Can employee monitoring tools detect if workers are ‘quiet quitting?’

If posts on social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter and Instagram are to be believed, HR leaders are facing a new challenge: dissatisfied or burned-out employees who are “quietly quitting” or “quitting in place.” And like most other challenges facing today’s HR leaders, experts say the quiet quitting trend requires an HR response that includes both technology and empathy.

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Referring to workers who admit and even boast that they are no longer going “above and beyond” in their work performance or are merely doing the precise amount of work in their job description, this new phenomenon is very real, warn HR industry experts. A recent survey found that 21% of workers are “quiet quitting” and 5% are doing less than what’s required of them.

Despite vigorous debates on Twitter about the reality of quiet quitting, it cannot be dismissed as a social media trend, says Jason Averbook, analyst and CEO/founder of Leapgen, who will be giving a keynote titled “How to Continue to Disrupt Yourself: A Sustainable Guide to Digital Transformation” at the 2022 HR Tech Conference next month in Las Vegas. Regardless of the platform, employees are “quitting in place” to register their dissatisfaction with how they are viewed, treated and valued by management. “Is it really quitting? No,” he says. “It is employees saying to their employers, I want to be heard.”

After all, Averbook says, if employees who claim to be “quietly quitting” or “quitting in place” were truly miserable they would have left their jobs, especially in a job market with low unemployment and open positions. “If they really wanted to quit, then why are they still there?” Averbook asks.

And as HR leaders take notice of employees who are fulfilling their job requirements and little more, so are a subset of HR technology solutions providers that create employee monitoring software that could provide a solution to quiet quitting.

These tools, often loaded on an employee’s work laptop, measure a variety of responses—from keystrokes and mouse movements to response times in answering emails and IMs— and, in some cases, log a worker out of the organization’s network and require them to log back in before continuing to work.

Related: Learn about “Unleashing the Full Potential of the Employee Life Cycle: Talent Intelligence” at the HR Tech Conference next month in Las Vegas. Register here.

But can employee monitoring software—which research firm Gartner predicts will see a 70% adoption rate by 2023—also identify those employees who are quitting quietly? 

Elizabeth Harz, CEO of employee monitoring company Awareness Technologies, says these tools can do just that. Awareness Technologies is one of many vendors in a crowded space that also includes Dynatrace, Instana, Nexthink and Microsoft Azure Application Insights.

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Certain employee monitoring solutions can detect quiet quitting behavior despite employees’ irregular work patterns, she says.

“While rules-based monitoring systems can’t detect changes in habits, anomaly detection can spot them,” Harz says. “These models detect changes over existing work habits across multiple dimensions, such as time of work, volume of work, split of productive vs. unproductive time, as well as tone of communication.”

Other HR technology solutions like survey tools can spot “quiet quitting” because employees are no longer sugar-coating how they feel, according to Adam Weber, senior vice president of community for employee performance solution provider 15Five.

“Something interesting happens when employees who are doing the bare minimum are confronted with questions about how they feel about their work. They get honest,” he says. “The pain bubbles up and quiet quitting becomes a loud experience of sharing.”

But although technology might help identify quiet quitting, Averbook doesn’t think tech can solve it. Instead, employers need to listen to their employees and conduct “stay interviews instead of exit interviews” during the employee’s work cycle.

“For employees to go above and beyond, we need to design experiences for them that make them do that,” says Averbook. He suggests that employers ask themselves how to stop monitoring employee productivity and focus on enabling their performance.

“Those are the ways we can get rid of this concept of quiet quitting and get people focusing on what it takes to get at their peak performance,” he says. “This is what I like to call the ‘Now of Work.’ ”

Attend Jason Averbook’s keynote, “How to Continue to Disrupt Yourself: A Sustainable Guide to Digital Transformation” at the HR Tech Conference next month in Las Vegas. Register here.

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