The Oxford Business Podcast

First came the great resignation, and now we have quiet quitting. Why are employees becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their work, and what can employers do to retain their staff?

Show Notes

First came the great resignation, and now we have quiet quitting. Why are employees becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their work, and what can employers do to retain their staff?

In this episode, Mike speaks with Paul Hayward of Blake Morgan and Jane Fryatt of Face2faceHR.
  • The rise of quiet quitting
  • How businesses can retain employees
  • The importance of communicating with your team
  • Focusing on output not input
Listen to the podcast to hear expert insights on those topics.


Paul Hayward:
Paul is a member of the highly rated employment, pensions, benefits and immigration team at Blake Morgan LLP; working in both Oxford and Reading. He has previously acted for large multibody corporations undertaking central government contracts, public sector bodies (including NHS Trusts and Schools) and recently a number of high-profile individuals such as senior BBC executives, Premier League footballers and agents.

Blake Morgan

Jane Fryatt:
Jane is an HR Consultant at face2faceHR. Her HR experience has been gained across various sectors including media and publishing, science, technology and engineering. She has first-hand experience of managing teams in both operational and office environments and can bring down-to-earth, practical HR solutions to her clients.


About the Oxford Business Podcast:

The Oxford Business Podcast is a podcast by OBCN, the Oxford Business Community Network, and hosted by Mike Foster, the Entrepreneurs Mentor, and Ben Thompson from Thompson & Terry Recruitment.

Mike Foster: @mikefosteroxford
The Entrepreneurs Mentor:

Ben Thompson: @ben-thompson
Thompson & Terry Recruitement:

The Oxford Business Community Network has been established to provide a trusted, peer-to-peer, group networking opportunity for businesses based in Oxfordshire, where 'people buy people'.

The Oxford Business Podcast is produced by Story Ninety-Four and recorded in their Podcast Studio in central Oxford. 

What is The Oxford Business Podcast?

Hosted by Ben Thompson, the Oxford Business Podcast is a monthly podcast featuring conversations with experts in a range of fields including marketing, finance and sales.

Mike Foster 0:07
Welcome to the podcast of the Oxford Business Community Network produced by Story Ninety-Four, the podcast studio here in Oxford. My name is Mike Foster, co-owner of OBCN, and our podcast aims to share the expertise, knowledge and experience for our members, covering those key issues in your business. For this episode, our guests are Jane Fryatt of Face2Face HR, and Paul Hayward of Blake Morgan and today we're going to be talking about all things HR and the latest hot topics. So welcome, Jane. Welcome, Paul.

Paul Hayward 0:34
Hi, good morning.

Jane Fryatt 0:35
Good morning,

Mike Foster 0:36
In the usual fashion from a guest networking, just first we'll kick off by introducing yourselves. So Jane, do you want to kick off first?

Jane Fryatt 0:43
Yeah, sure. I'm Jane Fryatt. My business is called Face2Face HR and I work with small business owners to help them stay on top of their HR issues and deal with any problems they have and hopefully help them look after their people.

Mike Foster 0:56
Fantastic. Thanks, Jane. Paul?

Paul Hayward 0:58
I'm an employment lawyer at Blake Morgan, I cover a whole host of issues really from recruitment and retention all the way through to, unfortunately, court proceedings or restrictive covenants in the High Court. So whole plethora of issues really.

Mike Foster 1:10
fantastic. I know both of you for a long time. And I know, the listeners are gonna get some great value out of the content from today. So just to kick off them. What are the hot topics right now for HR? What's the big thing that you're talking to your clients about?

