Moving from quietly quitting to happily thriving: The workforce of the future needs personalization

31 October, 2022

Yolanda Seals-Coffield
US Deputy People Leader

Quiet quitting has gotten loud. We see and hear about it everywhere – from social media to the news we consume and conversations with our friends and family. Although no single definition of the term exists, there is consensus that quiet quitting means doing the minimum required in the workplace. There is less consensus about why this is happening – apathy, stress reduction, a desire for more family time, or simply new career goals in a post-pandemic world. Some think quiet quitters are checked-out employees that can’t be reached, while others see it as just reordering life priorities to keep work within bounds. 

Looking past the hype, we know that the future of work is shifting, and companies can’t afford to ignore the new engagement trends. A recent survey found that quiet quitters comprise at least half the US workforce, with employee engagement for those under age 35 dropping six percent during the past three years. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the survey found a drop of 10 or more percent among younger workers who “strongly agree that someone cares about them, someone encourages their development, and they have opportunities to learn and grow.” 

At the same time, executives remain very concerned about talent shortages. In early 2022, 77% of executives we surveyed said hiring and retaining talent was their most critical driver.  Responding to our most recent Pulse Survey, 38% of executives cited talent acquisition and retention as a serious risk. 

So how do organizations improve employee engagement and retention, amid a wide spectrum of reasons for quiet quitting?

At PwC, we believe the answer is offering employees greater personalization to create a daily experience that matches what our people value — meaningful relationships, a balanced workload, support for flexibility, and a sense of belonging and purpose.

As I begin my new role as PwC’s US Chief People Officer, I’m excited about the solutions we are crafting to address complex, pressing problems like these. They require rethinking talent strategy so that today and tomorrow’s workforce – and the organizations that depend on them – can flourish. 

As a baseline, it’s important to recognize the dramatic shift in employees’ expectations and mindsets about where, when and how they work during the past few years. With so much change happening so quickly, we need to stay focused on what makes our people thrive. 

These pillars mean different things to different people, and they will often mean different things at different points in an individual’s career. My priorities were certainly different before I became a mom, and they have continued to shift as my girls have grown up to become young women (though I’m still not sure how that happened so fast!). One size will never fit all, so devising a talent strategy that meets people in the many places they are is key. By establishing personalization as the cornerstone, and giving our people agency to meet their needs and pursue their passions, organizations can advance opportunities for employees and engagement.

This past spring, we introduced My+, our strategy to reimagine our people experience and personalize the career journey at PwC. As a people-first firm, we are investing in our community of 65,000 solvers to meet their needs, both now and in the future. My+ is an investment in their journey, allowing us to deliver opportunities to shape our people’s experience, personalized to how they want to work, and create greater opportunities to build trust and deliver sustained outcomes for our clients. My+ looks toward a tech-enabled future where our people can pursue career experiences tailored to every stage of their professional lives, with the ability to adjust as their circumstances evolve. We are focused on four areas:

  • Well-being will be central. Our people will have the flexibility they need to work virtually, hybrid and reduced schedules. We’ve also increased protected time, adding an additional week-long firmwide shutdown for a total of two protected weeks, and implementing additional measures to confirm vacation days are used. 
  • Total rewards is our benefits program designed to meet our people’s needs at every stage of life, including physical and mental health, and financial, social, spiritual and emotional well-being. I’m excited about the steps we’ve already taken to expand parental leave for all parents from eight to 12 weeks, while also doubling the number of annual free visits with a mental health professional and increasing reimbursement for out-of-network mental health support.
  • Development programs that elevate inclusive leadership and coaching skills for everyone at all levels — enabling us to live our values in every interaction, with clients, our communities and each other. We are also prioritizing opportunities to grow, practice new skills, and work on different teams and new assignments of interest, all enabled by real-time feedback so our people and our organization remain agile.
  • Always a PwCer is our investment in our alumni, as we continue to grow these relationships and provide resources to our former colleagues throughout their careers. Whether at PwC or elsewhere, we want to help our talent pursue exciting and rewarding careers, and we will continue to support their well-being. 

A transformed talent strategy doesn’t happen overnight, but investing in flexibility, providing the right benefits for where employees are in their lifecycle, and cultivating the right development opportunities is critical to building trust and a shared purpose that allows individuals to thrive. 

In a reimagined workplace grounded in personalization, quiet quitting could get a lot quieter. 

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