This is the Year of HR Whiplash; Gallup Has a Remedy

New research shows that employees who lack social connections at work and a sense of belonging are far more likely to be disengaged and have a negative outlook on the work and the workplace.

By Eric Mosley November 22, 2022

Quiet quitting is the business media buzzword of the moment. Impending recession is keeping executives up at night. Does that mean investing in people or preparing for layoffs? HR executives must be getting a serious case of workforce-planning whiplash. 

First, quiet quitting, which is really just another term for disengagement: Consultants offer a range of antidotes, mostly top-down solutions like charitable campaigns or more workplace amenities. Yet they ignore the most powerful remedy for disengagement: promoting well-being at work. 

A new Gallup report with Workhuman on well-being in the workplace proves that how employees relate to each other is crucial to both performance and retention. Among its findings: employees who lack a sense of belonging are up to 12 times as likely to be disengaged and five times as likely to be looking for another job. Without social connections, they are also far more likely to have a negative outlook on work, life, and the future. Gallup's stark assertion: these people are suffering. 

The cost of neglecting well-being is just as stark with a whopping $20 million of opportunity loss for every 10,000 workers, due to low well-being drain on performance. Employees get it: Deloitte found that "Improving Worker Wellbeing" was a top outcome they wanted from work transformation efforts.

And yet a dangerous disconnect persists. Sixty-five percent of CHROs tell Gallup their organization cares about employee wellbeing, while only 24% of their employees say the same. 

How to create a connection 

The question is how to make well-being a grassroots part of daily work life. The answer is nothing less than a cultural transformation toward a more human workplace. People create a community when they have the means to connect, which is not always easy in today's dynamic mix of on-site, remote, hybrid, and changing work arrangements. 

Gallup studied more than 12,000 employees across 12 countries and found that social recognition creates social connections. When employees recognize one another's contributions, values, effort, and other positive qualities, well-being shoots up. Emotional positivity and gratitude increase. When recognition is an important part of an organization's culture, employees report they are seven times as likely to strongly agree they have meaningful connections or a best friend at work. For years, Gallup has found connection is the best predictor of engagement. 

What if there's a recession? 

Business leaders are concerned about the possibility of a recession due to rising interest rates. 

The standard executive reaction is to hunker down with a hiring freeze or cutting HR budgets. But like so much in this post-2020 economy, underlying forces are creating atypical behavior such as "labor hoarding." Employers are finding ways to hold onto people even if business activity slows because the memory of labor shortages from 2020-2022 is still fresh. 

If your downturn survival option is limited to cutting numbers, you are setting up for another round of talent shortages when the economy picks up again. If a recession is mild, as most business leaders today predict, you'll be at a disadvantage when the economy snaps back. 

Leaders who support a culture of well-being throughout the business cycle strengthen the organization. Even in a downturn, devoting just 1 percent of payroll to a recognition program means employees lift each other's spirits. Especially during challenging times, gratitude builds resilience and shields employees from burnout. 

Gallup found that "Employees who say they experienced a lot of gratitude the previous day are up to four times as likely to strongly agree that their organization cares about their wellbeing and up two times as likely to be thriving in their overall life evaluation." 

The only way to win the outmoded game of "employer vs. employee" thinking is not to play. Gallup's study once again demonstrates that the game to play today is one in which everyone contributes to a more human, caring, focused, and engaged culture. 


This article was written by Eric Mosley from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to

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