THE WORKPLACE ‘ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE’: workplace trends reveal hidden risk for businesses.

By Graham Christie
Updated 02 Feb, 2022 9:03am AEST


Over the last 12-months organisations have been warning of ‘The Great Resignation’. Workplace surveys are pointing to a sharp and sudden rise in voluntary resignations. With talent shortages and the challenge of sustaining a happy and productive workforce, some organisations have raised the needs of their employees to the top of their list of priorities.

But what do workplace trends say about the remaining 60% of employees who are intending to, perhaps reluctantly, stay? The threat of the ‘Great Resignation’ is not merely that employees are leaving, but equally concerning is those employees who decide to stay, at least in the short term, but lack motivation and drive – those employees who physically turn up for work and appear busy, but lack the desire to deliver any real impact to the organisation. These employees who are often disconnected and disengaged, and have resigned themselves to staying for the paycheck, are ‘zombie’ employees.

Zombie workforces present a big and silent killer for companies. At the very least, companies and teams can quickly lose competitiveness, but more importantly as many companies today seek to make bigger changes, such as migrating to more digital technologies and new ways of working, these pockets of ‘zombie’ employees can derail initiatives and put in danger expensive long-term programs of work.

So if companies are to avoid creating ‘zombie’ employees, employers need a clear strategy for motivating and engaging everybody, there are three areas to focus on:

1. Training and development.

Something that is really positive is that employees now have a greater sense of self and feel much more empowered to take control of their career, so they are likely going to be motivated by a business that takes genuine steps to develop their people’s knowledge and skills through potent, high quality training.

2. Meaning and purpose.

Many employees have used the pandemic period to reflect on what they want out of life. For many this extends to what they want from an employer that goes beyond the paycheck and occasional perks. They are looking for more purpose in what they do and want to feel that they share some values with their employer. Businesses need to become more proactive about understanding where these linkages could be, and unlock joint benefits.

3. Growth through innovation.

Identifying and capturing new sources of growth is essential if organisations are to be sustainable in the long-term, and pursuing growth in turn creates new opportunities for employees. In a post-pandemic landscape, teams have often been slimmed down however businesses need to find ways to balance their bottom-line objectives with growth ambitions by setting new less orthadox goals that can provide opportunities to energise staff at all levels through participation in programs or engagement initiatives.

Crisis is often a catalyst for change, and the pressing nature of ‘The Great Resignation’ means that employee-centric initiatives aimed at improving employee morale and engagement need to rise to the top of the agenda. The good news is, get it right, and it’s a win all around.

If you are looking for expert support in talent and organisational performance, please get in touch. 

Graham Christie
Co-founder & Partner,
Changing the Game