The top three drivers of employee burnout

Imagine a problem affecting 95 per cent of all businesses. A problem so pervasive that nearly every organisation is feeling the pinch. With so many diverse industries, it’s almost hard to fathom, but there is a crisis percolating: employee burnout.

According to a new study, 95 per cent of human resource leaders say that employee burnout is sabotaging their workforce. They attribute up to half of their employee turnover to employee burnout.

Some causes of burnout are obvious. You could probably guess compensation and workload are major culprits, and you would be right.

Unfair compensation (41 per cent), an unreasonable workload (32 per cent) and too much overtime/after-hours work (32 per cent) are the top three contributors to employee burnout, according to HR leaders.

There is not much that can be done about these issues. However, digging deeper into the data, the study shows there are key factors driving burnout that are entirely within organisational control.

HR leaders said poor management (30 per cent), employees seeing no clear connection between their role and corporate strategy (29 per cent), and a negative workplace culture (26 per cent) also fuel the problem.

These secondary problems fall squarely into core HR competencies, like talent management, employee development and leadership.

Everyone wants to work less and get paid more, but having skilled managers and a rewarding culture that allows employees to see the importance of their contributions are the building blocks of an engaged workforce.

Retention vs Recruitment

Kevin Mulcahy, who recently published The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees, says proactively tackling employee burnout will have a big impact on improving retention, which should be a priority for organisations in 2017.

Direct replacement costs for an employee can reach as high as 50 to 60 per cent of an employee’s annual salary, while the total cost associated with turnover can vary from 60 to 200 per cent of annual salary.

This begs the question: is it more important to retain your organisation’s top talent or recruit new high performers? The answers to both are important, and there should be a balance to develop the most talented workforce possible.

However, HR leaders who participated in the workforce study shared something revealing: while 97 per cent – virtually everyone – will increase their investment in recruiting technology by the year 2020, budget also remains a prohibitive roadblock to programmes that would ease burnout, boost engagement and ultimately reduce costly employee churn.

For example, a lack of budget was cited as the primary obstacle to improving employee retention by 16 per cent of HR leaders, while 15 per cent said a lack of funding was the biggest challenge to improving employee engagement. When asked about the biggest hurdle to implementing new HR-related technology, such as tools that would automate time-consuming administrative work to allow HR to act more strategically, more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they just didn’t have the funding.

Part of this problem may stem from the C-Suite. While more HR leaders have a seat in the executive boardroom today than 10 years ago, 14 per cent of them cited a lack of executive support and 13 per cent a lack of organisational vision as obstacles to improving retention in 2017.

Organisations that want to ease the burden of burnout must be willing to invest in retaining their top performers just as aggressively as they are willing to invest in recruiting top performers. This will break the disruptive and costly cycle created by turnover.

High performers

While many organisations take steps to manage employee fatigue in the workplace, there are far fewer efforts to proactively manage the issue of employee burnout.

“Like employee engagement, burnout is personal,” said Mollie Lombardi, who has two decades of experience advising business leaders.

“The threshold for fatigue and dissatisfaction can be very different from individual to individual, and often, high performers who expect a lot of themselves may be even more prone to its impact. Managers need to be aware and help their employees be aware of potential burnout before it’s too late.”

According to Ms Lombardi, burnout will likely never be completely eradicated from the workforce, but it can be drastically mitigated so that it only touches the smallest portion of employees.

“Finding the right mix of consistency and flexibility when it comes to schedules and workload is the key. Technology and policy, as well as the example set by managers, can help individuals achieve a better balance,” Lombardi added

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