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Is 2023 going to be the year of 'Conscious Quitting'?

Conscious quitting in 2023

If you were watching Sky News this morning, you may have caught the feature on the growing trend of so-called “conscious quitting” in the UK. This trend is laid bare in Paul Polman’s just-published “2023 Net Positive Employee Barometer” report.

To give you a few headline stats from his report:

  • 2 in 3 UK employees want to work for a company that is having a positive impact on the world.

  • About the same proportion say businesses are not going far enough to tackle environmental and societal challenges. Many believe that their “senior leaders don’t care”.

  • Nearly half of employees say they would consider resigning if their employer’s values don’t align with their own. That is true even in these difficult economic times.

  • A third of employees have already resigned for this reason.

And, as we’ve discussed on these pages many times before, these causes are even more critical to our Millennials and Gen Z workers, making the figures above even higher in those younger age groups.

The report’s headline advice for companies wishing to avoid losing their youngest and brightest for this reason are:

  • To show greater ambition for our impact on people and the planet

  • To better communicate about what we are doing

  • To empower our employees

As a crude generalisation, the younger the worker, the more concerned they are about the world they are inheriting. This means that their personal alignment with their employer’s mission, culture and values is ever more important. They want to give their time and talent to organisations that are striving to be part of the wider solutions, rather than add to the problems. They want to feel a higher sense of purpose towards their work. They are motivated by opportunities to contribute to the greater cause.

And we should all know that they are not afraid to job-hop, and they won’t stick around if our vision and values are unclear, unshared, or unrealised. Communicating our business vision and strategy is more important than ever if we are to appeal to the pick of the Millennial and Gen Z crop.

How to retain Millennial and Gen Z employees

In fact, not only are they willing to change jobs, but they’re also willing to change career paths entirely if it means they find a position that better suits their interests or values.

According to the report, 48% of Millennial and Gen Z workers would “consider taking a pay cut in order to work for a company that shares their values.”

But leaders can address this and stem the flow of conscious quitters through their ambition, communication and empowerment of employees.


If 63% of UK workers want their employer to “take a stronger stance on the environment”, and 61% feel the same about social inequality, then these need to be baked into our business priorities and goals. Conventional corporate social responsibility is currently failing to make enough of an impact, and our younger employees know it. To quote the report:

“Real ambition means setting the targets the world needs, not the ones that are easy to deliver, and it means companies partnering with their peers, government and others to drive change at the systems-level.”

- Paul Polman, 2023


Fortunately, this is significantly easier to address. Many of us adapted our ways of communicating when the pandemic struck. Many of us have embraced a variety of new technologies and platforms. (If you’re still not certain that you’ve got it spot-on and tailored for your new ways of working and blended approaches, health-check your comms now before any lasting damage is done.)

Shouting about the good stuff we are doing is important. But requesting feedback and listening to our people is even more so. Two-way dialogue is the only way to give our employees trust in us, to make them feel valued, and give them the sense of purpose and belonging they crave. There are so many ways to do this. (Quick tip: one employee survey a year is not the way!)

More frequent, snappy pulse surveys are a better, more agile, and productive tool. Combining these with brief focus groups to really drill in on opinions, beliefs and feelings will demonstrate proper listening and a consideration for employee satisfaction. It will also return more detailed and useful information to senior management. Giving our people the chance to feedback, ask questions and share their thoughts, feelings and suggestions on an ongoing basis is a really powerful tool.

Empower employees

This one is intrinsically linked with the communication advice. On top of empowering our employees with a voice that’s heard, we need to allow them to contribute and collaborate. The report found that 53% of UK workers “want to have a greater role in helping their company change for the better”. This rises to 64% for Millennials and Gen Z.

Again, the tools for collaboration and meaningful contribution are out there and widely available, whether our teams share a bricks-and-mortar office or digital space. We just need to make sure these are a part of our comms plan, and that their use is embedded as part of our culture.

Environmental, Social and Governance factors

In case you think these findings are off-trend, inadequately surveyed or some strange anomaly, it’s worth noting that Polman’s findings come just weeks after research by KPMG warned that the UK workforce was starting to be filled with “climate quitters”.

Their research found that 20% of UK office workers would turn down a job if ESG factors (environmental, social and governance) were considered deficient. Almost half of workers want their employers to demonstrate climate and social commitments.

They found that, across all ages, 82% of UK workers want to be able to link their values and purpose with those of their employer. And 30% researched a company’s ESG credentials before applying for a job there.

The final words, however, go to Mr Polman:

“When their companies don’t uphold their values, many employees say they are ready to resign. Indeed, many already have. Any CEO who thinks they will win the talent wars by offering a bit more money, some extra home-working and a gym membership is going to be disappointed. An era of conscious quitting is on the way.”

- Paul Polman, 2023


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