How Can Credit Unions Respond To Quiet Quitting?

As more and more young workers become detached from their jobs, what can credit union leaders do to re-engage their employees?

The term “quiet quitting” exploded onto the scene this year after business publications and social media posts highlighted the tendency of some workers — particularly younger ones — to reassess the relationship they held with their jobs after COVID-19 pushed unprecedented numbers of the U.S. workforce into a remote environment. That transition brought with it many advantages in the forms of flexibility and expense savings, but it challenged employers to ensure employees remained engaged.

An exact definition of quiet quitting is difficult to pin down. In a TikTok post, Zaid Khan defines quiet quitting as “You are still performing your duties, but you are no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.” Other definitions suggest quiet quitting means an employee performs their work duties solely within working hours. No additional responsibilities. No outside hours.

Critics of quiet quitting say such employees perform only the bare minimum of job requirements and can be a drain on resources and productivity. Ariana Huffington says the concept suggests something bigger than a simple shift in a work attitude. According to the founder of the Huffington Post, quiet quitting is “a step toward quitting on life.”

There is some debate about whether quiet quitting is actually a new phenomenon or if it is just another name for “disengagement.” According to Gallup, the percentage of engaged workers declined in 2021 for the first time in more than 10 years. That drop continued into 2022, when polls by the analytics and advisory company showed only 32% of employees are engaged; 17% are actively disengaged.

Either way, quiet quitting is something corporate and credit union leaders must acknowledge.

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How Are Credit Union Employees Holding Up?

The credit union industry is not immune to quiet quitting, and the phenomenon is more likely to hit workers who feel overworked and underappreciated.

On top of the health and safety concerns regarding COVID-19 and in-person work environments, record lending the past few years has strained staff members across the industry. Yet, the average salary and benefits per employee increased only 3.50% from the second quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022 even as inflation hit 9.10%. When pay increases don’t keep up with the cost of living, it feels like a pay cut for employees.

Although some employees push to earn promotions and raises to keep pace with or exceed inflation rates, others perceive the lag in pay growth as being asked to do more for less. Credit union leaders, then, must encourage and reward the former group while finding ways to engage the latter or run the risk of a quiet quitting outbreak.

For more on employee wage growth at credit unions, read “Credit Union Compensation Is Not Keeping Up With Inflation.”

What Can Credit Unions Do?

According to employment researchers Anthony Klotz and Mark Bolino, credit unions can deploy many methods to spur engagement and get the most out of employees, including:

Redefine core job tasks. Job creep happens. Things that were once above and beyond become expected. Work with employees to redefine expectations and have a conversation about what is really necessary and what is extra.

How does this relate to credit unions? Use these flashpoint moments — whether the Great Resignation or Quiet Quitting or the next labor trend — to re-evaluate organization priorities based on the talent at hand. Consider what tasks your credit union requires versus what tasks your talent is capable of performing.

For more information on organizational transformation, see “Navigating The Great Resignation: Tips From Turnover In The Senior Ranks.

Listen, Then Invest. If employees feel like their employers are listening to, supporting, and meeting employee needs, then they’re more likely to go the extra mile. Keep in mind, different employees want different things.

How does this relate to credit unions? Credit unions would be wise to make sure their employees are invested in any organizational change. Instead of pushing change from the top down, bring together cross-functional, cross-level groups to solicit feedback ahead of time, ensuring decision-making captures many viewpoints.

For more on organizational change, see “An Inside Look At Organizational Change.

Less Hustle, More Crafting. Employers should work with employees to craft behaviors that align with their motivations. Doing so helps employees avoid burnout.

How does this relate to credit unions? Work with employees to tailor paths throughout the career ladder. Ensure there is room for growth outside of promotion, and offer pay increases even if upward movement is unavailable. This shows employees they are valued and offers them the opportunity to tackle new responsibilities and continue growing.

For more information on structuring career advancement opportunities, see “How Empower FCU Empowers Branch Employees.

Credit unions have a built-in leg-up when it comes to combatting employee burnout: their mission. Credit unions exist to serve their members. In many cases, that includes a community to which employees belong, which gives them extra incentive to excel at their jobs. However, a sense of belonging and personal accomplishment alone can’t stave off burnout indefinitely. Considering efforts to go above and beyond as wasted energy is a basic human instinct when faced with seemingly overwhelming obstacles. Credit union leaders should practice grace and patience, understanding employees are human beings and key aspects of organization success. Communicate, empathize, and properly align incentives — then, build from there.

November 10, 2022

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