Paul Hayward 1:22
I actually, I mean, it's quite funny, isn't it because it arose from TikTok, which is kind of alien to me. But I understand that it's short videos with music and cooking, and there's a host of dancing and things like that. But there's this craze called Quiet Quitting. I don't know if you've been hearing about quiet quitting? And that's kind of whereby an employee is stuck in their position where they're not getting feedback or praise, then the rises they're getting each year are minimal increments. They're not being pushed by their manager, they're not being developed by their manager and almost, they're not being invested in by the company and it gets to the point where the employee says, you know what, I've had enough of this, I kind of check out, and therefore they just coast, they don't take the step of quitting, but they will coast and I think in the current climate because of COVID-19, it has changed the way we work, a lot more people are working from home, it's actually changed the dynamics somewhat, and it's very easy for employees to become disengaged and now in the current market, I think which has been intensified through the cost of living it's put us in a position whereby employees are looking at the career trajectory they've got, are looking at their managers, are looking at what's happening in the workplace and they're saying, "This isn't great, this isn't for me, I'm not going forward", and they're looking to see elsewhere. And they know that their ex-colleagues or they know other companies or their direct rivals are recruiting, and there's much more pay there or there's much more advancement or there's much more of a chance. So I think it's a real whilst it came through TikTok, and everyone in the Daily Mail and Metro have been talking about quiet quitting and is it an issue, I think it has been an issue actually, for the last 12 to 18 months. Because what COVID-19 has done is it's really explored the basis of management and it's all about communication. You've got managers that don't communicate with their teams that will not talk to individual members that are at home three days a week, they won't just pick up the phone and speak to them on teams or pick up the phone normally and ask how they are if they ring them as work-related, or it's to complain is there's no kind of interaction you'd get in the office and that's led to the kind of stem of being disengaged. I mean, what are you sending me your clients?

Jane Fryatt 3:34
Yeah, I think from my point of view, what I'm seeing is one of the things that's really facing businesses is how do they support their teams and their employees through this cost of living rise? And what should they do to help them to cope with you know, increasing costs, and, you know, but not contributing to inflation themselves? You know, so I've seen clients want to be more innovative about the package that they give their staff and what benefits they offer, and maybe moving away from the traditional benefits that we might be thinking of, you know, life insurance or healthcare, or I think healthcare has become very popular actually, since COVID. A lot more companies I'm seeing some very small companies are wanting to give private medical health care to staff which I've never seen in the past. But thinking about things like can we pay for your broadband, or can we give you Amazon Prime membership or just different ways of supporting people with their costs without just putting salaries up? Because obviously they've got passed that on then to their customers, which obviously creates more inflation. So it's a real challenge.

Paul Hayward 4:44
It's dangerous as well, isn't it because a lot of companies are doing one-off payments, which puts pressure, say, for example, we're talking about competitors, your competitors are doing a one-off payment, but actually what they don't look at is the effect that the one-off payment can have because your workforce isn't all just a certain demographic. So I know that a one-off payment can have a real issue on Universal Credit, it's not as simple as sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. But a one-off payment actually can be really bad for someone who works part-time on Universal Credit, whereas spreading that one-off payment across the year in a pay rise wouldn't have such a detrimental effect. So that's a really difficult position, I think it's really fair that employers are having to be innovative in what they do now and they've got to look at their benefits package, they've got to look at what they're doing and I know one of our clients even has just rolled out a tastecard Absolutely and paid for a year's membership on it and signposted the employees where they live to where they can go and yes, they're still spending money to go, certainly, but they've been able to if they go on certain nights, and whatever the requirements are, you get 50% off or 75% and it might give them that little bit of a break to maybe afford to go out for a meal, and things like that and that's actually been really well received.

Mike Foster 5:59
I was at a panel event recently, and one of the people on the panel, they estimated it cost their business between 20,000 and 60,000, depending on the salary, of replacing a person they lose. So they're making more of an investment in these packages now, rather than having to lose people or counteract on salary levels, which, as you say, is a one-off, how do you find your clients decide on perhaps the right benefits package? Because I've seen it so many times where businesses put together the benefit package they think is right, and it's probably what they want as business owners, but actually, you know, again, one of the panel members saying 30% of his team actually used it, I think it was a gym membership, you know, and it's irrelevant to the majority,

Jane Fryatt 6:39
I was gonna say the main thing, and you're sort of you're alluding to it there, Mike is to ask the team. I find though, that for small businesses, putting together a flexible benefits package is really challenging, like the providers just aren't there to deliver a platform that works for everybody. So that is a real challenge. So you're never gonna please everyone and obviously, you've got a finite budget, but it's trying to understand, you know, what are people's priorities? If you can offer flexibility if some people want to put it in the pension, some people want a gym membership, as you say, you know, there are some packages out there where like a gym membership where you can, you can use it in any gym. So, you know, it's sort of portable and so, you know, the providers are responding to people, not all working in the same office on one site. So there are sort of solutions out there. But yeah, I think asking the team.

