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What can Middle East employers do to prevent quiet quitting?

Employees need to feel they are learning and building mastery every day at work.

What can Middle East employers do to prevent quiet quitting?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Employees who worked in Amazon’s fulfillment centers for one or more years were given a cash offer to leave their jobs annually until last year. The value started at $2,000 and increased by $1,000 each year until it reached $5,000. Considering how expensive it is to hire new staff—the average cost per hire is around $4,000—you might wonder why Amazon started its Pay to Quit initiative. 

“The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want,” Bezos wrote in a 2014 shareholder letter. Those who accepted the offer to quit were permanently barred from working at any Amazon facility or subsidiary again. 

When an employee declines an offer, it means they are committed to their work and the organization, resulting in engagement, output, and ultimately profitability for Amazon.

This was Amazon’s way of retaining talent and enhancing engagement long before great resignation, quiet quitting, and laying flat became workplace trends. 

If you ask any HR professional, employee retention is a challenge, even in the best times. With a high employee turnover rate, it is no surprise that over 87% of HR professionals consider employee retention an important concern. The situation in the Middle East is no different. Workers in the region are asking for more flexible employment—Linkedin reports that 70% of Middle Eastern professionals are willing to leave their jobs because of a lack of flexibility. 


The issue in 2022 is not just talent retention, but also giving the quiet quitters more leeway. Why? “Quiet quitters are an organization’s solid performers,” says Krishnan Narayanan, CHRO at Petrotec, adding, “They believe in the quality of work they produce and assume the company would take care of them eventually. You will rarely find them marketing for rewards or negotiating a pay rise. In a typical scenario, they would wait to see if they are recognized or promoted when there is a good opportunity. They are not job hoppers; rather look for purposeful work.”

“The pandemic has shown a mirror, in multiple contexts of the employer-employee relationship. People are more aware of reality. This has triggered a larger cross-section of people to turn to quiet quitters,” Narayanan adds.

For the region, quiet quitting can be more problematic than outright resignations. This is because the workforce, experts say,  may not be able to change jobs and visas as readily. Hence, they continue to work for the same companies and do the bare minimum to get by.

In such a scenario, companies must work hard to position themselves in front of their present employees. But how do we do that? “Through Employee Value Proposition (EVP),” says Sebastian Fuchs, career consulting leader at Mercer.

EVP examines a number of factors that ultimately define how a company wishes to present itself to current employees and potential future hires. Additionally, Fuchs asserts that while pay plays a significant role, employers must also determine the answers to the following questions: What opportunities exist for learning and development? What prospects are there for career advancement? How do employees and the line manager interact? Are workers given enough care and attention?


When Sufeena Hussain, operations manager, thought of quitting, her reason was clear: she was detached from her work. “I couldn’t see any career advancement for me in my previous company. There was no learning and development. Just the same old work without any growth.”

Engaged employees are 87% less likely to quit their job. Engagement works for quiet quitters too. But how to keep employees feeling engaged? “Listen to them,” experts say.

“It is important to understand their point of view and to see if there are ways to address their issues. It is a time-consuming process, but managers and HR need to play a partnership role to understand the root cause(s),” says Narayanan.

According to Sofian Lamali, council director, leadership, talent & organizational development at The Conference Board for the Gulf region, employers should perhaps shape an exciting work environment, which includes office design but goes way beyond that. “It is about building a culture where people can achieve and be valued and listened to. That also includes reducing or removing aspects of the corporate bureaucracy that sometimes disengages employees.”

Providing employees with growth and development opportunities can keep employees more engaged. Lamali says, “Employees need to feel they are learning and building mastery every day at work. That is not only about training but also about doing work that is rewarding and having opportunities to change jobs after achieving mastery. The typical three-year-in-a-role rule does no longer exist, especially for the most talented employees.”


The World Economic Forum estimates that 1.1 billion employment could see a radical change in the next ten years due to technology, highlighting the ongoing need for reskilling. At the same time as HR managers are dealing with resignations brought on by the pandemic, they are being pushed to close the skills gap. Training and development have become a part of companies’ retention plans more than ever.

For Majid Al Futtaim, training is one of the most important pillars of its retention strategy along with diversity and inclusion, health, and employee wellbeing. “One of our key strengths in fostering and developing our employees’ careers is through our extensive training and career development programs. We use training to empower our people to develop their careers within our organization through our Leadership Institute,” the company stated in its report

The retail behemoth also created an online sustainability e-learning course sent to all its office staff;   Sustainability training was given to its front-line staff.

Building a talent pipeline within the business is always successful as, according to experts, buying talent cannot be the fastest way to develop it. Particularly in companies with a high turnover rate, it turns out to be incredibly expensive, ineffective, and unsustainable.

Employers must consider what competencies will enable workers to advance along the value chain, carry out increasingly difficult duties, and boost the company’s financial performance. Meanwhile, “We need to look at which processes in the organization can be automated, see how technology can help reduce man hours invested in activities such as data collection or reporting, and how technology can be used as a springboard to stronger resource management and better employee experience,” says Narayanan.

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