased employee productivity, customer satisfaction and profits over the past 12 months (6% of the executive survey sample).

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