The Rise of Employee Disengagement

From “quiet quitting” to “soft quitting,” what started as a TikTok video about doing the bare minimum at work quickly went viral. Though, this isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s a telltale symptom of employee disengagement.

According to a recent Gallup study, disengagement is a growing problem in the U.S. After a decade of upward trends in employee engagement, more than one-half of U.S. employees are now quiet quitting.

What Causes Employee Disengagement?

Studies have shown mistrust in leadership, lack of growth opportunities and failure to unlock employees’ full potential are among the factors that contribute to employee disengagement. But look a little closer and you’ll see that those things all boil down to issues within a company’s culture. It’s a company’s job to define their standards from a cultural and performance standpoint. When these standards are clear, it’s easier to identify where disengagement is happening and come up with ways to solve it.

Poor Management Practices

It would be an understatement to say that the last few years haven’t been easy. The sudden shift to remote and hybrid work paired with social unrest and uncertainty about the future forced many leaders to adopt an inward focus. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic into a “new normal,” it’s clear that managers are still operating in a survival mindset.

Managers have a huge impact on employee engagement. In fact, research shows that employees who feel a strong connection to their employer are 75 times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t feel connected. But to create this kind of connection, managers need to replace transactional engagement with transformational engagement. This means focusing on actions that can drive real, meaningful change within themselves, their employees and the entire organization.

Employees in every industry expect transparency from leadership. If leaders don’t deliver, disengagement and high employee turnover can become more prevalent.

Establishing an Upskilling Strategy

Seeing disengagement in the workplace can be discouraging, but managers have the power to turn the tide. An upskilling strategy can be the key to combating employee disengagement. Traditionally, upskilling talent has meant identifying training or knowledge gaps and offering development opportunities for employees to learn new skills. This is a win-win for employers and employees alike — the employee finds opportunities for advancement while the company closes a skills gap.

However, upskilling efforts need to go way beyond skills development. Employees need room to develop a growth mindset and to discover their unique purpose and identity. We must subscribe to the belief that upskilling is rooted in personal accountability and that it has the power to create positive, long-term effects on our employees’ lives.

Blended and Multimodal Learning

There are a variety of ways to upskill employees and it’s important to understand that how learning opportunities are delivered is just as important as the content being delivered.

Blended and multimodal learning incorporates a variety of teaching and communication methodologies to support a holistic training program. Blended learning combines traditional classroom-based teaching styles with digital learning tools whereas multimodal learning leverages a variety of resources that appeal to different learning preferences.

Offering a variety of upskilling strategies and methods not only increases engagement, but also creates an inclusive training program.

The Value of a Learning Culture

Investing in upskilling can empower employees to feel in control of their career path and their life. A company that invests in upskilling employees is committed to creating an environment where their people can learn and grow. When employees feel that their goals are supported by their employers, they have more incentive to be engaged, productive team members.

I firmly believe that every employee has a personal responsibility to want to learn and better themselves. But organizations and leaders also have an obligation to create and sustain a learning culture that invests in and supports employees in the short and long term. When employees are offered a variety of learning and development opportunities, companies are more likely to make strides in reducing employee disengagement and putting quiet quitting to rest.