Preventing employee burnout to retain your rock stars

Retain your rock stars bannerWe are all fighting for talent, and the reality is, it is simply a numbers game. There are not enough people entering the workforce to replace those who are retiring and exiting the workforce. The current situation has created an employee-driven work environment. In a time when it is hard to recruit new employees to join your company, it is also time to focus on retaining your current employees and making sure you are not burning out your rock stars. The goal is to retain your top performers by eliminating or reducing burnout. Those rock stars will then help you attract other high performers and support the creation of an employee-centric company culture. If you build it, they will come.

Burnout, defined by Mayo Clinic, is a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about one’s competence and work value. During the economic recession, many companies asked their employees to do more with less and perform the job tasks of multiple people. Those asked to do this were the ones that you would consider your top performers; those people you could always count on to get things done. As work continues to improve and business is picking up, have you shifted some of that responsibility on to others? Have you hired additional people to take some of the workload off their shoulders, or looked to do things differently?

One of the first steps you need to take, is to see what your employees think about the culture of the company and the environment in which they work. To know how to engage your employees and eliminate burnout, you first need to understand what they are thinking and what the actual state of your company is; not just what you think it is. A great way to obtain this information is through an employee survey. These can be conducted annually, or less often, depending on your company and need for the information. The key with employee surveys is to ask pertinent questions related to the culture of your company; make it simple and relevant; and make sure you take action, or at least communicate your findings to your employees once it is completed. By doing this, you will encourage future participation, encourage honest feedback and build positive connections within your company. This information will give you a great starting point and a pulse on your current state of the culture.

Maybe you find out you are burning out your employees — including your top performers — and that you have the opportunity to make some impactful changes. What options do you have? Consider some of the following:

1- Ensure everyone has clear and specific job descriptions with job task and expectations clearly defined and then share the information with employees. By clearly defining responsibilities of the team, you allow employees to be able to prioritize tasks and understand what is important for the company and their positions. Employees can then focus on what can truly make an impact on the company and work to move initiatives and tasks forward. By knowing this, they can prioritize tasks and be impactful in their actions. If you don’t know where to begin, ask your employees to help you get started by creating their own job descriptions.

2- Think outside the box with work arrangements. Can employees work from home? Can you allow for flexible work hours? Many of your employees are thinking about work, or performing work outside of the standard or expected work schedule. It is important to remember that they are also working at creating balance with life happening outside of work at the same time. Can you create a culture where family matters and you allow your employees to take time to attend a child’s school program or get them to sports practices? How about an employee who needs to work from home to stay with a sick family member? What about your employees who have aging parents? How can you be flexible with them to meet their family requirements? Look for ways that you can create balance for your employees. Many employees — especially your high performers — will flourish under these arrangements and bring you even better work.

3- Utilize strong leadership. People often don’t leave a job; they leave because of a supervisor. Ensure that you have well-trained and fair leaders. Do your leaders understand the demands of the positions they are overseeing? Are they being fair with schedules, wages and responsibilities placed on their teams? It is important that you have the right people in the right seats and ensure all leaders within your company understand the company culture, are consistent with their practices and are supportive of the culture that exists within your company.

4- Make the work environment fun! This doesn’t mean that it is all fun and games; but how can you make the company culture more inviting and relaxed? How can you avoid added stressors that people are encountering on the job? Are you including employees in decisions that are being made that directly effect their jobs or daily activities? Are you soliciting and taking their input? Take a look at your employee handbook and rules that you have in place. Have you created an environment that is too tight and unforgiving? Depending on the environment, you may be institutionally stifling creativity. Many workers enjoy working in — and thrive in — collaborative and creative work environments. Look for ways to encourage collaboration and ideas within work teams. Sometimes, less is more. Ensure all your policies and procedures are impactful, relevant and helpful for the growth and support of your company culture.

5- Create the opportunity to unplug. Look for ways to allow your employees to recharge both on the job and off the job. Establish an environment at work where people can interact with each other. If employees have friendships at work they will be connected with others and with their work. By having these connections, people have an outlet to stressors at work and an environment rich in collaboration. Just like outside of the workplace, people tend to hang out with their friends, with people they can depend on and trust and who have an interest their success. Think of other “fun.” Have gatherings to connect your teams and encourage the employees to unplug. This could be as simple as a company lunch, office games, a fun holiday celebration or monthly birthday celebrations. You will find that even small things can make a big difference. Make sure to not overlook your time off benefits. With our busy workloads, there are times where company’s have great intentions, but employees may feel that taking time off of work creates more work or stress. Work to find ways to allow you employees to take time off of work without having to come back to added chaos or cause them to perform work while they should be unplugged. Encourage time away from work and look to create a work environment where people are cross trained, so people can take time away without coming back behind.

While there may not be one silver bullet answer that could be applied to every company, it is important that companies put resources and thought into how to avoid or eliminate burnout of workers. Retaining high performers is a key to future success and a key part of the worker shortage we are all living in. Eliminating and reducing burnout will require that you think outside the box, do some things differently and sometimes get a little uncomfortable. It will all be worth it as you build a more engaged and efficient workforce and strong company culture.

By Nicole Frank, PHR, SHRM-CP, HR Manager, Dave Jones, Inc.

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