Paul Hayward 7:29
It's as simple as that and it is communication isn't it. So I mean, I think the theme of all of these things, we're talking about HR issues, we could sit here and go through a number of them, it's all communication, it is speaking to your team and you're absolutely right, looking at gym memberships and things but there's simple steps they can take, you've got people that are getting the train or getting the bus or parking and can't afford it. You could say to these people, we do salary sacrifice, we can look at doing it for a season ticket for your bus or season ticket for the train. And that's hugely helpful to them because it's taken before they've been taxed and a simple step like that actually might be really helpful to them and mean that they're a bit more comfortable and can change it. But it's about discussing these things with them and talking about what they need and Jane's right, not one size fits all is not going to work. A gym might only work for 30% of people, cycle to work scheme might only work for 5 out of 100 but it's about putting together a package to try and catch all of the demographic to try and help these people.

Jane Fryatt 8:27
This is really important in recruitment as well, isn't it in how you attract, you know, I had someone say to me the other day, someone still had free tea and coffee on their job description or something like it was a benefit, you know. So this is a really tough market at the moment for getting good candidates, especially, I mean, I work with a lot of sort of tech firms and finding developers at a salary that a small business can afford is really, really challenging. You know, if you want somebody in every day and you're not providing a competitive benefits package, you've just got no hope in this market. You know, you've got to think more creatively and allow people to have flexibility around how they work and when they work and you know, that's really important.

Paul Hayward 9:11
It's the value as well, because more and more employees are looking at an employer and saying, okay, the pension seems okay, the pay seems okay. But what's your actual position on the environment? Or what's your position socially within the community? They want to work somewhere that cares about their carbon footprint, or they want to work somewhere that has links to the community that supports charities, and that's becoming more and more important, and it's not just an added value kind of thing anymore? It's almost it's forming part of the questions because I've had clients say that we're getting pushed on plastic, we're getting pushed on carbon, we're getting pushed on what our position is with regard to car parking, with regard to travel. It is just all these sort of factors are playing a real part now of the way we think and the way we are operating.

Mike Foster 9:57
Yeah, I remember a story you shared with me in the past about the carbon policy of one of your clients and etc. So one thing I want to jump back to actually is this quiet quitting that you talked about it does resonate with something that I'm seeing with my clients is that, yes, there's challenges in recruitment. Yes, there's challenges in retention. But one of the biggest challenges I'm seeing with a lot of my clients is actually the productivity of their team and that's probably linked a little bit to the quiet quitting you're talking about. But there's also nervousness. So what I'm seeing is that before the pandemic, they had an output. During the pandemic, that output dropped, because obviously, it could, because there was so much work to do for a lot of businesses. But trying to get that productivity level back for a lot of my clients has been quite difficult. They're finding it quite difficult to then push the productivity message, because of obviously, all the concerns now about work-life balance, mental health concerns, etc. Are you seeing that in your client bases?

