Too Much Turnover? Could it Be Burnout?
Job burnout is an old problem with new impacts for employers. If your churn rate is too high, thinking about burnout could save you money and talent.
Burnout is a general term that applies to talent that has had enough—too much work or just too much of the same thing day in and day out. Traditionally, being the indispensable, overworked employee was considered a fast track toward advancement. Today, not so much.
While late hours at the office used to be the tell-tale symptom of employees pushing the envelope, today the work/life boundary is almost invisible as digital communications and work platforms not-so-subtly promote an “always-on” mentality. While your top talent is always aiming at higher productivity, the path to creativity and workplace gains is not through a disposable personal life.
The cost of talent lost to burnout is high, in institutional knowledge, productivity, morale—and the recruiting costs of replacing valuable personnel.
Recognize burnout before it burns you
At BrightMove, we offer companies and recruiters high-level software for attracting, identifying, and advancing top candidates. As former recruiters, we know the satisfaction when a great candidate takes an offer and makes a valuable addition to the company. When that cycle is repeated too often, it is important to understand why, and what can be done to avoid the loss.
A recent Harvard Business Review piece highlights some of the reasons for employee burnout. At the outset, the authors place the responsibility for burnout where it belongs—with the employer. Some of the institutional methods mentioned for promoting overwork include:
- Fragmentation: Too many meetings, too much collaboration, and poor contextual management diminish the chances of getting meaningful work done. Collaboration, a fading buzzword, promotes creativity, but only to a point. Endless team meetings, interruptive messaging software, and poor time management add up to poor resource management on the part of an employer. At the end of a day, workers and managers may have spent more time communicating about work during a day than actually doing it. Evenings and weekend may become the default for work not accomplished during the workday—and not for lack of trying.
- Keeping pace with productivity: As digital tools increase productivity, employers are expecting more, but hiring less. Instead of evaluating how well the tools are assisting with time-savings and productivity, too many companies just assume more time is available. As noted in HBR, “The overload problem is compounded for companies because the best people are the ones whose knowledge is most in demand and who are often the biggest victims of collaboration overload.”
With high productivity expectations, indispensable employees—your top talent—are too-often the go-to point persons and the first to experience burnout. Aware of the issue, these workers may not complain or ask for workload adjustment, but they may quietly find the door after seeking a better offer.
If any of this sounds familiar, there are straightforward measures to address burnout before it takes out your best employees. Consider the following ideas:
- Place importance on holiday and vacation time: Project: Time Off is a coalition that counts the amount of earned vacation time that American workers do not take each year. In 2015, the organization found Americans left about 222 million unused vacation days on the table, translating to unused benefits worth about $61.4 billion. The reasons given by workers for not taking time off included having too much work on return, not enough money to take a vacation, and fear of being replaced. None of these attitudes or conditions are a sign of a healthy company culture.
- Improve training opportunities: For talent looking for more, provide career development and training opportunities that may include assignment in different parts of the company.
- Cross-train: Be sure too much work is not flowing in one direction. Cross-train team members and take the lure of being “indispensable” off the table.
- Double-check your wages: Address benefits and salary to ensure talent is being compensated competitively.
It is a competitive employee market. When you want to stoke productivity and creativity, be sure your best and brightest are not too tired to care.