The Workforce Dilemma: Keeping top talent in the age of ‘quiet quitting’

Chloe Baul//April 25, 2023

In the workforce, some people are working just hard enough. (Kristina Flour via Unsplash)

The Workforce Dilemma: Keeping top talent in the age of ‘quiet quitting’

Chloe Baul//April 25, 2023

In today’s highly competitive job market, businesses are confronted with a dilemma: finding and retaining top talent.

Business leaders and managers may think they are doing everything right only to find their employees are “quietly quitting” – disengaging from their work and seeking employment opportunities elsewhere.

In order to maintain a loyal and motivated workforce, it’s important to understand the reasons behind this phenomenon and find creative ways to combat it, experts say.

“Quiet quitting” has existed for as long as people have been working, but there are several factors that have contributed to its recent increase in prevalence–so much so that it now has a name. In the post-pandemic world, amid an economic recession, workers are facing added workloads, amplified anxiety, difficulties with childcare and market instability.  The pandemic also changed the way many employees want to work, with the opportunity to work from home and more flexible work hours. 

There is a generational component to the workforce dilemma. Jan Roeser, labor economist at the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL), said younger generation workers are no longer filling roles to replace the older generation workers or retirees since younger generations prioritize career growth, work-life balance and job satisfaction over job security.

“Quiet quitting is not slacking off. It’s more of an ‘OK: I’ve worked hard. I’ve done my duties and responsibilities, but I need to respond to the other part of my life too. I need to have more balance,’” Roeser said.  “I think we’ve found with the younger generations that have come into the workforce in the last 20 years, that what is important to them.”

According to IDOL’s economic assessment of the Idaho labor force in 2022, the participation rate is fairly low, at 62.5%. IDOL expected that to remain consistent for the foreseeable future. 

“Currently we are in a situation in which it is absolutely a job seekers market and we are seeing a little decline in the number of job openings per unemployed person,” Roeser added. “We’ve had a lot of changes–we have just had a big generation that has retired. We have also had less immigration to fill some of the jobs that we would normally fill. And so consequently, it really is harder to find individuals.”

So, what can be done?

One key factor to increasing a motivated and loyal workforce, Roeser added, is communication and creating an open and transparent workplace culture. Employees need to feel comfortable sharing their concerns and feedback, she said.

“Also, I’ve always found that the place where you play hard, is the place where you work hard too. If you have both components, you really feel more engaged, more of an ownership with the company and you care about it more,” Roeser said. “I think employers need to always be on the lookout for ways to keep workers further engaged.”

Tyler Sisson, director of organizational development at ESI construction, highlighted the value of building a positive company culture and making it a primary tool in recruiting during an Idaho Business Review “Breakfast Series” workforce event in April.

“Before the pandemic, we were just under 600 employees, now we’re at over 800,” Sisson said during the panel. “Compensation, benefits, work hours – all of things and culture wins the day. If you know what your culture is, and you can articulate what you have to offer in your interview and in your marketing, you’re going to get the right people.”

Also at the event, Toni Carter, chief inclusion and collaboration officer at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), mentioned INL’s success in finding and retaining employees. She said employees can fill positions by seeking talent across cultures and demographic groups, and making those jobs accessible to everyone.

“The reason why we’ve been so successful – we’ve grown at about 8 to 10% in the last six to eight years – is because we’re tapping an untapped market that hasn’t been tapped before,” Carter said at the event. “In South Idaho, Native Americans and tribal groups, people of color, and particularly our Latino groups, are around 30%. These demographics haven’t translated into most of the businesses that are reflected in Idaho.”

Idaho’s manufacturing industry and being an active participant in the solution

Idaho’s manufacturing industry is one industry, among others across the state, that is struggling to find and retain skilled workers. Manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to find employees, said Sheri Johnson, co-founder and executive director at the Idaho Manufacturing Alliance (IMA).

“While skilled labor challenges have historically been the complaint, now it is even more dire as there just aren’t enough workers to fill the roles,” Johnson said. “Add onto that the competition for workforce, cost of housing, wage and benefits increases, it’s a tough time to be an employer. Many skilled and upper-level positions are being recruited from out of state, which compounds the housing issues. It’s a catch 22.”

Solutions for manufacturing employers to take include being an active participant in workforce development–not expecting government and education to provide the industry with the talent they need, Johnson said.

“We’ve been beating the drum that manufacturers need to be part of building their talent pipelines, and working hard on being employers of choice,” Johnson said. “We formalized our workforce development efforts in 2021 by forming a 501c3 called Forging Futures that helps connect students, educators and the general public on manufacturing careers and opportunities and how they offer rewarding positions.”

The IMA has nine Federally Registered Apprenticeship programs and offer employer collaboratives for key industry occupations to begin strategically training and filling these crucial roles.

“We encourage manufacturers to actively be a part of workforce development. Whether that’s letting us help them connect to their local CTE programs, trade schools or universities,” Johnson added. “Also, helping them set up apprenticeship programs for their workforce and supporting educators by sponsoring school programs, being a guest speaker or offering student tours and internships. If you’re not involved, you can’t complain!”