Paul Hayward 10:45
We're seeing certainly struggle with some areas of our clients are that they're not getting people back to the office as regularly as they want to, or they're not pushing forward, they feel that they're not doing the same kind of role they were previously three years ago and I think that does play into the quiet quitting in the sense that you've got an employee that previously may have worked past six o'clock, or may have worked past five o'clock and done a lot more work and now is five o'clock logging off every time and is taken our lunch and that may well be a work-life balance thing, but it may well be that they're quite quitting. Essentially, you need to track back and I think the point there would be the communication, the manager identifies there's a couple of themes here and they should speak to the employee and they should say, I've looked at the figures and looked at, are you okay, is everything all right? Are you happy with where you are? And as part and parcel of that the manager we should look at have they done a one-to-one recently? Have they got a career trajectory? Have they got a performance plan? Where are they with that? and has the employee raised any concerns, because if the employee has raised the concern that they're not happy with their 2% pay rise, and they're aware that competitors have got 8% or 10%, then they are disillusioned there and that's going to be kicking into productivity and you are getting disengaged. So the employer has got two options, which I think has led to the quiet quitting is one or putting their head in the ground and ignoring it and that person, then will leave, or try and address it, because the main issue you've got if someone leaves, you lose all that experience, you lose all of our value, and like you say, in a good way, it might take three months to train them up and get them firing on all guns, but it could well take a year, it could take two years, and how much have you lost over those two years? Because you didn't want to address the pain point? It's a really difficult position. But the signs are there and I think it's about looking for them and communicating them.

Mike Foster 12:34
And communication is a big thing, isn't it? I think sometimes, I don't know how you see it, Jane, in terms of managers, or business owners having those difficult conversations and more actually avoiding those conversations.

Jane Fryatt 12:47
It's interesting, just listening to you because I am not sure that I see it in the same way, you know because I've just sort of wondering about this quiet quitting thing. I mean, I don't have a lot of my clients coming to me with that issue. I don't think. I think some of it might be, how are we measuring people's productivity? And is the way in which we're measuring it now post-COVID? Have we adapted? You know, because if you've got certain KPIs, I don't know what those KPIs might be. But they might be quite related to how often somebody is in or how much you see them, or, you know, are they more tangible sort of input-based measures rather than what we want to be moving towards, which is like an output-based measure. And I don't know, I just wonder if there's something in that. The foundation of all of it is about trust in your staff and, you know, managers who struggled when people went remote working were managers who generally didn't trust their, their teams, and they relied on seeing them and standing over them, even if that may be metaphorically, you know, watching what they're doing and found that distance very uncomfortable and the good managers haven't struggled with that, because they manage their team based on on outputs and outcomes and that's what the KPIs should be, I think, in this new world and, you know, I'm a massive fan of the four day week and, you know, I think that if you get your KPIs, right, and you allow people more time off, they will be more productive. You know, that's been shown in plenty of studies and there's a massive study going on at the moment, you know, which will be great to see the results of that. Because I think, even if you just know when you think about it, you know, you're going to pay somebody 100% of their salary for doing 80% of the hours, but they will still achieve 100% of the work if you get that right and they're able to design their work themselves and they're empowered to decide when they want to be distracted when they don't want to be distracted. You know, how they kind of manage their working day. I just think if you're getting people who are saying that, I'm not saying that quiet quitting doesn't exist, of course, it does. But I would just ask some of these questions around well, how are they actually measuring that person? How, what is their definition of productivity?

Mike Foster 15:12
I think the pandemic changed business quite considerably didn't it and it did speed up that change quite considerably. I remember running a mastermind group before the pandemic and we talked about four-day weeks, unlimited holidays, working from home, everybody went "Oh, no, couldn't do that", you know, it was a change management set. But all those managers now if I look at those people, now they're all managing remote teams and benefiting from that remoteness.

Paul Hayward 15:35
No, Jane's right, I mean, COVID has identified bad managers, it really has. It's put in a position that managers that aren't communicating managers that aren't able to get their teams motivated, and it has to stand over them, they've really struggled, and they are struggling and the four day week, obviously, I echo everything Jane said, that the four day week is such a good thing. If you're an employer, that's offering a four-day week compared to your competitors, that's a massive pull, it's huge, and your retention, the pay rise may not be as big, but a four-day week is huge compared to a five day, you're gonna retain staff, you're going to attract staff, all of those things are right. And if you've got a good manager, or a good set of management, that can get the team right with the right output figures, then they're gonna go the right way and it's about managing it as well, isn't it. If you've... those managers that are strong enough to have those conversations to say, you're not performing, and it might be quite quitting, they may be disillusioned, and then the manager will need to address that or it could be the fact that they just don't want to perform at the level they were previously and the manager will need to take them, either informally or formally through the process. But the point is having a good manager that communicates that's alive to what's going on.

Jane Fryatt 16:47
One thing I would say, I mean, we call it a difficult conversation, which sounds scary, actually, but what we're talking about is being honest most of the time and being transparent, and just having a normal conversation, as opposed to avoiding an issue or, you know, making up in your head what you think's happening, but without even talking to the person, you know, but I think it's like anything, isn't it, it's a skill, and the more you do it, the better you are at it. So if there are people listening who are worrying about broaching an issue with a team member, I would say 99% of the time, once the manager goes into that conversation, they feel so much better, you know, and having the conversation just going through it, it will lead to a benefit and better communication, and it just takes practice, you know, so just do it and have a framework, it's, you know, you can look online for a framework for structuring. Because feedback is a horrible word as well. Nobody wants feedback do they. We just want to ask people, how are things going? What barriers are you experiencing? How can I support you? You know, do you want more support from me or less support from me? You know, all those kinds of open questions.

Mike Foster 17:58
So I've talked to a lot of my clients in terms of making sure they keep it factual and non-emotional because I think sometimes they leave it too late, it becomes emotional and then all the communication gets missed. What about any other issues that you're seeing, let's look at any other issues that you might be seeing with your client base or reading at the moment.

Paul Hayward 18:15
We're seeing certainly a play now on long COVID is appearing in the workplace, I'd say, certainly, whilst the COVID rates are going down, the long COVID rates certainly are going up, they're climbing and I think you've got things like fatigue, shortness of breath, that is really affecting people in the workplace, and whilst working from home as well. So it is a factor that is apparent, and employers need to be alive to that and they need to manage that, again, it could well be that long. COVID is going to be a disability, it could well be it's not short notice. But they need to manage that, to be sympathetic to that. We're also seeing quite a lot as well, at the moment of the people moving to competitors, and having any restraints against them for example solicitation, where they're not allowed to go near customers of their previous employer, or even non-competition where they're not allowed to go to a competitor. We're seeing people testing those boundaries now and you track it back to why people are moving and I guess it forms back to what we were talking about earlier that they're not happy, they're not happy with the way the organisation is going, they're not happy with the pay, they're not happy with the way they've been asked to work. It's these kinds of factors and there's a huge issue there. Because of course, not only you've got the cost to the business itself of losing that employee, you've got the management time of dealing with that and then you've got any associated costs on top, legal and business-wise as well. All of those things are huge. Whereas if you if you're looking at your business inwards and trying to see if there are any patterns, trying to see if there are any issues and trying to deal with them, like Jane says no one wants feedback, no wants to have those kinds of conversations. But if you get in a bit earlier, and you try and have those conversations, though, and I think it's Jane's absolutely right that a manager will feel a lot better when they start having that conversation, the more they do it, the better they will feel about it and they'll be more open and they can, if things do get emotional, they can signpost the employee to... maybe the employer has a helpline that they can ring, an employee assistance programme, or they might have Mental Health First Aiders or if they don't have any of those things, there's certainly services available like Oxfordshire Mind, things like that, there's places that can be signposted to help that employee and then a relationship will grow.

Jane Fryatt 20:28
It is a big area that I see as mental health generally, and managers supporting their employees. I mean, COVID has had a massive impact, especially on young people, on their kind of mental health and well-being generally and I think sometimes managers aren't sure how much can they kind of pry into that. Is it crossing a boundary and, you know, our work and our life, outside of work life is so kind of muddled up now and, you know, I think, again, it's about using the resources, like you've mentioned, Mind. Mind, have this Wellness Action Plan, which is an amazing tool for managers to use, it just gives you a structure to actually have an open conversation about somebody's mental health and wellbeing and it's really helpful, I think, for both the employee and the manager to go away, and fill it out and then come back and kind of open that question. Because, you know, we are much more open about it now than obviously, we were even 5-10 years ago, you know, it's very different. The other thing that I see it's quite interesting is companies who are expanding, looking beyond just the UK and wanting to have staff in different jurisdictions and the challenge that brings for a small business in establishing an overseas entity or not going through what's known as an employer of record, whereby, you know, you can employ somebody overseas without having a local entity so that I'm seeing more of, you know, obviously, we've got, particularly like I mentioned developers earlier, you know, there are developers in, you know, all over the world, obviously, and some amazing developers in places like Ukraine and South America or Australia, and being able to tap into that kind of global workforce can be, again, a real differentiator for a small business.

Mike Foster 22:15
The really pleasing thing for me, I think, is that you know, historically, we see the corporates head of HR director, and it was their role to make sure that the people consider as part of the business strategy around the board was considered. I'm seeing it more in the smaller businesses now, it isn't just about the business strategy and about profits and productivity it's about how does that impact our people? How does that impact on whether it's their mental health or physical health? And how you can best support them through that. We're coming to the end of today's podcast, but just from both of you, I wouldn't mind your sort of top tip for businesses out there in terms of an HR or people perspective, what would be your top tip?

Jane Fryatt 22:50
I think it's, I mean, we've kind of said it today but it's definitely talk to your people and have regular one-to-ones and I don't think you have enough one-to-ones. And people always ask me, "Well, what percentage of my time, you know, should I be spending on that?". And that's quite hard to answer. But I mean, if it's not, like 30-40%, I think it's not enough, you know, you should be giving up your time to manage your people. That's how you'll get things done and that's how you'll build a fantastic workplace.

Mike Foster 23:19
And Paul?

Paul Hayward 23:19
I think I'm very much the same, I mean, even to we're in our London office the other day and I understand that they did a special day whereby they announced to the whole of the office because our offices split, there'd be teams that work three or four days a week in the office, there'd be teams that work one day in the office, and then pick and choose those days and it is quite common now the teams won't see each other unless specifically you go in for a reason, apart from on teams and so forth. But I know that one of the partners said right, let's do something really special. Let's have a dedicated day and they got in breakfast from a really nice breakfast establishment, I think. I think it was somewhere in London that was quite posh and they did a number of cakes, a number of all sorts of options like fruits and things like that and the pictures and the feedback has been incredible that everyone came in for this day and because there was a fuss made, they stopped work and they went into this area where they could all just have breakfast and all just catch up and talk and actually that's to piggyback on the point you've got people communicating that may not have seen each other for months, but the productivity there is huge because they're linking again, they're re-establishing a relationship in person and I would say that if you are struggling to communicate with employees or you've got something, just try something have like everyone baked something, bring it in lunchtime or have a coffee morning where you get some coffee. Just a small step and you say to everyone, right for 20 minutes, everyone stopped working. Let's just go and talk and get those kinds of relationships and conversations going.

Jane Fryatt 24:53
You notice when you're doing things like disciplinaries or grievances that that is a definite issue. that people haven't seen each other physically, like the team's thing is, quite often, I've noticed it when I'm dealing with those sorts of issues if the relationship has deteriorated because they haven't physically been in a room for so long.

Paul Hayward 25:16
I think you can link it though with a relationship deteriorating if you've got a manager that just doesn't speak to that employee because they're not seeing them all the time.

Jane Fryatt 25:24
Whether it's online or not.

Paul Hayward 25:24
Yeah, I think I'm seeing that. I don't think you can associate it with teams. I think you're seeing a breakdown in a relationship because the bad managers aren't communicating. I think we'll have to end there. But that's yeah, communication, top tip!

Mike Foster 25:36
Brilliant. Love it. And certainly, something we're seeing in the Oxford Business Community Network is that once you get back to in-person events, the communication, the relationship is totally different than when we do that on Zoom. Well, thank you both for your time today. Thank you for sharing the latest news and views from the world of HR and as always, for your expert contributions. Well, that does bring us to the end of this podcast. Thank you for listening to the podcast at the Oxford business community network. Thank you to our members for this episode, who were Jane Fryatt from Face2Face HR, and Paul Hayward from Blake Morgan. Thank you guys. And thank you again to Story Ninety-Four for producing this podcast at their podcast studio here in Oxford. Please do subscribe to our podcast and we look forward to sharing even more with you very soon.